PORTSMOUTH — The closure of Philbrick’s Fresh Market will displace 26 employees, but owner Phil Philbrick says several have already found new work.
Last week’s announcement that the store on Lafayette Road would close this month after 15 years was tough for the workers who have remained loyal and the customers who have turned to Philbrick’s for specialty food items they couldn’t find elsewhere on the Seacoast.
Philbrick said Thursday that the store will likely be closed by June 20 and that most of its soon-to-be former employees have job offers or have new jobs.
“All are affected by major change and all are saddened. We have been working together and looking after each other for 15 years,” he said.
Philbrick’s only other market, which was located in North Hampton, closed in January and resulted in 20 positions lost. Philbrick said five of those employees relocated to the Portsmouth store.
Some businesses, including grocery stores, have reached out to staff, he said. He blamed the closure on tough business conditions for a market that was part of the growing organic, natural and local food movements.
“Portsmouth tax increases are tough, but real issues are increased competition, making it very difficult for the independent owner-operator to survive,” he said.
Business became more difficult over the past few years, he said.
“The landlord has been helpful. I was hopeful (for) a recapitalization of the company up (until) a month ago. We had also hoped that some of the North Hampton business would consolidate in Portsmouth, but that did not work out,” he said.
Several customers — some learning of the closure when they stopped by Thursday afternoon — said they’ll miss the store.
Stratham resident Carol Hallstead said she comes to the Portsmouth store for lunch, but was a frequent customer at the North Hampton location until it closed.
“They were great for pop in groceries when you wanted to beat the crowds at Shaw’s and the other places. They had good food, unique products, and good organics,” she said.
Emily Romero of Portsmouth said she would buy specialty items that she couldn’t find in other stores.
“They have so much organic food,” she said.
Phil Johnson was surprised to hear about the planned closure when he arrived for some soup at lunchtime.
“I’m going to miss the soups,” said Johnson, who lives in Rye.