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NORMAL — A health-focused grocery store in Normal is shutting its doors.

The Fresh Market at 200 Greenbriar Drive will close as part of 15 closures across the family-owned chain to address "long-term underperforming stores," said CEO Larry Appel in a news release Monday.

"We'll be closing that store within two to four weeks," Appel told The Pantagraph. "There will be a closing sale on all the items there that will last approximately two weeks."

Though the company is working to relocate employees affected by the closures, Appel noted that may be difficult for Normal's 65 employees because both of the chain's downstate stores — the other is in Peoria's Westlake Shopping Center — are closing.

The Fresh Market still will have several locations in the Chicago area.

"It would need to be somebody deciding they want to go to live in a different market," said Appel. "If for whatever reason people don't want to relocate, we will offer severance and other support."

The store opened Sept. 9, 2009, in the 18,000-square-foot former Cost Plus World Market building.

"We appreciated the opportunity to be part of the community for these years, and it's disappointing to close, but it's the right thing to do for the business as a whole," said Appel. "We wish the community nothing but success."

Appel said the closure is unrelated to Phillips Edison and Company, the Cincinnati-based developer that bought the shopping center that includes The Fresh Market and is working on upgrades, including a Ross Dress for Less store in the former Dick's Sporting Goods space next door.

"We'll work to find folks that might want the space to sublet it. I'm sure the landlord will be doing the same," said Appel.

Phillips Edison confirmed that Tuesday morning.

"We will be in discussions with a number of retailers that have expressed interest in joining the property due to its ideal location and strong, diverse merchandising mix," said Greg Clough, the company's vice president of redevelopment and portfolio management. "We look forward to sharing leasing details in the future."

"It sounds like Fresh Market has been a victim of too much square footage in the grocery realm here in Bloomington-Normal," said Heffernan, who noted a study showed the area had too many grocery stores several years ago — and that was before Hy-Vee opened in Bloomington.

"It's unfortunate because there's a lot of people who really like that store. ... I think they were a little ahead of their time in terms of offering healthy, fresh options, and now a lot of folks have caught up, like Hy-Vee and Schnucks."

Heffernan said town officials expect to hear more about Phillips Edison's plans for the center soon. The company planned to add two more retailers after reducing the spaces for Office Depot and Shoe Carnival, and officials also hoped to build a small retail space in one of the parking lots.

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Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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