After 20 years in Solon, Mustard Seed Market will close its doors by month’s end.
“It’s been a tough decision,” said Gabe Nabors, chief executive officer and second generation owner with brother Abraham. “It was a family decision.”
The two Mustard Seed locations in Akron will remain open.
Mr. Nabors said they had been looking at the opportunities and growth for the Mustard Seed as well as the “lay of the land of the location and the competition.
“We were at the end of our (20-year) lease and we feel it is the best decision to move forward to not renew,” Mr. Nabors said last week.
Mr. Nabors said the store’s 74 employees will be offered jobs at the Mustard Seed locations in Akron.
“We will offer them opportunities at our Akron stores,” he said. “Of course we can’t have all of them transfer, but we are moving as many as we can.”
Mr. Nabors said there were several factors contributing to the store’s closure. Some had to do with changing shopping habits of customers, he said, but a lot had to do with competition from other grocers and Mustard Seed’s location in the Uptown Shopping center on Kruse Drive.
“We’re not on [Route] 91,” Mr. Nabors said. “That plays a big part in it.” He noted that the Akron stores are both on the “main drag” in the area and doing very well.
“Visibility and traffic patterns play a large part in any retail success,” he noted.
“Unfortunately, there are other businesses that have struggled in Solon,” Mr. Nabors continued, including some longtime tenants in the Uptown plaza.
“It’s never an easy decision,” he said. “It’s always a difficult matter to close the store.”
Mr. Nabors said their Akron stores are growing as well as other initiatives, including their online sale of products with hemp extract.
“That has been very, very successful,” he said. “We are looking at how we can take this success and plan to sell more products online in 2020.”
Mustard Seed employs about 300 including the Solon store.
“Every business has to adapt,” he said. “It’s extremely important as technology changes, how people consume and buy products.
“We have to evolve,” Mr. Nabors said. “It’s a tough decision. Retail is tough.
“We wish we had a better location, but all in all, we are extremely grateful for our staff and thousands of customers we were able to introduce to natural foods.”
Mr. Nabors also attributed the decline of sales at Mustard Seed in Solon to the opening of Whole Foods at Pinecrest in Orange Village in the spring of 2018. Whole Foods moved from its longtime location in the Village Square shopping center on Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere.
“There have been a lot of market place changes,” Mr. Nabors said. “The Whole Foods coming to Pinecrest put a lot of pressure on the store.
“Their (Whole Foods) business spiked up significantly,” he said. “They have a brand new store in a beautiful new development and closer to our community.”
Also, Mr. Nabors said, his company knew of the planned opening of an Aldi grocery store in SOM Center Plaza where a Sears was once located.
“It’s not like Solon is booming with population growth,” Mr. Nabors said. “People don’t eat more food. It’s another slice out of the pie. It’s just a lot.
“In anticipation of more competition to come, it didn’t make sense to continue the path forward,” he said. “We felt it has been our time.”
Aggressive discounts at the Solon Mustard Seed began last week in anticipation of this month’s closure and hours are reduced from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, until the last day of operation on Oct. 30.
A public auction for the furnishings in the store is being planned for Nov. 19.
Mr. Nabors said many customers reacting to the news told employees that they will miss the store’s staple items like the vegan chicken salad, carrot cake and other signature Mustard Seed items.
“A lot of the comments come down to our specialty items,” he said. “They won’t miss the national brand cereal” but instead the unique offerings.
As far as opening another store to replace the Solon location, Mr. Nabors said, “we are always looking for growth opportunity.
“Do I expect we open a store in the future? Absolutely. But we need to digest this.”
Mr. Nabors said they will add talent to their Akron locations and “take those to the next level,” as well as explore other ventures.
“We hit a home run with the hemp brand and will continue to develop other unique products as a growth path forward,” he said.
“When my family opened the Solon store, we had high expectations,” Mr. Nabors said. “It was the largest natural foods grocery store east of the Mississippi, and the natural foods industry was having double digit growth.
“Unfortunately, the store did not develop as we had hoped and today, with the increased competition both in bricks and mortar of all types as well as online, our time has come,” he said. “My family wishes to give a sincere thank you to all of our Solon staff, the Solon community and to the thousands of customers that helped us these past 20 years to push health foods to the mainstream.”
Mayor Edward H. Kraus said last week of the closure, “obviously we are all disappointed, but hopefully there is an opportunity that comes along. It was a business decision for Mustard Seed.”
Mayor Kraus said the plaza, which is 22 years old, is a “strong site” and the city will be aggressive in helping Site Selectors, the plaza’s owner, determine what the best use is for that building.
Mustard Seed opened its first store in Akron in 1981, and the Nabors family was considered early adopters of natural, organic lifestyles, with the Solon Mustard Seed boasting a vast array of supplements.
Mustard Seed saw its first growth spurt in 1989, when it transplanted from its 2,000 square foot digs to an 11,000 square foot store in Montrose. Mustard Seed was one of the first to put a full-service restaurant in a grocery store.
Another expansion occurred in 1997, with the store growing to 31,500 square feet.
Mustard Seed opened its second store in October of 1999 in Solon which is 56,000 square feet anchoring the plaza.
Mustard Seed has purchased its produce from many Amish farmers who focus on soil health and nutrient density.
The best part of being in Solon is “connecting with people and other local businesses and supporting each other,” Mr. Nabors said. Great satisfaction has been gained seeing people are healed through foods and supplements, he added.
“Having people lead healthy, happy lives is part of our mission and that is what makes our store special,” Mr. Nabors said. “We truly do care about people’s health.
“A lot of people put in a lot of effort to support us and support each other, and we are grateful for the time we did have here.”