Chris Sherrell, who founded Fresh Thyme Farmers Market in 2012 and was its first and only CEO, is departing the company and will be replaced by Gerald Melville, a veteran executive of Meijer Inc., one of Fresh Thyme’s financial backers, the company said.
“I am extremely proud of the company I was able to build, as well as our mission of bringing fresh and healthy food at an amazing value to dozens of communities,” Sherrell said in a prepared statement. “As happens with many entrepreneurs, as Fresh Thyme has matured, I am ready for my next challenge.”
A 39-year retail veteran, Melville joins Fresh Thyme from Grand Rapid, Mich.-based Meijer, where he was a regional VP of stores, overseeing operations for nearly 50 Meijer supercenters in Illinois and Wisconsin. Earlier this year, Tod Pepin, also a Meijer executive, was named chief merchandising officer for Fresh Thyme.
Prior to joining Meijer in 2009, Melville held a variety of senior leadership roles with Albertsons and Supervalu, including broad responsibility for store operations, customer service, labor, food safety and asset protection.
“I’m very pleased about this exciting opportunity,” Melville said. “Fresh Thyme is a dynamic brand with an ideal offering for today’s health-conscious customer. I’m looking forward to joining the team and working together to continue the company’s growth and success.”
Sherrell, who began his career in the natural foods business as a teenager working at a Wild Oats Market store, founded Fresh Thyme after a previous retail startup, Sunflower Markets, was acquired by Sprouts Farmers Markets in 2011. At Fresh Thyme, based in Downer’s Grove, Ill., Sherrell built the company to 77 stores in 11 states after opening its first units in 2014.
Fresh Thyme, similar to Sprouts and Sunflower, runs farmers market-style stores with a high penetration of fresh produce at sharp pricing and assortments tailored to customers following vegan, paleo, keto, vegetarian or wheat- and gluten-free diets. The company last week said it was closing three stores it opened less than a year before.
Meijer, which operates superstores, has been an investor in Fresh Thyme concept since its founding.