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Dean & Deluca US files for bankruptcy

Thailand’s Pace Corporation has finally filed for the bankruptcy of its Dean & Deluca US business after all of its North American stores were shuttered last year. 

According to documents submitted with the filing, Dean & Deluca US has liabilities as high as US$500 million, and assets of just $50 million. But the company, which has declared it has only one employee now, says it has a plan to reconfigure the business and reopen stores under a new business model. 

In Asia, Dean & Deluca is opening cafe-centred retail spaces in urban locations including in Thailand, Japan and the Philippines, along with airport stores in partnership with Lagardere Travel Retail. When that partnership was struck in late 2018, the two companies planned 150 stores over five years. Cafes have subsequently opened in Hong Kong International Airport.  Airport stores in Bangkok trade significantly higher than those in city locations, Pace said at the time. 

However the new style Dean & Deluca retail model in Asia is vastly different from the US model, focused on coffee, smoothies, pizzas and light meals. It may be the model the company hopes to take to the US.

The original Dean & Deluca US store opened in Soho in 1977, earning the nickname “museum of fine food”. It claimed to be the first retailer in the US to sell radicchio, balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes. But over time its exclusivity waned – as one food writer observed: “You can buy extra virgin olive oil on Amazon now”. 

The company’s website shows it has two stores operating in Hawaii, which may be franchised and unrelated to the parent company.

Pace bought the company for US$140 million in 2014, including a network which at one point reached more than 30 stores in the US. By May 2018, however, the US network was down to just nine stores and by last July there were just four.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition filed in the New York court this week was signed by Pace Corporation CEO Sorapoj Techakraisri. Among liabilities listed in the filing were Pace, owed $250 million, a $45 million loan from Siam Commercial Bank, a $2 million US tax debt and $230,000 owed to Thailand’s finance ministry. 

Last month, Dean & Deluca opened a new store in Japan with a local franchise partner, (pictured above), and another in Bangkok. 

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