|El Amal’s owners left only a brief note on the door to announce the closing. |
(Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)
Local drugstore chain El Amal closed down its 22 stores Saturday, taping only a brief note on the door to explain its decision to customers.
The privately held drugstore, in operation in Puerto Rico since 1973, has had its share of economic troubles. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2009, when it sought to reorganize some $72 million it had in debt. However, according to court documents, in May 2010 the company quietly asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Brian Tester to authorize converting the Chapter 11 filing to a Chapter 7 liquidation proceeding.
That company, PMC Marketing Corp., belonged to Saleh Yassin, who as part of the proceeding sold what was left of the operation to his sons, who created another holding company, A+HC Holding Inc.
El Amal’s economic troubles apparently began more than a year before it turned to the court. In January 2008, 20 El Amal stores were sold to competitor Walgreens, while the Yassins vowed to continue operating the 41 remaining locations. However, the owners continued selling off properties one-by-one as they worked through financial issues.
In an attempt to boost sales, El Amal announced plans for a complete transformation of its operation in Puerto Rico, investing upwards of $100 million to remodel the 22 stores it had left, and convert them into pharma-clinics starting in 2009.
However, the tough economy and competition among local drugstores heating up in recent years seemingly served the one-two punch to El Amal.
In February 2010, Rhode Island-based CVS Pharmacy made its local debut with its first location in Old San Juan. It has since opened several more stores. Other retailers, such as Costco and Walmart, also opened drugstores, offering deep discounts on prescription medication.
El Amal began as a single location in Río Piedras, owned by businessman Saleh Yassin. The chain slowly expanded during the 70s and 80s, with new store openings in Carolina and San Juan. In 1995, El Amal purchased another local drugstore chain, Farmacias Moscoso.
At its peak, El Amal generated some $200 million in revenue, and employed about 1,500 people.
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