By Marshall Smith, Staff Reporter and
JP Crumrine, News Editor
Michael Wangler’s Sky Island Natural Foods closed, leaving Idyllwild without a dedicated organic market. At this point, it is unclear how the space the market occupied will be used, according to Frank Ferro, owner of Ferro and the Idyllwild Brewpub. He said they have no current plans for how to use the space.
The Plant Food Supper Club, Kelly Johnston-Gibson’s dining establishment on the right side of the Sky Island space, remains open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Although there have been rumors she might expand into some of Sky Island’s space and expand her line of products, Johnston-Gibson said that is not in the works at this time. “I’ll not be carrying produce,” she said. “Just things that supplement what I’m doing in the cafe. I also don’t see any expansion of my business [into the Sky Island space]. I think the Butterfields [Dave and Loie] have a plan for that.” The Butterfields own the building.
What Johnston-Gibson did reveal is that she has talked to the new owner and managers of Village Market and might be advising them on carrying a higher concentration of organic products.
Johnston-Gibson had the grand opening for her cafe on Nov. 12 last year.
Wangler said business for Sky Island fell off dramatically after the summer tourist season and that he lost a vast majority of customers in September, forcing his decision to close. Also, business for the farmer’s market also had fallen off, which was a contributing factor for closing. “It was a very difficult time and I feel terrible for all those who have helped us,” said Wangler.
He bought the market in 2013. It was in escrow during the Mountain Fire. In the first year, he set a sales record, but business began to gradually decline until this summer and fall when he had a “major drop in sales.”
But he will continue operating Sky Island Organics, his original Idyllwild business, which started six years ago in Village Lane. These foods are distributed from his Palm Springs business, SOL Distributors, to “organic food stores all over the country, but mostly in California,” Wangler said.
Sky Island Organics products are in many California stores as well as all over the U.S., he said. He is setting sales records with this business. They can be found at Erewhon Natural Foods in Los Angeles.