INDIANAPOLIS — Marsh Supermarkets has filed for bankruptcy protection in an effort to continue its business operations while seeking a buyer for all or part of the 86-year-old grocery store chain.

All of the company’s 44 locations — including a Marsh Hometown Market grocery store in Columbus — will continue normal operations throughout the bankruptcy process, the company announced Thursday.

Marsh filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the District of Delaware.

“We believe this action is necessary to preserve the value of the business as we seek a sale,” Marsh CEO Tom O’Boyle said. “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.”

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The company has retained Peter J. Solomon Company as investment bank to market its assets.

The Chapter 11 filing permits daily operations to continue without interruption. The stores will remain open and serving customers, employees will continue to receive their usual salary and benefits, and goods and services purchased by the company will be paid for in the ordinary course of business, the company announced.

The filing triggers an automatic stay, which precludes the company from paying amounts owed for pre-petition goods and services without a court order.

The company has asked the bankruptcy court’s permission to use its available cash to fund operations during this period, since the company’s secured lenders have already agreed to allow the company to do so. Marsh said it expects to have sufficient liquidity to fund operations throughout the sale process.

Marsh Supermarkets, founded by Ermal Marsh in Muncie in 1931, is based in Fishers and operates grocery stores in Indiana and Ohio. The family-owned company was purchased by Florida-based Sun Capital Partners in 2006, when Marsh operated 120 grocery stores.

Its Columbus store is located at 3075 E. 25th St. Until 2013, it also operated a Hometown Market store at 2710 State St. in Columbus.

Recent steps by Marsh

Marsh Supermarkets, which has struggled in recent years to compete effectively against larger national and regional chains, this year has closed 21 unprofitable stores and in late April sold its in-store pharmacy business to Hook-SupeRx, L.L.C., a subsidiary of CVS Pharmacy. In filing for bankruptcy protection Thursday, Marsh will continue to operate 44 stores in Indiana and Ohio.