Loy family sells The Markets to Arkansas-based Harps Food Stores
Published Monday, October 24, 2022 at 6:26 PM
NATCHEZ — Barry Loy started beating a time clock at The Big Star on the Natchez bypass when he was about 15. Before that, however, he had worked for his father in the shop for years.
Loy, president of Supermarket Operations, which owns seven supermarkets in Louisiana and Mississippi, will soon make one final fist when he strikes a deal to sell the company to Harps Food, headquartered in Springdale, Ark.
“They’re a good company,” Loy said. The Loys have an agreement with Harps that will continue the jobs of the current employees. Their seniority, vacation time and benefits remain intact, Loy said.
“They employ them all. When the deal is done, they end the day working for us and start working for Harps the next day. They won’t miss a thing,” Loy said. “Nobody will lose a job if they don’t want to. They also need good people.”
Barry Loy and his brother, Jeff Loy, vice president and treasurer of the company, are sons of Harley Loy, who founded The Markets. He died in July 2019.
Harley Loy, an Arkansas native, took over Lewis’ grocery store in Natchez in 1969, which became The Big Star.
His sons grew the business and now have seven supermarkets.
The Loys and The Markets are known for “paying their city rent” and ardent supporters of the communities in which they operate. In addition to three stores in Natchez, the Loys have stores in Ball, Ferriday, Vidalia, Louisiana and another in McComb.
Barry Loy said they are leaving the company in good hands.
“It’s a good company. We had multiple offers that make your head swell a little bit, and Harps Food was the best choice for our community and us,” he said.
Harps is the largest employee company in Arkansas, operating 135 stores in four states: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. It is 100 percent owned by its employees, according to a press release from its chairman and CEO, Kim Eskew. Harvard and Floy Harp in Springdale, Arkansas, founded the company in 1930. It currently has 6,800 employees.
Loy said the decision to sell the company was bittersweet.
“I grew up in these stores. It was time. We are in great shape. The sales are great. It was just a matter of timing for Jeff and me. They always say you have to get out when you get to the top. We’re kind of on top of our game,”
Loy and his wife, Sue, have no plans to leave Natchez.
“We will soon have a grandchild in Baton Rouge and other grandchildren here. You just can’t get Sue Loy too far away from her grandchildren,” Loy said, although the couple do plan to travel.
“Words cannot express how much we appreciate this community. We survived when so many others have not. Even when the big W came in in 1995, it was all doom and gloom. There were then eight supermarkets. Three years later, there were three of us, and that’s because of this community. We really appreciate this community. Daddy raised us strong, and we’re still here.”