Bee Well closing; site in limbo

The "coolest block" in Wallingford says goodbye to its health partner Bee Well Vitamin Shoppe.

Opened in July 2004, Bee Well will shut its doors in mid-October. Even though the closing may not be a complete surprise for the neighbors or the owners, the loss of the store still stings.

"I know so many people who frequented the business so I'm not sure what happened, and I think it's very sad," said Kara Ceriello, Wallingford Chamber of Commerce co-president and neighboring business owner of Not A Number Cards and Gifts. "The saddest thing for me is losing some of the friends we've made. It's always been kind of like a family here, so we are very sad to see them go."

But, Ceriello said, "change happens. It's difficult, but it happens."

Bee Well's owner, Patty Bradley, could not be contacted, and manager Leslie Edmondson declined to comment on the decision to close the store or the store's future without the owner's permission because, she said, "Everything's so up in the air."

Bee Well employee Noelle Waldschmizt said she was shocked to learn the store was closing, especially as she only started working there a couple months ago.

"All that I've heard is that there are several factors involved, and as far as I know, [the new] Pharmaca [Integrative Pharmacy, in Wallingford Center] isn't the only reason. I think it was happening before Pharmaca moved in. It was kind of moving toward that already."


Initially, both Waldschmizt and Ceriello said they thought the purchasers of Bee Well would keep the business as a health store.

But minutes after talking to Waldschmizt the first time about her understanding of Bee Well's situation, she saw for-sale signs posted on both Bee Well and Juice Goddess Café & Juice Bar - which shared the same space and was also for sale. This didn't make sense to the employees, she said, since most thought the two businesses had been bought already.

The certainty of Bee Well store's future swayed in the last two weeks, but on Wednesday morning, Waldschmizt stated the store will stay as a health store and Juice Goddess will stay also.

"Things keep changing," Waldschmizt said. "I don't know, but yesterday we were told we were keeping our jobs, and the raw-food store is going to happen [in Bee Well's space]."

As of publication, the most current change to Bee Well is that the two friends who originally intended to purchase the business did, despite last week's blip of uncertainty, and will continue the health-food theme.


Although the decision may have been a shock to Waldschmizt, the decision to close the store wasn't exactly a surprise for others in the community.

Former Bee Well owner Jehan Strouse said, "I kind of knew that it would be inevitable when I left. I found out more solidly like a month ago, but I knew it was coming. "

Another link discussed was Bee Well competitor Pharmaca, which opened in Wallingford Center across the street three months ago.

However, those close to the situation and Pharmaca's efforts to work with Bee Well negate the notion that it played any large part in Bee Well's fate. "I know that Pharmaca is not the sole reason Bee Well is changing hands and closing. It certainly didn't help to have Pharmaca open up nearby, but Bee Well was dealing with things on their own, anyways," Ceriello said.

Strouse also said it's important for the neighborhood to not blame Pharmaca. "I know people are going to want to say Pharmaca caused it to close, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. The truth is it was suffering well before Pharmaca came into the picture," she said.

And the loss of Bee Well isn't a win-win for Pharmaca either.

"I was upset, said Pharmaca store manager Ann Allen. "We were concerned when we came in anyway because we didn't want to mess with anyone's business, but we'd actually created quite a good relationship with Bee Well."

Allen said she was also aware of rumors that Bee Well was suffering before Pharmaca moved in. "I'd heard rumors they were struggling, and it's unfortunate, but I think that we can't really help that," she said. "I just don't want the neighborhood to think it has anything to do with us; it's just the way it played out."


Though no one can confirm what will go into Bee Well's space, its business neighbors, including Pharmaca, would like to see another health business move in, and it appears that is likely to happen.

Allen said, "It's important the new people try to keep the health part of it intact; we can work together to complement each other. But it's very unfortunate Bee Well is closing; that's not what we wanted to happen."

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