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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Struggling supermarket chain Marsh has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company said the move will allow it to keep normal operations as it seeks a buyer.

The 86-year-old chain is looking to sell all or part of its stores. As a result of the filing, the remaining 44 locations will stay open. The company said just days ago that it would have to close the stores within 60 days unless it found a buyer. The closures would affect nearly 2,800 workers.

“While today’s decision was extremely difficult, we believe this action is necessary to preserve the value of the business as we seek a sale,” said CEO Tom O’Boyle. “After reviewing every alternative, we concluded that Chapter 11 clearly provides the most effective and efficient means to ensure the best recovery for the Company’s stakeholders.”

The company has retained investment banking firm Peter J. Solomon Company to help find a buyer. Marsh said the filing means stores that haven’t closed will remain open and employees will continue to receive salaries and benefits.

Marsh was founded in 1931 by Ermal Marsh and expanded throughout the state and into Ohio. However, the grocery store chain has struggled in recent years in the face of competition from other retailers. As a result, 21 under-performing stores have closed. The company also sold off its pharmacy business.

UFCW Local 700, who represents more than 13,000 grocery and packing-processing workers in Indiana, released the following statement:

“The decision to file bankruptcy leaves thousands of workers at Marsh Supermarkets uncertain about their futures and how they will provide for their families. Marsh must do right by them and publicly promise that they will get severance if the stores close. These hard-working men and women have provided an invaluable service to our community for decades and deserve to be treated fairly and with respect.”