Wild Oats Closes

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Janet Babin: Wild Oats Market at Shaker Square told its 64 employees earlier this week that the store would close on June 1st. Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele says the closing is part of a company-wide restructuring plan.

Sonja Tuitele: We closed eight other stories as part of a company reorganization.

JB: Wild Oats, along with anchor store Joseph Beth Booksellers, moved into space at the historic Shaker Square Center as part of a major renovation two years ago. Cleveland developers Adam Fishman and Randy Ruttenberg own Shaker Square along with Rosen Associations of Florida. Fishman says when it opened, he considered Wild Oats "the premier gourmet and organic grocer in the country," but now he's calling the store second rate.

Adam Fishman: ...They never really met our expectations.

JB: Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell says she too, was disappointed by the Wild Oats Market at Shaker Square.

Jane Campbell: This store was in my neighborhood, and I've seen a marked decrease in quality. I've gotten bad salmon, bad tabouli...

JB: Fishman had help financing Shaker Square's $23 million renovation - the city provided about $2 million in loans, and Cuyahoga County issued $4 million in tax increment financing bonds. County Commissioner Tim McCormack spoke with Fishman last night.

Tim McCormack: The County is interested because of the money we put into the project. We want to make sure the project can pay up on the bonds, without taxing the county purse.

JB: Joseph-Beth Booksellers is Shaker Square's other major anchor. General Manager Jeff Oliver says he's not worried about his 38,000-square-foot store, and that sales are where they should be, but a 2000-square foot section of the store, now being used for storage, might be sub-leased. Again, Mayor Jane Campbell.

JC: They have the option of subleasing a portion of the store between Joseph-Beth and Chico's.

JB: Campbell says sales at Shaker Square are about $350 per square foot, and that apart from the departing Wild Oats, the center is at 100% leased - that's well above the Square's performance before the 2000 renovation.

But Case Western Reserve University Professor David Deeds says 32,000-square-feet of vacant space could take its toll on smaller retailers that rely on anchors to bring in customers.

David Deeds: Things will be okay in the summer, when people like to get out and stroll, but without an anchor store in the winter, that's when we might begin to see the retail numbers drop.

JB: Wild Oats operates another store within a 15-minute drive of the Shaker Square store, and some speculate that the proximity of the two stores is the reason for the closure, but the company refused to elaborate. Employees at the Shaker Square location will be offered severence packages or transfers. In Cleveland, Janet Babin, 90.3 WCPN News.

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