Earth Fare Healthy Supermarkets, a full-service supermarket chain that specializes in natural and organic products, announced that its corporate office and all of its 50 stores are closing. The grocery chain gained a following for its organic offerings, Wednesday sushi specials, and its hot food bar. Earth Fare cited an inability to refinance debt and sales challenges as contributing factors to its current state.

The company announced closure plans February 3, and has already begun liquidation sales which will include an assortment of merchandise and store fixtures. The process should take anywhere between 2-4 weeks but they expect all of the stores to be closed by the end of February. Each store employs roughly 75 to 100 people with approximately 3,000 companywide.

*Sprouts is scheduled to release its 2019 sales reports after markets close on 2/20/2020.

The grocer, which started in Asheville, NC, in 1975, has tried “numerous strategic initiatives aimed at growth and expansion and enhancing the customer experience” in recent years, according to the company press release. But it was not enough. In 2015, Earth Fare, established as “Dinner From the Earth,” had bold plans to grow. The retailer leaped from just 13 stores in 2007 to 36 in 2015, with plans to open more in several states. The chain had more than 2,500 employees with estimated revenues of $239 million in 2015. From January 2015 to September 2016, it had 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. Most recently, Virginia was added to the list.

It was a combination of Earth Fare’s fast store growth and high expectations of consumers willing to pay more for organic products that hurt the specialty grocer. The issue is not that people don’t want organic products; it’s just that they can get them elsewhere cheaper and more conveniently.

Earth Fare Healthy Supermarkets is the third grocer to close its doors or seek a buyer in recent weeks. The company’s announcement came less than two weeks after Fairway Market filed for bankruptcy. Lucky’s Market, another organic-focused chain with more than 30 stores in 10 states, also filed for bankruptcy and announced that its locations are closing. The exit of these grocers will give other retailers like Publix’s GreenWise Markets and Aldi an opportunity to lease space once occupied by those stores.

Suppliers for Earth Fare will need to find new buyers for their merchandise. Chain Store Guide tracks over 600 grocery chains that sell organic products that would be a good fit for the manufacturers. Reach out to one of our Account Managers today to learn more about how Earth Fare vendors can contact similar chains.