Wave Wholesale in Chapter 11, halts Bethel project, shutters other businesses

BETHEL -- Wave Wholesale Co. has halted construction of a retail center in Bethel, laid off workers and plans to sell off some businesses as part of its effort to reorganize under federal bankruptcy protection, company officials said.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Jan. 12. It has 120 days from that date to come up with a reorganization plan.

Wave Wholesale was formed 3 1/2 years ago as a cooperative to supply groceries to village stores. The collective buying power of the cooperative helped to bring down prices at 60 village stores. The company also has a wholesale operation that served schools, hospitals and other big customers in Western Alaska.

Jerry Dunn, manager of Wave Wholesale, told The Tundra Drums the company grew too quickly.

"We just acquired too many businesses and didn’t have the money to take care of them," Dunn said. The company has $15 million in debts and $15 million in assets, he said.

The company’s financial troubles were compounded by the Western Alaska salmon disaster, which left some customers unable to pay their bills at village stores. The stores were then unable to pay Wave for supplies bought on credit.

The company is backing away from plans to build the Wave Center in Bethel, which would have housed a retail grocery store, a movie theater, restaurants and a bank. Dunn said it was unlikely that the company will go forward with the project, and Wave is considering selling the land.

The company’s financial problems have led to the layoffs of 28 workers in Fairbanks and Anchorage.

"It’s unfortunate but it’s something we have to do," Dunn said.

The company has closed its Fairbanks warehouse, halted its food service operations and is deciding what to do with its other acquisitions, which include a general store in Unalakleet, Northwest Motorsports in Kotzebue and a gift shop at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage.

Wave Wholesale was formed by two Native regional corporations -- NANA Regional Corp. and Calista Corp. -- as well as 15 Native village corporations.

02/24/2001 - 8:00pm