After 23 years in business, Jacksonville-based supermarket chain, Native Sun Natural Foods Market, permanently shut down all three of its store locations in August 2019.
Owner Aaron Gottlieb announced the stores closing via Facebook post on August 6th, stating, “Due to the dramatic increase in the number of grocery stores in the Jacksonville area (nine new specialty grocers alone since 2015), Native Sun Natural Foods Markets will be closing our doors.”
Gottlieb’s announcement came just after the opening of Sprouts Farmers Market. Sprouts, located off Town Center Parkway, is the newest addition in a growing list of supermarkets that have come to the city in recent years.
Jacksonville has become increasingly saturated with grocery stores and supermarket chains. While the number of grocers has brought a better variety of foods to the city, many grocery stores operate in same territory as other competing food retailers.
In a goodbye letter posted to Native Suns website, Gottlieb wrote, “Jacksonville has grocery stores “sprouting” up like weeds; crowding each other as well as the local flora.”
Native Suns Mandarin location is one mile away from Publix and Winn Dixie, its Jacksonville Beach store is a seven-minute drive away from two more supermarkets, and there are both a Publix and Winn Dixie within a half mile of Native’s Baymeadows branch. The proximity of these supermarkets to Native Suns stores, created an extremely competitive and crowded retail environment that made it difficult for Native Sun to retain customers, and be competitive in. When Native Sun opened in 1997, organic foods were not easily accessible in many traditional supermarkets and grocery stores. In his letter, Gottlieb wrote, “I started the company with my wife Erica to bring organic foods to the Jacksonville community.”
Native Sun was an organic grocer and it experienced plenty of success in its early years, with an annual revenue increase of 14 percent, according to an article by Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal. However, as grocery stores began to integrate organic products into their inventory, the niche Native Sun occupied, dissolved.
Native Sun’s absence has been felt throughout the Bolles community, with students and teachers expressing disappointment at the stores cessation.
Despite Native Sun’s closure, Gottlieb sent his business out on a note of optimism. “We’re proud to have been your local grocer for 23 years,” Gottlieb wrote in the conclusion of his letter. “I am hopeful that our community will be blessed with another local organic grocer in our future. As all great things come back again.”