Natural Markets Food Group, parent of the Mrs. Green's chain, is evidently facing financial crisis as evidenced by the closure of four stores this week and supply shortages at its remaining 11 locations.
A spokesman for the Larchmont, N.Y.-based natural foods chain told SN Friday however that the store closures and supply issues were not related. The spokesman said the supply issues would be resolved by next week, but did not offer detail as to the cause of them or how they would be resolved.
Mrs. Greens' store in Winnetka, Ill., which opened in January this year, closed Oct. 16. Officials acknowledged then that a second Chicago store, that had closed for renovations a year ago, would not be reopening. A day later, Mrs. Green's closed its West Windsor, N.J. store, which opened in 2014. On Friday, officials said the Mrs. Green's store in New Canaan, Conn. had closed temporarily but would reopen in about six months.
In the meantime, stores throughout the chain were dealing with supply shortages which employees at two different stores told SN resulted from ordering budgets being slashed by the corporate office. The employees asked not to be quoted because they weren't authorized to speak to reporters on the subject.
A Mrs. Green's store in New York's Greenwich Village neighborhood on Friday had what appeared to be numerous out-of-stocks, grocery shelves faced one deep, and almost no fresh seafood. Signs posted in the stores acknowledged the chain was experiencing "significant product delivery challenges" that it hoped would be resolved shortly.
The spokesman characterized the closures and supply shortages as separate issues. He said Winnetka and Chicago stores were closed as a result of a decision to suspend plans to expand the brand in the Chicago region. West Windsor, the chain's largest store at 20,000 square feet, was closing because the chain had subsequently moved to a smaller format in its core Metro New York stores.
At press time, SN had not received comment from the company on what led to the sudden closure in New Canaan. However, a local newspaper published a statement from the company that was similar to the statement SN received about the Winnetka and West Windsor closures:
“Mrs. Greens Neighborhood Market believes our stores are a place to call home, where families can find locally-grown, organic and natural products that will help them live happier, healthier lives. While challenges are forcing us to close these stores, we want to thank all of our customers and our entire team who treated us like family," CEO Pat Brown said in the statement.
"Mrs. Green’s will continue to focus our resources on the northeast market and provide our customers with both healthy-living opportunities and the highest quality all natural and organic products.”
The events of this week continue a rocky pattern of exploration and retreat for Mrs. Green's and its parent, Natural Markets Food Group, which also operates the Planet Organic and Richtree brands in Canada. Those companies are owned by the Canadian private equity firm Catalyst Capital Group.
In the U.S., the group over the years has experimented with large-scale natural stores at former SuperFresh sites called Fresh & Green's, remaking a mall food court in Chicago as a market-style natural foods restaurant called Wilde & Greene, and regional expansions of Mrs. Green's that have all ended in closures. Mrs. Green's in 2014 closed a Fairfax, Va. store just nine months after it opened, saying that it was calling off plans for a second Metro Washington D.C. store in Vienna, Va., at the same time. It closed a Wilton, Conn. store in early 2015 after just more than a year in business. At that time, officials said they were committed to serving the area with its New Canaan store, which subsequently underwent a $100,000 renovation last year, reports said.
The West Windsor store, which opened at a former Acme Markets space near wealthy Princeton, N.J., debuted with an elaborate fresh and prepared foods offering but those departments have since been pared back, according to customer comments on Yelp.
Brown in an interview with SN shortly after being named CEO in the fall of 2014, acknowledged that several stores built during Mrs. Green's expansion period under his predecessor were too large and far-flung, and expressed a desire to focus the brand regionally in stores of 10,000 to 12,000 feet.
A spokesman also told SN Friday the company still had plans to begin construction of a new store in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., next year.