Ellie Marindin

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — On Feb. 3, the Asheville, N.C.-based organic grocery chain Earth Fare announced plans to close all of its approximately 50 stores, due to financial reasons, including two in York County.

The next day, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company posted signs Wednesday informing customers its Rock Hill and Fort Mill locations would close within a week.

The Rock Hill store on Cherry Road had recently been renovated and the Fort Mill location, just off of Highway 160, had just opened last October.

Each location, including another five in the greater Charlotte area, will close once its inventory is sold. The locations have featured store-wide liquidation sales, since the announcement, in an effort to clear everything out.

Earth Fare has more than 3,000 employees, who will be permanently laid off.

“It’s very out of the blue,” said Jacob Conner, who has worked at the Rock Hill store for 18 months. “Finding another job is difficult, but I had an interview this morning and it went pretty good, with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.”

As one of the few organic health and wellness stores in the area, many people in Rock Hill have expressed shock and sadness after hearing the news.

“From now on it will be hard to find the health conscious and organic products that I typically eat or cook with,” said Mckenna Blick, a Winthrop student and frequent Earth Fare shopper.

“I would go there every two weeks for the majority of my groceries, but about three times a week I would go for small items or their salad bar,” she said. “Now I will probably shop at Publix, just because it has more organic options than other places, but I will also have to head outside of Charlotte to Trader Joe’s for other products I enjoy.

“The food options at Earth Fare were choices that I always eat. I loved how a lot of their products were from local areas and the numerous organic options they offered,” said Blick.

Abby Simon, a Winthrop student, said the Rock Hill store was conveniently located, considering her busy schedule.

“I shopped at Earth Fare daily for their hot bar and salad bar. There were always vegan, vegetarian and dairy free options available,” said Simon.

“As a college student with an internship and a job, I simply do not have time to cook lunch. Earth Fare allowed me to quickly grab a hot and healthy meal, less than three minutes away from my house,” she said.

“I could fill up a to go box for about $8 to $9, which is comparable to what I typically would spend at Chick-fil-a or any other fast food restaurant. I am going to try my best to start meal prepping and cooking healthy ahead of time now that I don’t have Earth Fare, but this isn’t always feasible. Sadly, I will likely resort to eating granola bars and packaged foods from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts,” said Simon.

David Hennes, of Rock Hill, has started a petition on change.org to encourage Trader Joe’s to open a store in the soon to be vacant Earth Fare location.

“People in Rock Hill need access to healthy groceries, including vegan and gluten free options for those that need them,” wrote Kayla Newsome, on the petition site.

In the two weeks since it was posted, the petition has already gained 4,200 of the 5,000 desired signatures.

“Keep your chin up (Rock Hill). Something new is going to come in soon,” said Conner.