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Fresh & Green's to close stores in Maryland, Washington

Super Fresh Food Markets, Inc.Kirby FowlerDowntown Partnership of BaltimoreGiant Food, LLCWhole Foods Market

Downtown Baltimore will lose one of its few grocery stores when six Fresh & Green's markets in Maryland and Washington close by the end of the month

Natural Markets Food Group announced the closings Monday. The stores, former Superfresh markets, opened in 2011 under the ownership of Natural Markets, a subsidiary of Catalyst Capital Group, a Canadian private equity firm.

Anne Burns, a spokeswoman for Fresh & Green's, said about 40 employees will be affected at each store, including one on Charles Street in Baltimore and others in Arnold, Brunswick, Cambridge and Chestertown.

The stores were not profitable, the retailer's CEO, Robin S. Michel, said in a statement.

"Closing stores is never easy, given the impact on employees and the communities they serve … but there are times when it is necessary, and this is such a time," she said. "We've reached the point at which continuing to operate these stores does not make financial sense for the company."

In 2012, Fresh & Green closed stores in Hampden and Parkville. Another chain, Landover-based Giant Food, now operates out of those locations.

Jeff Metzger, the publisher of the Columbia-based Food World, said 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," said Metzger, 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."

"You reap what you sow," he said. "It was sort of always being run, in my opinon, like it was an orphan."

The closing will leave Whole Foods in Harbor East as the only supermarket downtown.

Downtown Partnership President Kirby Fowler said having a grocer on Charles Street has been important to downtown's growing residential community and that his organization will work to replace Fresh & Green's with another supermarket. He said the location was profitable, citing a conversation with a representative from landlord Southern Management Corp.

"We don't view this closing as a reflection on Charles Street," Fowler said. "This was a decision by a parent company to restructure."

Burns said it is not clear what will happen to the Fresh & Green's sites. Metzger said it will be challenging to market the Charles Street location, which has 11,000 square feet, smaller than many supermarkets.

nsherman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Super Fresh Food Markets, Inc.Kirby FowlerDowntown Partnership of BaltimoreGiant Food, LLCWhole Foods Market
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