Customers, Employees Bemoan Closure Of Earth Fare

Feb 7, 2020

A bright yellow “store closing” sign now hangs outside the Westgate location of Asheville-based Earth Fare. 

Loyal customers and those seeking clearance deals filled the aisles of the store Friday. 

The end of an era. The takeover of corporate greed. The erasure of a community. 

Those are a few of the kinder insults directed at Earth Fare from customers and employees at the store in Westgate Shopping Center. 

At noon a small group of protesters gathered to dance in the aisles while music played over the store’s intercom. 

Credit Cass Herrington / BPR News

Lee Daris was dancing near the checkout lanes, when she was bumped by a shopper filling her cart with crackers, now on clearance.

“Well she ran me over, which is just another sign of what’s going on in this world. Fundamental darkness, greed," Daris said. "We’re not seeing human beings anymore. We’re seeing greed, money, power.” 

Daris says she’s been a loyal customer of this location since it opened. The Westgate Earth Fare is known to have its own Asheville flair. Buskers play music outside in the summer. They’re often joined by vendors selling potted herbs and crystals. 

Employee of 13 years Jennifer Callahan watched the flash mob. Her eyes are puffy from crying. 

"I think one thing Westgate Earth Fare represents was an outlet, to kind of cut through the digital haze," Callahan said.

Callahan says she and her coworkers found out about the store closure the same day the news was made public.  She's a photographer and says she makes about at third of her income at Earth Fare. 

"This was a business, but it was a place you could come and you knew the names of customers, and you could cut through that, and you know, look into another person’s eyes," Callahan said. "And I think that’s something that’s vanishing in our culture."

Callahan says she hopes that Earth Fare’s community of local employees and customers can come together to start their own independent grocery store to make up for the loss.