A Southern Season, Chapel Hill’s gourmet market, is losing its president and chief operating officer Friday.
The departure of David Herman, who has been with the company three years, severs the last link between the previous ownership, now mired in bankruptcy proceedings, and Calvert Retail, which scooped up the Chapel Hill market and restaurant for $3.5 million last August as it veered into insolvency.
Herman, 60, said he had agreed to stay on with A Southern Season after the acquisition to help Calvert Retail through the hectic holiday season. He will next look for a job in retail or consumer products.
“I worked to make sure A Southern Season survived,” Herman said.
He said the store has lost only two vendors as a result of the bankruptcy, and has signed new vendors in the past half-year. A Southern Season is a destination for gourmands and foodies, and known for a selection that includes exotic cheeses, wines, sweets as well as high-end kitchenware.
“This store was always profitable and making money,” Herman said.
Founded in 1975, the store expanded with new locations in several states, but became overextended and was never able to recover from the 2008 recession.
Herman had replaced the previous CEO, Clay Hamner, in an executive shakeup last August, about two weeks before a bankruptcy court hearing as A Southern Season’s largest creditor was demanding the company be sold. Herman led the effort to sell A Southern Season to the highest bidder.
A Southern Season, which employs 183 people, is now back down to its flagship store in Chapel Hill and its e-commerce business.
Eric Brinsfield, owner of Calvert Retail, said he purchased the franchise quickly and is still familiarizing himself with the business. A Southern Season is one of eight Calvert Retail locations on the East Coast that include Kitchen & Company and Reading China & Glass. A new Kitchen & Company store is planned this year for Hilton Head, S.C.
“I felt that maybe A Southern Season disconnected from elements of the community,” Brinsfield said. “That’s really the focus right now: to be the best Southern Season in Chapel Hill that we can be.”
Brinsfield called Herman a “super guy” and characterized his departure as “part of the natural progression.”
“The intent was a short-term arrangement,” Brinsfield said. “We’ve had a good six months, and now it’s time to fly on our own wings.”