- A group of investors that purchased four Earth Fare supermarkets in a bankruptcy auction earlier this year plans to open a new store in Christiansburg, Virginia, early next year, according to a press release sent to Grocery Dive.
- The new location is in addition to three Earth Fare stores recently opened in Asheville and Boone, North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia, where three of the four locations it bought at the auction were located. The ownership group, helmed by Randy Talley, a co-founder of the original Earth Fare, also acquired a store in Athens, Georgia, during the bankruptcy auction.
- The Christiansburg Earth Fare store, which will anchor a redeveloped shopping center, will feature a new design but hold onto touches that helped the former Earth Fare chain build a following among devotees of the natural foods the brand became known for, such as a "Boot List" of banned ingredients, according to the press release.
Earth Fare’s reemergence continues a fast-paced saga that has seen the natural foods brand’s fortunes rise and fall amid an unforgiving and highly competitive retail environment.
The announcement by the grocer’s new backers that they are building a store with a refreshed design comes just a few months after the former owners of the supermarket chain called it quits under an insurmountable debt load brought on by what industry experts said was an overly aggressive effort to expand.
In the announcement, Earth Fare said the new store will retain some of the most popular elements of the former chain. This includes healthy foods made by a "healthy lifestyle chef," natural meats and products that adhere to a strict list of natural ingredients. The focus is on crafting an inviting atmosphere that also clearly distinguishes the store as a health destination.
“We don’t want to look or feel like a big-box warehouse retailer, but more an extension of your home," Talley said in a statement.
The new store will anchor a development that includes tenants like Chipotle, Orangetheory Fitness and Starbucks.
News that the grocer planned to cease operations came just a year after the company opened its 50th store and said it would open 50 more locations by 2024. Instead of embarking on that path, the company said Feb. 3 that it would close all of its locations and look to sell off its assets. The next day, Earth Fare entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, setting off the process that led Talley and his partners to launch their bid to resuscitate the brand.
Talley, along with partners including Asheville businessman Dennis Hulsing, bid $1.9 million for the four Earth Fare stores it acquired in the bankruptcy auction. Other Earth Fare locations went to Whole Foods, Winn-Dixie and Aldi.
The original Earth Fare enterprise, which came to life in North Carolina in 1975 as a health-food store and took on the Earth Fare name in 1994, attracted customers through a community-minded approach to selling natural and organic foods. The company was purchased in 2006 by a private equity firm, Monitor Clipper Partners, which sold control of the grocer to Oak Hill Capital Partners in 2012. Under Oak Hill, Earth Fare pressed ahead with its ill-fated expansion plan.
The former Earth Fare’s demise coincided with the bankruptcies of Lucky’s Market and Fairway Market, which also ran into trouble as they tried to grow. Lucky’s couldn’t hold its own when it tried to enter new markets after thriving in Colorado, and Fairway Market ran into trouble when it sought to export its urban-centric concept from New York City to the region’s suburbs.