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Betsy Harden, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods confirms that the natural foods grocery store will be closing it Encinitas site later this month. Photo by Aaron Burgin
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Whole Foods to close Encinitas market

ENCINITAS — The Pacific Station Whole Foods, which debuted five-and-a-half years ago to a large crowds and a downtown eager for a standalone market, will shut down, the Texas-based chain announced Wednesday.

The 23,000-square-foot market, which was the centerpiece of the mixed-used development, will close its doors for good Feb. 22.

“As we work to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success, we have carefully evaluated our portfolio of stores to align with a more thoughtful growth strategy,” said Betsy Harden, a spokeswoman for the natural grocery chain. “As a result, we have decided to close the Encinitas store. This was not a decision that was made lightly and we are working closely with all affected team members to find alternative positions at nearby stores where possible.”

Encinitas business and civic officials reacted with shock when told of the news of the closure.

“We’re surprised and disappointed to see Whole Foods go,” said Thora Guthrie, executive director of Encinitas 101 Main Street Association, the business advocacy group in the city’s downtown.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she was sad to see the business go, but expressed hope that the space would not be vacant for long.

The Encinitas location is one of nine nationwide that will be closing as part of the corporate realignment that it announced during its quarterly earnings report.

The market, known for its large selection of organic products and ready-to-eat meals, debuted in June 2011, six months after Pacific Station opened and four years after the grocery chain announced its intent to anchor the somewhat controversial development in 2007.

Whole Foods is located on the ground floor of the three-story development, which includes several retail shops, business offices and 47 residential units on the floors above and on the ground level.

Hundreds of people attended the daylong pre-opening ceremony in late June of that year, which included a block party and tours of the store.

In recent years, however, the market has seen increased competition from a renovated Seaside Market in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and most recently with the opening of Lazy Acres Natural Market, which is less than a mile away from Whole Foods.

Corporate officials would not comment as to whether either of those markets’ performances had played a role in the decision to pull out of the Pacific Station location.

The closure also comes at a time when critics of mixed-use developments in Encinitas have openly questioned whether the concept should be included in future housing plans.

Residential-and-commercial projects have been the rage over the past decade throughout San Diego and across the country, as they have been seen as an environmentally friendly form of development.

Municipalities have tried to create neighborhoods where residents could recreate and shop within walking distance of their homes, reducing reliance on vehicles. In some cities, such as San Marcos and Vista and others cities along the Sprinter corridor, such developments have been near public transportation hubs to promote the use of public transit over vehicles.

Mixed-use developments have also been closely tied to the development of affordable housing.

But while the housing has been a success, in many locations, the commercial storefronts have stood vacant. In Vista, city officials recently voted to demolish a row of commercial storefronts in the Breeze Hill development and build more homes in its place.

In Encinitas, however, Pacific Station had been hailed as a mixed-use success story. But some residents — especially the No on Measure T contingent — had argued that the commercial and residential concepts were incompatible.

Blakespear, when asked whether she believed the loss of Whole Foods would fuel the argument, said no.

“I feel that businesses turn over, and if you look around town, there are a lot of businesses that are interested in Encinitas,” Blakespear said. “I see this as a decision based on a corporate chain and there will be another market that goes in there.”

She also said that she doesn’t believe the closure in any way speaks to the viability of downtown’s commercial core.

“I am sad to see them go, but downtown stands on its own,” Blakespear said. “We have vibrant businesses and there are always inquiries about coming into downtown.”

Speaking further about the closure, Guthrie said that she heard from local residents that the prices might have also deterred shoppers.

“While we are disappointed to see it go, if people couldn’t afford to shop there, then perhaps a different market will have more success,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie also said that parking was an issue at the location. The Whole Foods has an underground parking garage, but the signs aren’t immediately visible to passing motorists.

“Once you see it, you’ve passed it, and it isn’t easy to get back to it,” said Guthrie, who said that the association is looking at signage issues throughout the corridor.

At least one developer said they believed the city’s right-to-vote initiative, Proposition A, led to the market’s demise, as it limited other mixed-use developments to be built that would have given the market the population it needed to sustain itself.

“The reason Whole Foods failed is that Proposition A killed additional mixed-use development downtown that would have brought the population density that is needed to sustain a downtown market,” said David Meyer, a development consultant whose company, DCM Properties, is currently suing the city over Prop. A and the city’s lack of a housing element. “This is not the failure of the promise of mixed-use development or the Whole Foods brand.  It is simply that there are not enough people living downtown to sustain a high-end food market.”

None of this mattered to Michael Deluca, a Carlsbad resident who works in Encinitas and eats lunch regularly at the market. He expressed the same shock as Blakespear when he learned about the closure.

“It is a healthy option for lunch, it’s close to home, it’s quick, in the afternoon it’s nice and mellow, and I feel great after having a lunch from Whole Foods,” Deluca said. “It’s a unique experience compared to going to Vons or Stater Bros. or Ralph’s. It’s a shock.”

This story has been updated since its original posting.


Jeremy February 8, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Where will i go for fresh, greasy bacon? Today is a traumatic news day.

D. G. February 8, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Fraisier Farms, Lazy Acres (parent company, Bristol Farms)… good choices to replace with…

Therubes February 8, 2017 at 8:38 pm

I will likely end up being converted to a center for traumatic polyamory cool aid drankers.

Gyan February 8, 2017 at 9:38 pm

It’s unfortunate. But, with many people (myself included) buying non-perishable staples from Vitacost or Amazon, more grocery stores are depending on prepared foods, with their high mark ups, to keep afloat. The Encinitas WF never had a very good hot food bar. So, with Lazy Acres offering a massive prepared foods area with many different types of food and easy freeway access, it probably siphoned off the majority of people who wanted to go out to eat and grab a bunch of bananas while they were at it. The sad part is that I don’t think that lazy acres has the same social and environmental commitment that whole foods has, and their prices are much higher. I’ve been splitting my shopping between Jimbo’s and Whole Foods based on what was more convenient, but now will be heading back to Jimbo’s.

RS February 8, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Terrible news and very sad for Encinitas. Lazy Acres for is not as fresh and more expensive than While Foods.
It has nothing to do with it being a downtown managing xedvuse development. People did not understand the impact of shooting down Measure T with our State and tax credits. They should make it a 365 store.

Pen February 8, 2017 at 11:42 pm

It was always overpriced, and severely overpriced at that.

Casi T February 9, 2017 at 1:16 am

Forget greasy bacon Jeremy. Go to Seaside Market for the bbq tri-tip (aka Cardiff crack). Nothing better! I promise you!

Lili Forrest February 9, 2017 at 7:19 am

The best All Natural Market in Encinitas is Lazy Acres. Check it out!

Melinda February 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm

I liked Whole Foods. Live close by. Wouldn’t visit often, because parking was terrible. Really enjoy Lazy Acres. Beautiful amazing food court.

Tom February 9, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Hopefully a Barron’s will move into that spot. It’s just the right size and has better prices!

Sophie February 9, 2017 at 1:59 pm

It’s really disappointing to loose the Whole Foods. The staff have been wonderful and it’s always a pleasure to shop for fresh food there. Also, the store acts as a gathering location (in the plaza) for families and locals. Really hope another high quality food store opens in its place. There’s too many bars and the community needs a balanced downtown with eating and shopping options for all residents.

Carol February 9, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Difficulty finding parking was a major factor for me. Where’s the solution for that?

Deb February 9, 2017 at 3:37 pm

I go to Carlsbad Ranch Market at 6120 Paseo del Norte as they have local produce, salad bar, juice bar, healthy salads, etc. etc. It’s a family business that’s been there for 30 years.

Larry February 9, 2017 at 5:33 pm

I guess Prop. A and Measure T will be the go to reason for any business that shuts down in Encinitas. In my opinion, it’s quite a stretch for Meyers, or any other developer, to say that A or T caused Whole Foods to shut down. But it makes a good story I guess.

Whole Foods to shrink store count, closing 2 in California, for first time since 2008 | AboNewsCast February 9, 2017 at 8:28 pm

[…] The grocer is closing nine locations, including two small-format stores in Davis and Encinitas. Two more will close in Colorado, along with outlets in Chicago, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Georgia. The company confirmed California closures in news reports at the The Sacramento Bee and The Coast News Group. […]

John whitcraft February 10, 2017 at 9:38 am

I enjoyed that store. Whole Foods is unfortunately moving to big box format. This store had that original revolutionary feel Whole Foods started with.

Suzy February 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

Living in Downtown Encinitas, this is the one store I could walk to and probably did so 2x per week for a variety of items. Breakfast, coffee, birthday cards, groceries for dinner, cat food, etc. Will miss them but hopefully the location will be filled soon with someone new! We are so lucky to have the choices we do, Lazy Acres, Seaside Market, Sprouts and Jimbo’s all within a few miles.

G.A. February 14, 2017 at 1:14 pm

WF was a loosing proposition from the start, never had the radius of customers and never will to support that size of store. The big blue mass of H2O to the west basically cuts the customer radius in half. Don’t count on another large food retailer going in that space unless the landlord lowers the rent to about $2.00 sf. Maybe David Meyer should sue the ocean for being the cause of Downtown’s lack of radius of customers to support mixed use. A great mixed use for that WF space could be a coffee place, yoga studio, & a sports bar, because we all know Encinitas needs more of those. Another WF solution could be DCM properties contacting Trump Properties to see if they would be interested in investing in a luxury homeless shelter to solve the city’s “lack of housing element”. It could be really “Terrific”

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