After Friday night, residents of the apartment blocks near Salt Lake City’s West High School won’t have a handy market to buy groceries.
Lee’s Market, at 255 N. 400 West in Salt Lake City, is closing its doors, the company’s CEO told the neighbors in a letter Thursday. The move comes less than three years after the market opened in Salt Lake City’s Marmalade neighborhood, in an area that had been a “food desert,” with no markets in the vicinity.
In his letter to residents of the 4th West and Hardware Apartments, Jonathan Badger, president and CEO of Lee’s Markets, said the store would close effective Saturday night. However, cashiers in the store Friday said that Friday would be the final day of business there.
Badger wrote that the “decision to close the store is the result of the lack of volume coming into the store from the surrounding areas, the COVID-19 pandemic, and public accessibility.”
The market was employing “the urban store format you would find a high-density city like, New York, Chicago, or Boston was a test for our company,” Badger wrote. “Unfortunately, we found this style of shopping is not yet conducive to the Salt Lake City area.”
In a statement, the management of the 4th West and Hardware Apartments said, “We have appreciated our partnership with Lee’s Market over the past three years and are sad to see them go.” The apartment complexes called Lee’s “a valued amenity for our residents.”
The complexes said they “will endeavor to relet the space to another high-quality business to help serve the needs of our residents and local community.”
The store opened with much fanfare in February 2020, with predictions it would draw in residents from Capitol Hill and Marmalade neighborhoods, as well as students and faculty from nearby West High School.
At the time, the 4th West store was the sixth Lee’s Market location, including North Salt Lake and Ogden.
The company’s stores are typically in more suburban and rural markets, such as Heber, Logan, Smithfield and Herriman. In researching how to run a store in an urban location, company officials traveled to Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis.
In 2020, Badger told The Tribune that the store was a completely new model for the company, because its footprint was less than 10,000 square feet. The store lacked a pharmacy, but otherwise was a full-service grocery, with produce, a meat counter, a frozen-foods aisle, and ready-to-eat meals including sushi and rotisserie chickens. It also featured amenities that Lee’s had never tried before, such as a cheese monger and a coffee bar.
Badger, in 2020, said he was optimistic about the store’s future, because a mailer was sent out prematurely to surrounding neighborhoods, with a coupon for a free bag of chips. Before the store had opened, Badger said, “tons of people came with their coupons.”
With Lee’s gone, the closest grocery store for 4th West and Hardware Apartments residents is four blocks south, at The Store in The Gateway, which follows a similar urban market format. Further out are the Harmons in City Creek, and the Smith’s stores in the Avenues and Rose Park.