ASHEVILLE — Earth Fare, the homegrown natural and organic grocery chain, will close all of its stores and begin liquidation sales, citing an inability to refinance debt and sales challenges.
Earth Fare announced the closure plans Monday, Feb. 3, and said its workers have been 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.
“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 statement. “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.”
Earth Fare, which started in Asheville in 1975, has tried “numerous strategic initiatives aimed at growth and expansion and enhancing the customer experience” in recent years, the company said. But it was not enough.
“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,” the statement reads. “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.”
In 2015, Earth Fare, established in the 1970s as “Dinner From the Earth,” had bold plans to grow. Earth Fare skyrocketed from just 13 stores in 2007 to 37 in 2015, with plans to open more in several states.
The chain had more than 2,500 employees then, with estimated revenues of $239 million in 2015. From January 2015-September 2016, it had opened opened eight new stores and hired more than 800 people.
As of 2016, the company had stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The press release about the closing notes the inventory liquidation will “feature a truly outstanding assortment of merchandise at very significant price reductions.”
“We encourage shoppers to visit their nearby location now and take advantage of these savings before it’s too late,” the release states. “Store fixtures are also available for sale as part of this process.”