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Health Shoppe Closing Doors After Over 40 Years

Morristown and Chester locations closing to customers at end of June, unless a buyer can be found.

As he recalled over 40 years of serving the health-conscious community, 73-year-old co-owner Steve Shapiro wiped a forming tear from his eye.

, on Morris Street in Morristown and in Chester, has been much more to him than just a business.

But, unless a buyer can be found, that business will shutter its doors to customers at the end of June.

"It's devastating for us," said Shapiro, who opened the original Morristown location with brother Herb in 1970. Chester followed in 1977. Smaller locations in Montclair (1978) and Parsippany (1983), were closed last year.

Shapiro partially credits . The business lost about $100,000 from damage, which insurance was unable to reimburse. The business had to take loans to stay afloat, as rent and merchandise costs continue to climb.

"Right now we work for the landlord," he said.

The other reason, Shapiro said, is that both owners are in their 70s, and it's time to retire. . Shapiro said that had nothing to do with his store's closure. "That would have been good for us," he said. "No, the decision was made long before."

While health food markets have gone mainstream with the rise of operations like Whole Foods, a place like The Health Shoppe was a far more unique prospect when the Shapiro brothers opened in the Morristown store's original 900 square feet over four decades ago. "We sold vitamins, some food and produce that was not refrigerated. It was in boxes," Shapiro said. "We used to go to the airport to pick up organic produce from California."

Over the course of several upgrades, the Morristown location has grown to 7,200 square feet, selling a full line of goods, from vitamins to cereals, produce to prepared meals.

For those that have been employed with The Health Shoppe for years, it still is a unique operation.

"We have had people cry. They don't know what to do," said Vitamain Department Manager Jim Maze, who has been with The Health Shoppe for 12 years. "People are upset."

Caitlin Karosen, of Cedar Knolls, was upset when she found out Wednesday morning. "There's something special about an independent health food store," she said as she ordered a smoothie from the deli, which will be closing in the next few days.

Shawn Kellner, an employee for five years, said he chain smoked when he started working for The Health Shoppe. It was the atmosphere and the knowledge of the people he worked with that helped change his ways. "It's just sad," he said.

While the Shapiro's will not be continuing with The Health Shoppe, Steve Shapiro said he has been in talks with several interested buyers. If an offer is made but not finalized by the end of June, the store will stay open as the process continues. "We won't go anywhere," he said.

Even if none of those deals are made, General Manager Leslie Serao, part of the company for 13 years, is optimistic something will fill the large hole The Health Shoppe's departure will create.

"There will be demand. It won't be long," she said. "We just want everyone to stay positive. Employees will find their way. It's the best for everyone involved, even if it's sad."

It's noticeably sad for Steve Shapiro, who has spent more than half his life in The Health Shoppe.

Shapiro said he has been awake half the night, thinking about the store and its future. "I was 28 years old when we started it. I was a kid," he said.

"I just want to thank everyone for their support," Shapiro added. "It's a crime. But, it'll be a good opportunity for someone. It just hurts our hearts to see this happen."

Jen June 06, 2012 at 03:26 PM
How sad to lose one of the few healthy options in town. They will be missed.
Sally Beck June 06, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I really loved the food here. The 'deli' was the absolute best. How sad that fast food/junk food restaurants prevail.
Lewis Stone June 07, 2012 at 04:42 PM
the larger question is why the insurance company did not pay for the losses. This seem to have caused the cascading effect of reduced cash flow.
Robyn Santos June 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
The Health Shoppes have been my home for the last 25 years. Thank you Steve, Herb, and Brant for making that so. I love you all, and will truly miss you.
Marlyn Nearby June 08, 2012 at 02:07 PM
From Marlyn at the Chester Store: To Herb, Steve and Brant, The Health Shoppes has not only been a job for me for the past 25 years, but a second home and family. I will miss you terribly! Thank you to my wonderful customers.You have bot only been just customers, but friends that I care for dearly. To all of my past and present employees: thank you for all of your help. You have been great. I wils for all of you, everything that you wish for yourselves. Love, Love, Love, Marlyn
Robert August 08, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Good! They ripped people off and store policy sucks wiirh returns and exchanges. Thank God for online Shopping!! One time i took a wrong itwm by mistake. Next came to return and the manager gave me a fit.. What stupid.. What goes around comes around!!
Travis August 27, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Well, I ride around nights mostly. Subways. Buses. I figure, you know, if I'm gonna do that I might as well get paid for it. I'm working long hours now. In the afternoon. In the morning. Six days a week. Sometimes seven days a week. It's a long hustle, but it keeps me real busy.
George Petterson January 28, 2013 at 01:03 AM
It is very sad and the Chester Health Shoppe will always be missed but there is some good news! A new health food store has just opened only a couple doors down next to Radio Shack and the deli near Starbucks. It is called Back to Nature and it carries many of the same brands of supplements and foods as the Chester Health Shoppe did. They are even getting ready to open a juice bar!

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