After 20 years in operation, the Bridle Trails Red Apple in Kirkland will close its doors in February 2018.
And the community is sad to see the family-run grocery store go.
Owner Lori Croshaw recently posted a notice on the store’s front door to quash some of the rumors that were dispersing throughout the community. The notice stated the store would be closing next year due to a rent increase by the real estate company Retail Opportunity Investments Corporation, which owns the 105,590-square-foot strip mall Red Apple anchors.
Croshaw, who has heard from numerous customers, said “people are up in arms” about the decision to close.
“This market is a community treasure and is broadly supported by thousands of local residents,” the petition reads.
Croshaw said at the 20-year mark of the 30-year lease, ROIC had the option to increase the rent to fair market value.
When talks about the rent increase began last year in December 2016, Croshaw had made the case for cheaper rent because she was going to need to take out a loan for repairs of the aging equipment, such as refrigerators. As it was, Croshaw said, all the profits from the business were going toward restorations.
“Everything is getting old,” Croshaw said. “Any money we make is going toward fixing something.”
Croshaw did negotiate to keep the store open through the holidays, otherwise it would have had to close in November.
But the rent increase was not the only factor in closing the store, she said. It was just the latest detail in a series of events that has impacted the business.
Croshaw said it’s a “sign of the times.”
And it in part goes back to the psychology of shoppers’ buying habits.
Shoppers shop where they are, Croshaw said. If they’re in Fred Meyer or Bartell Drugs picking up a prescription, they’ll also buy their groceries there. Plus, with modern services like Amazon Go, people don’t even have to leave their homes for groceries.
“The competition is so incredible for grocery stores,” she said.
In addition, whenever there was a change in business in the strip mall — like when the gym closed or Bartell Drugs remodeled — business at Red Apple suffered, Croshaw said.
“We’ve been fighting to pay bills and make it here,” Croshaw said. “We’ve worked really hard to remain profitable.”
At some point, there had been discussion of building condos nearby, which Croshaw said is exactly what the little strip mall needs to survive, but nothing was ever realized.
“To keep this little shopping center alive we’ve got to have some people here,” she said. “We kept hoping someone would build.”
Croshaw spoke highly of her customers — “the best community in the world.”
“We are sad,” she said. “It’s a great community…We have that group of people who just love us and we love, love them, but we didn’t have enough of them.”
Helge Nason, of Kirkland, stopped by the store last week. She spoke of the store’s “amazing” customer service. She recalled a time when she needed orange zest and went in to ask for assistance. She said a store clerk zested an orange right there for her and gave her the orange for free, too.
“I tell you, the people are amazing,” Nason said.
Croshaw said she’s seen children from the bump on their mother’s belly mature into one of the store clerks.
“We feel like we’ve watched this community grow up,” she said.
Throughout the remainder of the year, the store is set to put on various customer appreciation events.
On Nov. 8, the annual holiday open house where customers can sample holiday foods and wines, is set for 4-7 p.m.
On Nov. 13, Seahawks Monday, customers can come and meet Seahawk Tyler Lockett and get his autograph.
On Dec. 2, Santa will be in the store for photos. (Bring your camera.)
After the store closes next year, Croshaw will likely go to work at the Bert’s Red Apple in Madison Park in Seattle, which is also owned by the Croshaw family.
Bridle Trails Red Apple is located at 6625 132nd Ave. N.E. in Kirkland’s Bridle Trails neighborhood, on the border of Redmond and the South Rose Hill neighborhood. The 27,390-square-foot building anchors the strip mall there, along with ACE Hardware and Bartell Drugs.