Park Slope

[UPDATE] Park Slope’s Back To the Land Shuttering On Sunday

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[UPDATED: Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 4:40pm] Back to the Land’s owner, David Basham, told BKLYNER Thursday afternoon that the store’s final day will be Sunday, April 29.

The store’s lease did not expire, as previously reported. Basham explains that business has decreased significantly, making it difficult for the health food store to continue operations.

“We’re not making enough money to pay everyone,” Basham said, adding that the store’s sales volume is not enough to support its expenses. In recent weeks the store’s hours have been reduced and the inventory has not been fully stocked or maintained as paying vendors has become increasingly difficult, he noted.

Basham recalls when he first joined Back to the Land in 1981 that customers were more interested in eating a macrobiotic diet, cooking their own food, and baking their own bread. Business was thriving and the store expanded into the former Gazebo Restaurant space located next door in 1984, and grew once again in 1998 into another adjacent storefront. However, people’s shopping habits have changed, he notes, and they now prefer delivery and other convenient ways of preparing their meals and feeding themselves—saving them trips to the store.

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Basham adds that he’d been trying to sell the struggling business for some time, and while there was some interest, “nothing materialized,” forcing him last week to decide to finally “throw in the towel.”

He informed his 25 staff members about his decision to close the store last Friday, and a handful of employees were already let go. The remainder of his crew will work until Sunday when the store is slated to shutter for good.

“Many have worked here for years—23, 14 years,” he said. “It’s very much like a family.”

Basham insists he’s “enjoyed all aspects” of running the business for decades, especially helping people eat well and get healthy. One of his favorite memories over the years was hosting a “No Such Thing As a Free Lunch” event on a couple of occasions. He and his staff set up folding chairs and tables outside the 7th Avenue shop and served lunch free of charge to a couple of hundred hungry neighbors and passersby. People would stop by, sit, eat, chat, then move on, making room for another round of diners, he fondly recalls.

He mentioned that news of the store’s closing has generated some interest from local investors who have contacted him in the past couple of days about trying to keep the business alive. Still at an early stage of discussions, Basham says he’s “playing it day by day.”

To all of the store’s loyal customers and friends, Basham expresses his love and gratitude and says, “We will miss them. We will miss seeing them.” He adds the closing of Back to the Land is a “loss to the community and to everyone involved here.”

PARK SLOPE – Neighborhood natural foods grocery store, Back to the Land, will close its doors permanently next week after providing the Park Slope community with fresh produce, juices, groceries, and vitamins for more than forty years.

Back to the Land, 142 7th Avenue via Google Maps

The store’s team has been “providing our friends, neighbors and family of NYC with the best food, supplements, and juices, complementing anyone’s and everyone’s lifestyle since 1971!,” states the business’s website.

A call to the store located at 142 7th Avenue (between Carroll St & Garfield Pl) Wednesday morning confirmed that Back to the Land will be closing. The staff member who spoke with BKLYNER said that along with the store’s lease expiring that there are several reasons for the closure. She suggested contacting David, the store’s owner/general manager, for more details.

BKLYNER will update this story once we have additional information.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Of all the downfalls of the gentrification of this neighborhood, where most of the cool stuff has been wiped away, I thought for sure this would stick around. Sickening.

  2. We were discussing this tonight. Rent increase + Whole Foods = disaster. I think Back to the Land attracted people who didn’t want to deal with the Coop but then WF came in and that was the death knell. I’m guessing: 1.) empty storefront for 4 years 2.) another bank 3.) real estate office. Sorry to see another neighborhood fixture bite the dust.

  3. Such a shame. Running a shop like this is so tough. High end markets serving local top quality food run on very tight margins. And most customers seem to be shopping online more and more. Come get to know your local vendors. Most of us are in it for the relationship and belief that personal interaction and quality food are important.

  4. My heart is broken. I practically grew up in that store. This was the heart of Park Slope. So sad.

  5. This seems like a great opportunity for a bulk-only, zero-waste shop. The neighborhood seems ready for it. Also, where am I going to get my kombucha on tap? I shopped here for a long time before joining the co-op. Sad to see it go.

  6. In the ’90s, my contractor referred to it as Back to Your Wallet but as other prices in the neighborhood went up it seemed more in keeping with the neighborhood. I live in another neighborhood now but I’m sad to see it go, even though I could never seem to look at the nuts/dried fruits for my than 10 seconds without having to jump out of the way of something coming from or going to the back.

  7. My heart is broken, I found a lot of cures in this stote, and the long time employees, sure hope they’ll be taken care of.

  8. The paradox of supporting local business and self interest has reared it’s ugly head again. should I order the almond butter online or buy it at a small shop on 7th ave for 15% more? shops like Back To The Land, Sun In Bloom (both recently closed in Park Slope Brooklyn) are created to bring healthy food options to the community. The food industry is highly saturated and underutilized shelf space or running under capacity is probably why so many well intended food concepts go out of business. What can we do? We must be conscious of the shopping experience we encourage with our purchases and understand the cost associated with maintaining the “Main St” shopping experience. All businesses within time, may work better, worse, cease to work or change. We are our own best friends and worst enemies. Imagine starting a new business in an industry you know little about. You take what you do know, spend a year researching and working in food service, and then open your own shop. You add human capital, sweat equity and research and wait patiently for the seeds you’ve planted in your business to grow. You wait for a whole year, and nothing happens. The second year you continue to water it and fertilize it, but still you’re not breaking even. Looks like somebody is testing your patience. The third year the same story repeats itself. By now, most people would have given up. Some are lucky enough to make a profit. Hooray! When this happens, we mustn’t let our ego’s become a controlling factor in the way we act and make decisions. So don’t tell yourself a story. The stories we tell ourselves are just labels that put us at odds not just with reality, but with the real strategy that made us successful in the first place. From that place, we might think that success in the future is just the natural next part of the story—when really it’s rooted in work, creativity, persistence, and luck. Who are we to judge if both Sun In Bloom and Back To The Land open up a chain of vape shops next? Successful business owners provide customers with goods that are in demand. It’s foolish not noble to continue to provide healthy food options when you can’t offer them at prices that encourages sustainable demand.

  9. No more foot traffic….everybody shops on line now and that screws local business like this one. What a sad state we’re in. Even in our little B’stone Coop, the lobby is always full of boxes and packages. People even get toilet paper delivered! Sad indeed.

  10. A friend who was the owner of another long-gone 7th Ave. business used to call them Back to the Cash! But that’s not the reason I stopped shopping there in the early ’80s. I used to purchase organic peanut butter there – Deaf Smith and Erewhon were the brands, if I remember correctly. On this occasion, the jar I’d purchased tasted bad – so I brought it back, expecting it to be courteously replaced, but that was NOT the case!
    The woman behind the register condescendingly asked me if I’d ever purchased it before. [I need to mention, at this point, that I am African-American – and African-Americans did not frequent health food stores in the early ’80s as they do now.]. I said I had – and many times. She opened the jar, took a sniff, handed it back, and said, in the same patronizing manner, “There’s nothing wrong with this – enjoy it.” Righteously angered by this unbelievable lack of manners, I slammed the jar on the counter and said, “No, you enjoy it!” – and walked out, never to return!
    If I had been a bit older and more experienced, I probably would have asked for the owner or manager (assuming it wasn’t she) – but I just walked. Over the years, I have thought about going back to explain what had happened, but never did – too much time passed, I guess. I did enjoy Living Well – the wonderful 7th Ave. health food store in the South Slope – while they were around, and miss them to this day.
    Despite my differences with Back to the Cash, it’s discouraging to see them go – because of what it says about the changes to our community!

  11. I wonder if some arrangement can be made for Back to the Land to serve as another outlet for the Food Coop, especially the extensive supplements section. That wouldn’t help the 25 workers who’ve been let go, as the Coop is all-volunteer, but it might free up shelf space in the Coop while the 7th Ave. location would specialize in vitamins, supplements and fresh organic vegetable juices. Just a thought.

    Mitchel Cohen
    Brooklyn Greens / Green Party

  12. In descriptions of current conditions and upcoming decades, characterized by energy/climate issues and the colossus of debt, one always hears how quality-of-life will suffer. BTTL’s closing is a typical indicator. So sad!

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