By D. Frank Smith and Deb Belt
Fresh & Green's plans to close all six of its Maryland and Washington, D.C., grocery stores — some two and a half years after entering the region.
The stores will begin to wind down operations and will close by the end of December, the company said in a statement Monday.
"We've reached the point at which continuing to operate these stores does not make financial sense for the company," Michel added in the statement.
The stores are located on North Charles Street in downtown Baltimore; Arnold; Chestertown; Brunswick; Cambridge and on 48th Street NW in D.C. All of the locations were previously occupied by Superfresh stores, which closed in 2010 as part of parent company Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc.’s bankruptcy protection plan.
Jeff Metzger, the publisher of the Columbia-based Food World, told the Sun that Natural Foods overpaid for the Superfresh sites and then failed to renovate or invest to remake the stores' image.
"I would say doomed from the start," Metzger said to the newspaper, pointing to an "inability to change the perception of the consumer that this is not just a tired old Superfresh with a new name on it."Retail suitors have been lining up to replace Fresh & Green's locations, but no official announcement has been made.
"I believe the brokers have received interest from many retailers, including Giant," said John Dixon, vice president of Broadneck Development Corp. Dixon's firm operates the College Parkway Shopping Center in Arnold.
The Superfresh at 222 N. Charles St. opened in 2007 to much praise for becoming the first grocery store in downtown's core. The closure of the Fresh & Green's in that location comes as an influx of nearby apartments come online and several hundred more are under construction.
The downtown Baltimore store is 11,000 square feet, smaller than traditional grocer stores. The Giant in Perry Hall, for example, is 57,000 square feet.