On the morning of Feb. 3, Christopher Bartus came into work not expecting the news that he, as well as the dozens of other employees at Athens’s Earth Fare, would be out of jobs soon.
As recently reported in The Red & Black, Earth Fare, a “natural and organic” grocery store chain which opened its first store in 1975 out of Asheville, NC and has several locations in the southeast and midwest, officially announced it would be closing its corporate office and all of its stores in a Feb. 3 press release.
With 80 people working at the store, Bartus is concerned about the job prospects in Athens, which he thinks is “a difficult place to find a job.”
“We’ll have to fight each other for whatever jobs are out there,” Bartus said.
In the press release, Earth Fare cited the struggles for the company to refinance its debt and “continued challenges in the retail industry” as the reason for its decision. Earth Fare also explained that all of its stores were beginning to liquidate their inventories, which will cause “very significant price reductions.”
Bartus said he has “no idea” how the company will begin lowering the store’s prices of its products.
In another letter sent to employees on Feb. 3, employees were told all Earth Fare stores were set to close within two weeks, but the process could take up to four weeks, Bartus said. Despite the store’s future closure, Bartus said he doesn’t know when employees will be laid off.
“Our meat department [is] probably going to run out of meat in the next day or two. So does that mean they let go of the employees because they don’t need them anymore?” Bartus said. “Could be, I don’t know.”
Bartus also mentioned that some employees left their jobs to find new jobs right after receiving the news.
Ellie Apostol, a retired Montessori teacher from Ohio who recently moved to Athens, was “shocked” and saddened over the news of the store closing. As a frequent shopper, Apostol liked the store’s customer service.
“The clientele here is just so much fun to run into. It's a wonderful meeting place with other Athenians, and the quality is excellent. It's sort of like a hub here where people can find things that they can't find elsewhere,” Apostol said.
Despite visiting the store several times a week, Tracy Bartlett came looking for products at discounted rates the day she heard the news.
“I’m really sad about it, very disappointed,” Bartlett said. “It’s a great [place]. I live [within] walking distance, it’s just great to be able to have an organic, natural grocer right around the corner.”
Opened in the late 1990s as one of Earth Fare’s earliest locations, Athens’s Earth Fare is now one of the company's 50 stores soon to close shop.
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