Lady Lake Mayor Jim Richards said the sudden announcement of the nationwide closing of Earth Fare grocery stores could open the door for another retailer, like Trader Joe’s.
The Asheville, N.C.-based natural and organic grocery chain announced Monday it will be closing all of its stores in the United States.
That leaves in limbo the status of a mammoth Earth Fare store under construction between U.S. Hwy. 27/441 and County Road 25 in Lady Lake.
The developer, the Benchmark Group of New York, was said to be surprised by Earth Fare’s sudden announcement. However, Benchmark has a long relationship with the town and had brought in a great deal of successful retailers, including Best Buy, Sam’s Club, SteinMart and Kohl’s, as well as restaurants, such as Longhorn Steakhouse, Texas Roadhouse and Sweet Tomatoes.
The mayor said these types of sudden closures are to be expected in the business world. But when one door closes, others can open, he said.
“That could be a great spot for Trader Joe’s,” he said.
Villagers for many years have been clamoring for a Trader Joe’s, which offers a “fresh format” grocery shopping experience.
Meanwhile, the news of the closures came as a shock to Earth Fare employees in Ocala.
“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,” the company said in a press release. “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.”
The company cited “financial stress” as the reason for shutting down.
“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,” the company explained in a release. “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.”