Amazing Ending in the Highlands

Amazing Grace staff, from left, Christie Moore, Andrea and Paul Koenig, Tara Kimes

When the Amazing Grace Whole Foods store opened in the Highlands in 1995, it was about the only place in town to find many of its products.  There was not much of a healthy foods movement. But as Paul Koenig told me yesterday in his cluttered upstairs office, today you can get Kashi cereal at every Wal-mart, Target and Kroger in town.

And that competition, as much as anything, is why he and his wife Andrea say they’re closing the store at the end of February. They say there’s little possibility that a new buyer will emerge, even though they acknowledge there was a recent attempt to negotiate a sale to Koenig’s ex-wife, Grace, who was a partner in the business until 2006.

“We’ve had six months of downward trends,” Koenig said of the store’s sales. “We did well from 1995 until July of 2008, and it’s been going down ever since.”

Koenig said the competition is tough on small, independent businesses, citing others in the area, such as the nearby Knit Nook, who have announced closings. He said the store’s success was attributable to personal service and its willingness to host events of interest to the healthy living community.

Koenig was upset that a story written here at alerted customers to the impending closing, as he hopes to continue operating and selling existing inventory through the end of the month. While I was there, he placed a new order for duck eggs. But Koenig handed me a news release detailing the reasons for the closing. Here’s a highlight:

“… In the end, the struggling economy and the prevalence of their once propriority (sic) product won out. Facing a nonnegotiable lease with a difficult landlord, and not in a strong enough position to move the business, Amazing Grace’s only option is to close the doors.”

It’s been a good run. Koenig showed me boxes of framed thank-you letters, and many regulars recall the variety of events held there – from chanting by Tibetan monks to Tai Chi classes.

The Koenigs are inviting customers to stop in and say goodbye — with an offer of a free cup of tea.