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The Pittsburgh-based parent company of GNC nutrition stores has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and blames it on the coronavirus pandemic.

GNC Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors Tuesday night. The company referred to the restructuring as “dual-track,” meaning the result could be recovery as a standalone business or a sale.

A publicly traded retailer, GNC said it plans to permanently close at least 800 to 1,200 stores. The health and nutrition chain has 7,300 around the world, 5,200 of them in the United States. About 1,600 of those locations are Rite Aid pharmacies.

There are about a half-dozen GNC stores in Washington County, and none were on a list of the first 248 stores expected to close, according to a post on businessinsider.com.

The company posted a letter to consumers on its website, saying it had been financially stressed in recent years. It reads in part: “We were making significant progress and were focused on refinancing the business to allow us to position ourselves for long-term growth. However, the COVID-19 pandemic created a situation where we were unable to accomplish our refinancing and the abrupt change in the operating environment had a dramatic negative impact on our business.”

GNC’s roots go back to 1935 in Pittsburgh, where David Shakarian opened a health-food shop featuring yogurt and sandwiches. The company grew to more than 9,000 outlets.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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