Well, that was fast.

In a rather stunning move, Earth Fare, Wesley Chapel’s first – and only – large green grocer, is closing all of its stores, including the Cypress Creek Town Center location on S.R. 56.

In a press release earlier today, the North Carolina-based grocer announced it was liquidating all of its stores nationwide, and liquidation sales will begin immediately. Even store fixtures can be had, the release noted.

“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 the 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 Wesley Chapel location will, perhaps, barely make it to its first anniversary. More than 100 shoppers lined up on Feb. 19, 2019 eager to be some of the store’s first customers.

“A gut punch,” says Hope Allen, the CEO of the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Allen said she had recently read about Earth Fare closing a store in Gainesville on Jan. 11 after only four years, but still didn’t think the Wesley Chapel store, which was the 12th for the company in Florida, was in any danger.

“It is very shocking,” Allen says. “I thought we would be immune from those closures because it was so recently opened.”

On a VIP tour of Earth Fare a week before it opened, CEO/president Frank Scorpiniti touted the quality of Earth Fare’s organic products, which do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial fats, colors, sweeteners, or preservatives, or meats that were bred with antibiotics or growth hormones. The chain had a “boot list” — a long list of banned ingredients it does not allow in anything sold in any Earth Fare store.

At the time, Scorpiniti said the Wesley Chapel opening was just the beginning of an aggressive plan to expand Earth Fare’s footprint. At the time, the company was operating 50 stores, and Scorpiniti said he expected there to be more than 100 locations in a few years.

Earth Fare, which was founded in Asheville, NC, in 1975, said its financial struggles were too much to overcome, and hinted that its efforts had failed.

“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 press release said. “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.”

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