NEW YORK - Fairway Market on Thursday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and has agreed to sell five of its 14 stores and a distribution center.

The price of the deal with Village Supermarket, owner of the ShopRite chain, is believed to be about $70 million.

Village Supermarket will act as a so-called stalking-horse bidder during a court-supervised auction.

The New York City stores to be sold include the Upper West Side flagship, Upper East Side, Chelsea, Harlem and Kips Bay.

The five locations are likely to remain open, but the fate of Fairway's other stores in and around the city is unclear.

In a statement, CEO Abel Porter said, "We would like to extend gratitude to our employees, vendors, distributors and customers for their support, dedication and loyalty over the years. It has always been Fairway’s priority to ensure our patrons are provided with the most optimal grocery experience, with the freshest foods and best quality products, and our employees feel appreciated. After careful consideration of all alternatives, we have concluded that a Court-supervised sale process is the best way to meet our objectives of preserving as many jobs as possible, maximizing value for our stakeholders, and positioning Fairway for long term success under new ownership."

The grocery store, which was put up for sale last year, said on Wednesday it had no plans to close its 14 locations. It issued a statement after the New York Post reported that the company could file for chapter 7 bankruptcy as soon as Wednesday.

Fairway called the story “categorically untrue” and said it plans to soon announce a “value maximizing transaction that will provide for the ongoing operations of the store.”

The statement added, "Our lenders remain extremely supportive of our efforts."

The company has struggled to stay afloat under its heavy debt load and competition from other grocery stores  

Fairway filed for chapter 11 protection in 2016, emerging soon after with a restructuring plan to cut its debt by more than half. 

The original Fairway started as a fruit and vegetable stand on the Upper West Side in 1933.