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Worcester health food store Living Earth to close after nearly 50 years in business

MassLive.com logo MassLive.com 12/3/2019 By Aviva Luttrell, masslive.com

Worcester’s Living Earth health food store is set to close after nearly 50 years in business.

Owner Al Maykel told MassLive in an interview that as he and his wife, Maggy, who are both at retirement age, will close the doors permanently on Dec. 31. The family-run business, located on Chandler Street, was established in 1971.

“It’s been an incredible journey, a very rewarding journey,” Al Maykel said. “We started out as one of the pioneers in the natural food industry.”

Living Earth carries all-natural and organic products, including produce, grab and go meals, beer and wine, cheese and other grocery items.

The Maykels opened the original store on Pleasant Street in 1971, soliciting local farmers to grow foods they could feature in their market. They also partnered with a handful of other pioneering stores in New England to buy cooperatively and exchange products on a weekly basis, meeting at Logan International Airport in Boston to divide up containers of organic produce and dairy products they flew in from California.

“It was truly farm-to-table way back then, and we had our own routes of securing local products,” Al Maykel said. “We had nuns out in Harvard, Mass., who were raising eggs for us naturally, and we had farmers all around the state who were growing produce for us and other products.”

In the late 1970s, the Maykels opened two more stores in the Springfield area — Living Earth Springfield and The Springfield Natural Provisions Co. They bought their current Chandler Street location in Worcester in the late ‘80s and spent the next several decades remodeling and expanding the building.

In 1990, they purchased a 150-acre farm in Rutland where they began raising lamb, beef and pork, and growing produce and herbs that were sold exclusively at Living Earth. Sixteen years later, they began another venture — EVO Dining, which evolved from the store’s original Garden Cafe and further evolved into Bootlegger’s Prohibition Pub after 10 successful years.

The Maykels, who are now at retirement age, said the time was right to close the business.

“Basically we’ve reached our goals and achieved our mission, and Maggy and I are of the age of retirement and our general manager who’s been with us for almost 37 years, it’s his year to retire also and we thought, ‘We’ve done what we set out to do, and time to move on,'” Al Maykel said. “Everybody is very sad but also very grateful for what we have achieved throughout the years.”

The property will be listed for sale on Tuesday.

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