Good-bye to Fresh Seasons
not going to be resolved anytime soon.
The Stahls, in their early sixties, also admit they haven't quite been able to nail the tastes and habits of younger customers. "It's been a pretty tough ride for the last couple of years," says Ben. "We're real solid with customers of our own generation." He and Lynda are well-traveled "foodies," he says, and they like high-quality but fairly unprocessed ingredients. They've had a harder time keying into customers who want more prepared foods and ready-to-eat meals.
The customer drain began as far back as 2004, when Whole Foods built its huge new store on Washtenaw and Trader Joe's took over Whole Foods' old space at Lamp Post Plaza. "What happens is Whole Foods is attractive to our high-end customers, Trader Joe's to our low end," says Ben. "We see a lot of people bringing in Trader Joe's bags."
Earlier this year they thought they had found a buyer for the business. "They were excited about it, we were excited about it, but then financing became a problem, and it dragged out," Ben says. The lease was up, and landlord Gary Colemansmith was offering only a five-year renewal. Colemansmith, one of the Coleman farm family, opened the store in 1986. (Coleman combined his name with that of his partner, Mark Smith, and moved to Washington state.) The Stahls made a brief attempt to find another location to buy them a little more time to make a transition to new owners, but with so many parties involved, Ben says, "it all got sticky."