The end of an era: Two Lexington businesses close their doors

Lexington says goodbye to Brix and Healthy Foods Co-op

Alexandra Cline

Crave late night Mediterranean tapas? In love with all-natural soy butter for the quick breakfast on-the-go?

For Washington and Lee students and Lexington residents, these food cravings will now be difficult to satisfy with the closing of two area businesses: Brix and Healthy Foods Co-op.

Brix, a restaurant known for its small plates, closed permanently in December after the building sold to new management. The restaurant’s owner decided to close before the lease expired due to personal reasons.

“Brix was definitely one of my favorite restaurants,” Lilly Grella, ‘18, said. “It’s really disappointing that it’s gone, and especially on such short notice.”

For Healthy Foods Co-op, the Board of Directors announced earlier this month that it will shut down its store following a dramatic downturn in sales this calendar year.

Healthy Foods will continue to operate on a modified schedule through the end of January, with the store now closed on Sundays and without its breakfast menu, which recently debuted last fall.

On Jan. 14, the Board met with members of the public on the W&L campus to discuss its choice to cease business, stating that the store lacks the funding and resources necessary to remain in operation.

Organized as a cooperative, Healthy Foods is managed by an unpaid Board of Directors selected by a vote of members, who pay an annual fee and contribute to business decisions.

Devoted customers and members of the staff shared memories about the store and its more than four decades-long effort to provide whole, natural foods to the Lexington community.

“The single most defining thing about this place is its people and their support,” the Board said in a statement during the meeting. “We regret that we were not aware of the situation sooner, but we know we did the best we could with the information we had at the time.”

Such situation, referring to the decrease in sales during recent months, arose in part due to the expansion of organic products in major retailers around Lexington, including Walmart and Kroger.

“We really need to ask ourselves if we can make people pay substantially more, sometimes several dollars more, for the same product just because we stock it here,” the Board said. “The answer to that is no.”

During the 2015 year, the store and café experienced a $33,000 loss, a drastic shift from the $4,000 profit it enjoyed the prior year. Paid membership also decreased by 28 percent this year, with noticeable dips in sales beginning last spring and summer.

“By November we had already fallen off the cliff,” the Board said. “We were still running but it took us a minute to look around and realize we’d fallen.”

For members of the community, Healthy Foods served as both a place to purchase natural, organic products and as a central gathering for enjoying meals and chatting with friends.

“So many people have expressed to me how painful it is,” Amenie Hopkins, a store manager, said. “It feels like the death of a friend. It’s been a part of my life and this community for such a long time, and the love and support is amazing.”

Despite the closure of Healthy Foods, Hopkins and her husband plan to reopen the existing store as a food-based community center in the near future.

The new eatery, which will offer vegetarian and vegan options, promises to double as a grocery store with a year-round, indoor farmer’s market.

Called The Blue Phoenix Café and Market, the new business will pay homage to Hopkins’s past and the original Healthy Foods store, with the name signifying a rebirth of the long-time Lexington tradition.