Even though it's common for strip-mall owners to see tenants come and go, the departure of Fresh Market came as somewhat of a surprise to George Hadler, CEO of the Hadler Cos.

Hadler's company owns the Northwest Center, where Fresh Market will remain until mid-October.

"You hate it when you lose a food store," Hadler said.

The specialty grocer announced Aug. 15 it would pull the plug on its lone Columbus store, leaving a 22,500-square-foot hole at 1920 W. Henderson Road.

The store opened in January 2005. Officials from the Greensboro, North Carolina, chain said it will not renew the store's lease for 2020.

In a statement, Fresh Market officials said they plan to keep the store open until mid-October to help team members find employment opportunities with other retailers who are staffing for the holiday season.

Company representatives did not say how many people are employed at the store, which specializes in produce.

Marc's, a discount grocery store and pharmacy that is part of an Ohio-based chain, still remains in the shopping center at the northwest corner of Reed and Henderson roads.

On the east end of the center, Sears Hardware closed last summer, leaving 20,000 square feet of empty space at 1800 W. Henderson Road.

Hadler, whose company has multiple real-estate holdings throughout central Ohio, said he's far from panicked, because the center is roughly 90% leased.

There is a natural ebb and flow in the real-estate market; sometimes larger spaces are more in demand, and at other times, it is the opposite, Hadler said.

"Where we are right now, we're trying to figure that out," he said.

Hadler said he has had many conversations about the Sears space but declined to disclose details of those conversations because they could give local competitors an advantage.

"The building is modern enough that someone is going to want it," he said, adding that he has ruled out putting a nightclub there.

An ideal replacement for the Fresh Market property would be another specialty grocery store, he said.

Yet there are market forces that create hurdles in leasing property, Hadler said.

For example, the landlord rarely deals directly with the retailer; there is an overabundance of retail space; and online sales have cut into traffic at brick-and-mortar stores, he said.

"The good news is, the really good locations take care of themselves," he said.

Nick Cipiti, president of the Northwest Civic Association, said he's sad to see the market closing.

"Fresh Market is a great store and has been wonderful neighbor in northwest Columbus," Cipiti said.

"They have been very supportive of the NWCA and will be missed."

He said he believes residents would like to see more casual and upscale restaurants in the neighborhood, as well as family-centered destinations.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary