A fixture in Chestnut Hill for over 30 years, Jonathan Best Gourmet Grocer is preparing to close its doors to the community. The specialty food shop, located at 8229 Germantown Avenue and downtown in Reading Terminal Market, will not be renewing its lease after it expires on March 31.
The Reading Terminal Market location will remain open.
It was a decision owner David Schieber said he wrestled with for months. “My hands were shaking from the thought of it,” he shared.
Schieber says trouble began for him two and a half years ago when Weavers Way Co-op opened its Chestnut Hill store down the street, where Caruso’s Market once stood. Jonathan Best saw nearly a third of its sales decline within a month after the competitor opened its doors, he said. The shop never regained those profits and continued to see a steady wane in customers.
Schieber says between the two locations, he would have preferred to keep the Chestnut Hill shop open for his customers. The sustained sales loss coupled with the neighborhood’s high rents eventually caused him to reach a difficult conclusion, he said.
The shop’s closing will mean the loss of jobs for one full-time and three part-time employees who work there. Schieber fondly recalled that in earlier days, a small neighborhood retailer like Jonathan Best, was the only place younger folk could find steady employment and learn the value of hard work.
Schieber noted the farmers market has seen a substantial uptick in vacancies since Weavers Way opened in Chestnut Hill and questioned the effect the co-op has on smaller community retailers. Still, he credits the co-op with being able to offer its employees something he rarely could – benefits.
Eileen Reilly, who handles retail recruitment for the farmers market, disagrees with Schieber, noting the primary reason the market saw an increase in vacancies was a struggling economy. Shoppers in the neighborhood have also changed, she added, which is partially behind the market’s plans for an overhaul.
Reilly confirmed that a new tenant will be leasing the retail space when Jonathan Best Gourmet Grocer is gone.
The store is now selling merchandise and equipment at a 60 percent discount.