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Harvest Market will end brief tenure

Jeff's Harvest Marketin Ashland is closing its doors after opening just a few months ago. The ownersaid sales have been weak.

ASHLAND - As soon as shoppers clean off shelves at discount prices, the 4-month-old Jeff's Harvest Market will go out of business.

The reason couldn't have been more simply stated: "It's because no one shops the store," said owner Jeff Pygott. Doors will close when the present stock is sold, he added, declining further comment.

Jeff's followed the pattern set by Cantwell's Market, which foundered at the Oak & A streets site last May amid financial difficulties. The business failure puts about 30 employees out of work, many of them former Cantwell's workers who went to work at Jeff's. It closes the on-site video rental store and sandwich shop, also owned by Pygott. Videos were being sold at $5 each.

Both markets featured a range of conventional groceries, augmented by organic and upscale gourmet items. And both faced stiff competition from the town's organic mecca - the Ashland Community Food Store - a block away

Signs posted in Jeff's Thursday said, "Store Closing Soon - Our Final Days" and "10 percent off all stock - cash and credit cards only." A Pepsi truck parked at the front door was hauling away pop machines. An employee, who asked not to be named, said "There basically is just not enough business." Another said, "Jeff gave it everything he had, but the customers just never came back."

"It's really sad," said shopper Sharon Lebow of Ashland. "They didn't advertise enough when they opened. They should have had a big grand opening. And the place was closed for so long after Cantwell's (seven months), that people weren't sure about it."

"Consumers are driven by price," said Andy Swan, one of Jeff's wine suppliers. "Smaller stores like this have higher overhead and have to charge more. The co-op (Community Food Store) has been here longer and established a larger customer base and there was just an impression that this store was not successful."

"I feel sorry for Jeff," said Stephen Abelsohn, owner of Rogue Travel in the same building. "It was a mortuary here (among a half-dozen small shops around the market) in those months after Cantwell's closed. A lot of the food business went to Shop 'n Kart (a discount market at Highway 66 and Tolman Creek Road)."

"It's a real loss," said Sharon Paloma, an Ashland Community Food Store clerk. "Jeff was a good man and had integrity. I think everything that happened to Tom (owner of Cantwell's Market) wounded and shocked the community and left its influence here. Jeff was never able to get his foot in the Ashland market and the community didn't give him the opportunity."

Pygott told the Daily Tidings of Ashland that he was losing more than $1,000 a day, and would pay debts to vendors on a cash-available basis. Assets have been seized by Washington Mutual Bank, the story noted. Pygott declined to verify the statements.

Pygott came to Ashland last year from his job as director of groceries, wines and fine foods at Larry's Markets in Seattle. He secured a Small Business Administration loan from CIT Financial Corp. of Sacramento to open the market, after being turned down by local branches of U.S. and Western banks.

Pygott worked at the QFC and Hagen grocery store operations in Bellingham, Wash., for 18 years. He and his wife Sandra have a 20-year lease on the Oak St. building, which is administered by Brent Thompson of Ashland and owned by trust created by his mother, Sylvia.

Thompson was out of town and unavailable to comment on the building's future use.

Harvest Market will end brief tenure