Mt. Airy’s Food for All closes its doors for good

 Amy Kunkle in Food for All last year. (Alan Tu/WHYY, file)

Amy Kunkle in Food for All last year. (Alan Tu/WHYY, file)

After a Groupon deal gone bad last year, Amy Kunkle’s loyal customers helped her stave off closure by lending $50,000 to her speciality food market and eatery catering to those with allergies. It didn’t go far enough, however, and Food For All has shuttered for good.

“We were just not making it,” Kunkle said, adding that the most difficult part in finalizing the closure was telling community members who invested in her store.

Kunkle will be unable to pay back the customers who lent her money last year to keep the store open. She said the largest loan from a single person was $12,000. Kunkle said that lender was very understanding when she broke the news. 

“She was lovely. She knew how hard I worked,” said Kunkle, adding that the lender was a frequent customer who suffered from food allergies and was able to learn a lot about how to live with her allergies from the store.

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What happened

“I did everything I possibly could,” said Kunkle, adding that she stayed opened until she couldn’t afford to order inventory for the following week. 

Kunkle said she believes that in the end, her business was unable to succeed due to a combination of factors including the economy, difficult parking in the area and a shortage of other daytime businesses on her strip of Germantown Avenue. 

She also said she could have done more to market her business. 

Elayne Bender, executive director of East Mt. Airy Neighbors, said she will miss having the store. 

“Supermarkets are starting to carry more gluten-free  and other specialized products, but it’s just not the same,” she said. 

“I liked the way it felt to be in the store,” she added.

What’s next

Kunkle began a position with High Point Cafe last week and was able to bring some of her former staff along with her. She will be executive chef of the cafe’s wholesale division when it opens late this year

Meg Hagele, owner of High Point Cafe, said the business was looking to expand its food-sensitive offerings.

“It’s very exciting for us to be able to create greater diversity in what we have,” she said. 

Kunkle will be bringing over equipment from her store to ensure that there is no cross-contamination between the allergy-sensitive food and the cafe’s other offerings.  

“It’s the perfect time for us to be coming together,” said Kunkle, who added that she will be using some of her existing gluten-free recipes as well as experimenting with new recipes in coming months. 

“For so many months, I thought this was the worst thing that could happen,” she said of her business closing. “Sometimes the thing you think is the worst thing that can happen can be the best thing to happen.”

When asked if she would consider opening up another business in the future, Kunkle said if she does, she will focus more on getting the right help to balance out her strengths and weaknesses.

“Right now I am exhausted, but never say never.”

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