The Planet Organic location on Quadra Street was one of 11 shut down across Canada. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Planet Organic closes all 11 stores across Canada, including Saanich Centre location

The company is in ‘massive debt,’ says one vendor still owed money

The Planet Organic chain has shut down all locations across Canada including the one in Saanich.

On March 3, the 11-store health food chain’s CEO Alan Thompson sent a letter to employees explaining Planet Organic will be “ceasing operations.”

He wrote that despite efforts to keep the company afloat, the time had come to admit that it was time to shut down.

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“After conducting a full review of our current financial state, we concluded that there were too many factors working against us to continue operating,” Thompson wrote.

He thanked staff for their dedication and emphasized that employees will receive any money they’re owed including vacation pay.

Vendors also received a letter indicating that the company is in “massive debt,” said Rula Sharkawi, CEO of My Little Chickpea – a Toronto-based Middle Eastern food supplier.

Sharkawi’s company is owed several thousand dollars and, after months of problems and unpaid invoices piling up, she filed a lawsuit in November 2019. However, according to the letter vendors received from Planet Organic, she can expect to only receive between seven and eight per cent of the original claim.

She added that it’s disappointing when a company publicly states its support for small and local businesses but acts differently behind closed doors.

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“Many of their practices were not in good faith,” Sharkawi said, pointing out that vendors like her now have to deal with the outcomes of Planet Organic’s actions. She’s evaluating her options for moving forward with a lawyer.

The Planet Organic location on Quadra Street – the only B.C. location – has been shut down. On Wednesday morning, the lights were out inside and the open sign sat dark. Signs were posted at all entrances informing customers of the closure and thanking them for the support over the years. Calls to the Saanich location went unanswered.

One customer posted an open note entitled “Requiem for Planet Organic” on the front door of the Saanich location expressing their disappointment over losing the store.

“These doors had opened to a world that kept me motivated and inspired to eat, feel and look more healthy vibrant and alive,” Tamara Hernandez wrote. “I cannot express just how much poorer we will be as a community for the loss of this place.”

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Hernandez added that the managers called to let her know about the permanent closure just two hours after finding out themselves.

A spokesperson for Hansbraun Investments Ltd. – the company that owns Saanich Centre – told Black Press Media in an email on March 11 that as Planet Organic is still a tenant, they are declining to comment on the situation.

Planet Organic opened in Edmonton in 1993 and operated 11 locations across Canada including four in Edmonton, five in Calgary, one in Ontario, and one in B.C.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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A Planet Organic Saanich regular was saddened to see the doors close permanently. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

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