A Jacksonville organic and natural grocery store chain will be closing its doors for good after more than 20 years.
Native Sun Natural Foods Market owner Aaron Gottlieb said Tuesday he and his wife are calling it quits as an increasing number of competitors have entered the Jacksonville marketplace in recent years.
"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 said in a statement emailed to WJCT News.
One of the latest competitors is Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market, which opened its first area store at the St. Johns Town Center this month, as WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reported.
Gottlieb said it was with a heavy heart that he broke the news to his Native Sun employees Tuesday morning.
"Jacksonville has grocery stores 'sprouting' up like weeds; crowding each other as well as the local flora. We are sad to say that we didn’t have a deep enough well to keep us going," Gottlieb wrote.
After opening the first Native Sun in 1997, the couple has branched out to three stores in Jacksonville — one on Baymeadows Road at Interstate 295, one in Mandarin and one in Jacksonville Beach.
The Jacksonville Daily Record reported in 2017 that Native Sun Natural Foods employed about 160 people.
Native Sun spokesman Dan Nehring said a closing date for the stores hasn't been determined yet.
- WJCT's Lindsey Kilbride and Jessica Palombo contributed to this report.