by Pete Mazzaccaro
It’s no secret around Chestnut Hill any longer that Jonathan’s Best, a gourmet market that has anchored the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market behind the Chestnut Hill Hotel for 30 years, is preparing to close its doors at the end of March.
“I’m going to miss Chestnut Hill,” said owner David Schieber, a tireless and never timid Hill figure who has always been quick to speak his mind.” Especially the people. They’ve always been kind and accepted my eclectic mannerisms.”
Schieber said he wasn’t interested in being sour about the fact that he’s closing, though he really would have preferred to keep the shop open. The competition, though, made it too difficult for him to stay in business.
“One month after it opened, Weavers Way took 30 percent of my business,” Schieber said of the co-op market that opened at 8424 Germantown Ave. three years ago.
He said nothing he did could get customers back.
“People have an allegiance to Weavers Way unlike any other business situation I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Schieber said he might have been able to stay under different circumstances, but getting a lower rent and/or working longer hours weren’t options. He said he’s not sure that the Farmers Market’s plans to renovate and appeal to a more sophisticated clientele will work. The hotel currently is being renovated and renamed Fareway on the Hill as part of a broader rebranding effort.
“I don’t think it’s very Chestnut Hill,” Schieber said, noting that he believes Chestnut Hill is “earthier and more honest” than the neighborhood gets credit for. “Two years ago I said the Farmers Market would be closed in six months, and it didn’t, so I could be wrong.”
So, instead, Schieber is ready to begin a new chapter, including a new wife who’s nearly 30 years his junior, a fact is is happy to share. But even with the Hill store closing, he’ll still be busy with his other location in Reading Terminal Market. Because he still operates the Reading Terminal location, he says he’ll be able to offer seamless service in Chestnut Hill right up until the moment he closes for good.
“I am leaving probably on March 31,” he said. “I will continue to run my store in a way I’d be proud of until that day.”
When told it’s sad to see the market close, Schieber disagrees.
“It’s not sad,” he said. “People need change.”