Buyer found for Farm Fresh; store will stay open

Buyer found for Farm Fresh; store will stay open
The Farm Fresh store in Shockoe Bottom may close on May 14. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Farm Fresh in Shockoe Bottom will stay open.

Neighborhood Grocery Holdings LLC (NGH) has agreed to buy the store at 2320 Main Street. The transition to the new owner is expected to be complete by the end of June.

"We're going to come in and really tailor the store to the neighborhood," said Raphael Strumlauf, Managing Director with NGH.

The store will continue to operate as Farm Fresh, and a grand re-opening event will be scheduled in the future.

"Finding a buyer for this store was very important for us, and we're thrilled that NGH will take ownership of this Farm Fresh location once the deal closes," said Anne Dament, Executive Vice President, Retail, Marketing and Private Brands at SUPERVALU.

It was previously announced 21 of 38 Farm Fresh stores, which are mostly in Virginia, were being sold to Kroger, Food Lion and Harris Teeter.

Now with NGH's purchase of the store, its new owners said they plan to keep as many of the current jobs as possible.

"We're bringing our new HR team in and we'll be working through the employees that are here," said Kurt Wassenaar, Manager with NGH. "[We'll go through] the positions, offering as many [current employees] as possible new jobs with us which will happen the day after we take over the store."

Wassenaar, Strumlauf and Mark Green own NGH. Wassenaar anticipates the company will take over the store in beginning to mid- une with a staff of around 90 people.

"One of the reasons we bought the store is because the employees and the performance of the store have been excellent," Wassenaar said.

"They've got delicious food and they're very friendly," said Olaolu Adetunji, a frequent customer. "Everybody says hi and how are you doing? It's friendly. I'm just so happy it's staying open."

Many customers like Adetunji said they're happy the grocery store will stay put for various reasons.

"It's easier access for some of us who are catching the bus and to get to," said Steve Williams. "It's right here on the line."

"I've had some people say they moved to this [area] simply because of the grocery store," Adetunji added.

While the name and logos will stay the same under its new owners, they are bringing in a new coffee shop, additional seating and an expanded deli section.

However, Wassenaar said their biggest challenge will be making the store responsive to the community.

"One of the downsides of a big corporate store is it isn't necessarily tuned in to what people in the local economy want," he said. "That's our focus and that's why we've been successful at our other stores."

"We'll be focusing a lot on unique products, on the fresh departments... bringing in a lot more local produce and working with a lot more local vendors," Stumlauf said.

NGH currently operates two other independent grocery stores – Crozet Market and Market Street Market in Central Virginia.

Initially, the 90 employees at the store were told their jobs would be ending in 60 days, but that was later extended. The store was initially expected to close by May 14.

Residents of the area said keeping the grocery store open was important to the neighborhood.

"We're not necessarily a food desert yet, but if we lose that store, it'll be a big hit to us," David Napier, president of the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association, said on Friday.

In a statement, SUPERVALU said earlier it is "working with the buyers to ensure a smooth transition and offering eligible employees severance along with other job transition support."

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