After closing just a few months ago, Earth Fare in Williamsburg might be regaining new life.
The Asheville-based chain opened a location in Midtown Row in June 2018, but closed just a little more than a year later in February 2020. It came after the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to court documents.
But after being closed for just a few months, there’s already a movement to reopen the Williamsburg location.
Over the past few months, multiple locations of the franchise have been bought by a group of investors, including former co-owner Randy Talley. Those locations range from a store in Roanoke which went for $300,000, according to published reports, and other locations in Asheville, Talley said.
Talley said the plan is to re-open the locations starting with stores in Asheville on June 3, and continue to reopen each store every other week.
The group of investors will also be looking at other locations to re-open including the one in Williamsburg.
“We’re thinking about it,” Talley said. “We’re excited about the possibility and I would say one reason is because Williamsburg is an ideal market for Earth Fare and we’re fully aware that Williamsburg got off to a great start.”
Talley said he and some other investors are coming to Williamsburg Thursday after being invited by the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority to see the location.
The community also has started to reach out to the new owners to express their desire to reopen the local Earth Fare.
Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling recently wrote a letter to the new owners expressing the community’s support.
“The news of Earth Fare’s recent purchase brought with it a glimmer of hope for the storefront that now sits empty,” Freiling wrote.
Freiling’s letter, which was shared on Facebook by YES Williamsburg, discusses the future of the location on Midtown Row as the area continues to be developed.
Midtown Row has been developing as a local hub for business and living opportunities over the past few years — it has been bringing in a number of new restaurants and continues to construct a set of new apartments, which is on track to open in Summer 2021.
Freiling said the new reconstruction of the current section of Monticello Avenue will provide better access for all forms of transportation once it is completed in July.
“The potential here is significant,” he said in the letter.
While Freiling’s letter shows a passion for the business from the community but no decisions on buying the property have been made yet, said Aras Holden, vice president of acquisitions and development for Broad Street Realty, which owns the property.
During an interview Thursday, Freiling said it would be great to see Earth Fare come back to the Midtown Row location because the building was fitted specifically for the store.
“They also try to source a lot of products locally, which is great for the regional economy,” Freiling said. “Earth Fare hits a nice niche of balancing healthy foods with value.”
Talley said as the stores re-open, the business will return to its roots of selling health foods and running stores to be customer-oriented.
“One of the things we got away from was perhaps the focus on the customer and also perhaps an obsession with perishable foods,” Talley said.
YES Williamsburg also has posted on social media to encourage residents to support the potential reopening. In a post on April 23, the group asked residents to email the new owners and post to a Facebook page, Reopen Earth Fare Williamsburg.
The Facebook group currently has 214 members, who regularly post photos of Earth Fare when it was open and share their love for the business’ products and environment.
Talley said the investors are aware of the fan-base for Earth Fare in Williamsburg, which is an encouraging aspect to re-opening the location.
“So in a nutshell, we are in an exploratory process of returning to Williamsburg,” Talley said. “It’s a distinct possibility.”
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