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Health food store heads to Hilo with new outlet


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POSTED: Friday, August 14, 2009

Down to Earth, the natural foods chain that closed a store on Maui earlier this year, will open another outlet in Hilo this fall, bringing its total number back to five.

“;Our expansion is a response to consumer demand,”; said CEO Mark Fergusson. “;Customers from under-served parts of the state have been asking us to come to their neighborhoods for years. We're thrilled to be able to do that now, with initial focus on the Big Island.”;

The Honolulu-based retailer is also negotiating for space in Leeward Oahu, a market where the company says there is demand, based on traffic patterns at its Aiea store.

In Hilo, Down to Earth is moving into a 5,500-square-foot space to be vacated by Island Naturals Market near Wal-Mart. Island Naturals is moving to Hilo Shopping Center in September.

The landlord asked Down to Earth whether it was interested, and it was a “;no-brainer,”; according to Fergusson.

“;It's a great location,”; he said.

“;We were actually going to open a store in that exact spot 13 years ago and are excited to have the opportunity to do it now.”;

The store will be hiring about 50 employees for its target opening date of October or November.

Meanwhile, Down to Earth, which recently remodeled its flagship store in Moiliili, is renovating its Kahului and Kailua stores.

In Kahului, the company is converting 3,000 square feet of storage to retail, bringing the total to 9,000 square feet.

The Makawao store, the smallest in the chain, closed due to economic factors as well as restrictions on vacation rentals, the company said.

Founded in 1977 in Wailuku, Maui, the business in 2007 rebranded itself as Down to Earth All Vegetarian Organic and Natural.