Photo courtesy of: Southern Season Richmond
In an abrupt and somewhat surprising announcement this morning, specialty food store Southern Season shared that its Libbie Mill - Midtown location at 2250 Staples Mill Road will close due to overwhelming overhead costs. According to Dave Herman, the company's president, the food seller will remain open through Sunday, April 24, but the deli and cheese counters — as well as Southerly, its full-service restaurant — will shutter today.
"Obviously it's very, very difficult to make such a decision," Herman says heavily over the phone. "The general gist is slower-than-expected growth, and the bottom line is, the store is too large and too expensive to keep open."
Richmond's Southern Season offers a focus on Southern-made goods and ingredients, and a range of specialty kitchen supplies, plus as a number of weekly hands-on cooking courses through its culinary program. The 53,000-square-foot location opened on July 31, 2014, as a sibling to the company's 60,000-square-foot flagship store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Southern Season will maintain its flagship, plus open a 25,000-square-foot full-service shop in Atlanta this August. It will also shift its focus to online sales and smaller stores: Taste of Southern Season, the company's new initiative, will offer a smaller selection of curated goods in 4,000- to 7,000-square-foot spaces. One currently exists in Raleigh, North Carolina, and an Asheville, North Carolina, outpost will open in July. Multiple Virginia locations are under consideration for Taste of Southern Season stores, including Richmond. The company hopes to open 30 of this model within the next three years.
"We got an incredible response from the [Richmond] community and we're thrilled with it, but I think it has more to do with the size of our store and how expensive it is to operate," Herman says. "Many retailers out there — Target and Best Buy and many, many others — have announced plans to open up smaller-format stores. It's just the way it is these days in the world of retail: very different."
Beginning Wednesday morning, shoppers will find a storewide closing sale in the Richmond location, and the enormous retailer will maintain its regular hours through its closure on April 24. Eligible employees can either transfer to other Southern Season stores, or receive a separation package.
According to Herman, the Libbie Mill - Midtown development's forthcoming 1,000-plus apartments and homes was not enough of a draw for the store to remain open.
"I think it's going to be an incredible development — very strong and fantastic plans — but I still think that the store model size that we have would still make it difficult to be profitable. It would certainly [have gotten] better with growth, and I'm quite confident the development will grow and be a major success."
Southern Season is located at 2250 Staples Mill Road and is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. The store will close Sunday, April 24.