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Earth Fare closes: The ‘heartbeat of Asheville’ shuts down after 45-yr. run
Wednesday, 04 March 2020 00:24

From Staff Reports

The Asheville-based chain Earth Fare announced Feb. 3 that inventory liquidation sales, including store fixtures, would begin at all of its stores as the company seeks to sell its assets “in whole or in parts.” according to a Feb. 3 report on SuperMarketNews.com.

“Employees have been notified that the stores and corporate office will be closed, according to the retailer,” the website noted.Earth Fare said its roughly 3,000 workers were notified of the pending closures as part of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, according to a press release. The U.S. Department of Labor enforces the act.

Upon disclosure of the closing, jewelry vendor Michelle Blake reflected the shock of many customers and employees, telling the Asheville Citizen Times that the store has become a gathering place for all kinds of people. “This is a heart beat of Asheville,” she told the ACT. “It is such a hub of connectedness and community. It really, really is.”

As of its closing announcement, Earth Fare operated 50 stores in 10 states, including Alabama (two), Florida (14), Georgia (three), Indiana (one), Michigan (one), North Carolina (13), Ohio (three), South Carolina (six), Tennessee (five) and Virginia (two).

“A spokeswoman for Earth Fare said the stores are expected to be shut by the end of February. The company hasn’t filed for bankruptcy, she said,” according to SuperMarketNews.com.

Meanwhile, Earth Fare on Feb. 3 released a statement as follows:

“Earth Fare has been proud to serve the natural and organic grocery market, and the decision to begin the process of closing our stores was not entered into lightly. 

“We’d like to thank our team members for their commitment and dedication to serving our customers, and our vendors and suppliers for their partnership,” 

SuperMarketNews.com stated in its report, “Earth Fare is announcing its plans to shut down just over a year after marking the opening of its 50th store, in Charlotte, N.C., and unveiling what it called ‘aggressive goals for growth’ during the next several years, including new locations in Florida and North Carolina. At the time, CEO Frank Scorpiniti told The Charlotte Observer that Earth Fare aimed to open another 50 stores over the next five years.”

However, SuperMarketNews.com noted, “in its statements on Monday (Feb. 3), Earth Fare noted that current retail market conditions and its debt load hampered its ability to operate, despite ‘numerous strategic initiatives aimed at growth and expansion and enhancing the customer experience.’”

Earth Fare said in it’s Feb. 3 statement: 

“While many of these initiatives improved the business, continued challenges in the retail industry impeded the company’s progress as well as its ability to refinance its debt. 

“As a result, Earth Fare is not in a financial position to continue to operate on a go-forward basis. As such, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to commence inventory liquidation sales while we continue to engage in a process to find potential suitors for our stores.”

Oak Hill Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, currently holds a majority stake in Earth Fare. Oak Hill had acquired the equity interest in 2012 from Monitor Clipper Partners, which had owned Earth Fare since 2006.

Scorpiniti joined Earth Fare as CEO in October 2014, leaving Canadian pharmacy chain Rexall, where he was chief executive officer. At Earth Fare, he took over as CEO from Jack Murphy, who had left the previous month to join Fairway Market as CEO.

Earth Fare began in 1975 as a single, health-focused store called Dinner for the Earth, located first on Merrimon Avenue in Asheville and later on Broadway Street, just north of downtown in a building now occupied by Moog Music. Eventually, it moved to Westgate Shopping Center — and expanded to 50 stores from there

The natural and organic foods retailer adopted the Earth Fare banner in 1994 after expanding from a specialty store to a full-service store.

“Describing itself as a healthy foods industry leader,” SuperMarketNews.com reported, “Earth Fare embraces what it calls its ‘Food Philosophy,’ ensuring that all products sold are free of ‘unacceptable’ ingredients, such as added hormones, antibiotics, high-fructose corn syrup, and bleached or bromated flour, as well as with no artificial fats and trans fats, sweeteners, preservatives, colors or flavors. The chain also has a Boot List of hundreds of ingredients and chemicals that it deems harmful. In line with the focus on ‘clean food,’ the stores feature products and programs to make it easier for shoppers to incorporate a better-for-you eating strategy into their lifestyles.”

 



 


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