After being in business for a little more than 20 years, Jacksonville-based Native Sun Natural Foods Markets announced on Tuesday that it's closing the doors to all three of its stores on the First Coast.
"Jacksonville has grocery stores 'sprouting' up like weeds; crowding each other as well as the local flora," owner Aaron Gottlieb said in a letter published on its website Tuesday. "We are sad to say that we didn’t have a deep enough well to keep us going."
Gottlieb said the reason for the closure is due to the nine new specialty stores that have popped up in Northeast Florida since 2015, many of which also serve organic and natural foods like Native Sun. That number keeps growing.
Just last month, the latest specialty store that opened in the area was Sprouts, a Phoenix-based chain, in the Markets of Town Center. The company announced it has plans to open a second location on Beach and Tamaya Boulevards in the near future.
"[Organic and natural food] is now accessible at traditional grocery stores as well as big box stores, gas stations, airports; almost anywhere you shop," he said. "The times are changing. Technology is changing. Communication is changing. Most of all, how people shop is changing. We are all blessed and cursed with what these changes bring."
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Gottlieb and his wife, Erica, first opened Native Sun Natural Foods in 1997.
"I started the company with my wife Erica to bring organic foods to the Jacksonville community," Gottlieb said in the statement. In the beginning, we were about giving access to clean food, wellness products, and most of all — education."
Over the next 23 years, the pair expanded their chain to include three grocery stores in Jacksonville Beach, on the Southside and Mandarin.
No closing date for each store was announced. However, the website shows that the stores have events until the end of August.
"We’re proud to have been your local grocer for 23 years," Gottlieb said. "I deeply believe the local independent business is the heart of the community. I am hopeful that our community will be blessed with another local organic grocer in our future. As all things great come back again."