Autopsy of an Organic Grocery

An owner of this Philly shop reflects on the closing of a passion project

Adam Erace


Photos: Green Aisle/Instagram

On Veterans Day, 2009, Grub Street wrote about the opening of a new food market specializing in local, organic, and gourmet foods on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. The shop was called Green Aisle Grocery, a 260-square-foot boutique painted the colors of key lime pie.

“It’s everything I like in one spot,” the owner told Grub Street. “It’s great for milk and eggs and bread or for more esoteric items that I’m all geeked out on, like dried hibiscus blossoms.”

That owner is me, and if you can overlook what I huge dweeb I sound like, the hibiscus bit should illustrate how much food has changed in the last decade — and a central reason why, on the last day of January, Green Aisle joined the already crowded graveyard of independent, gourmet, and organic markets. From tiny shops like Green Aisle to big players like Dean & DeLuca and Fairway, it’s been death by a thousand cuts: the rise online shopping and grocery delivery, big-box incursions, and the proliferation of food halls have been “whittling market share from fine-casual restaurants as well as upscale grocers,” according to Washington Post food business reporter Laura Reiley.