6/2 UPDATE: The manager of the Fresh Pride at Jefferson Ave. and 25th St. says the store will close but has no date for that. A sale sign on the window shows items are 30% off.

5/23 UPDATE:On the Fresh Pride Web site, the number of stores was down to five: two in Norfolk and one each in Hampton, Newport News and Chincoteague.

The company's corporate office is in Virginia Beach.

Store window signs announcing '40 percent off' were the first indicator something was wrong at the Fresh Pride grocery store in Exmore. But the problem appears to go well beyond the Exmore store.

Two employees who answered the phone at the Exmore store said it is closing on Wednesday morning. They would not give any other information. One hung up when a reporter asked to speak to the manager.

The 40 percent off does not apply to beer, wine, or tobacco products.

Other stores' futures were not immediately known.

Chincoteague Fresh Pride employee Robin Haymore said that location had not been given instructions to mark down merchandise, but the store has not received inventory in at least two weeks.

'We're kind of in limbo right now,' she said.

If both Fresh Pride stores close, it will mark the end of an era for the store chain that once held a four-store foothold on the Eastern Shore.

Onley's Fresh Pride was the first to go in 2011, a move that stunned shoppers and employees alike, when they found the store had been shuttered overnight.

The same surprise technique was used to close the Parksley Fresh Pride in March of this year, leaving a community without a store and without Sunday fried chicken and 21 employees without work.

The number of Exmore Fresh Pride employees who will lose their livelihoods is unknown. Chincoteague Fresh Pride employs about 65, a representative said.

Scott Beavers, the company executive interviewed when the Parksley Fresh Pride closed, is no longer with the company, according to Jeane Mapp, an employee at the Virginia Beach headquarters.

She said the only people in the office were payroll and accounting, and she insisted she was unable to provide any more information, including whether the whole corporate enterprise was closing its door.

The News contacted all nine Fresh Pride locations on the Eastern Shore and in Hampton Roads, and employees at eight of the nine reported they are either in the process of closing stores, or have not received new inventory in the last couple of weeks.

Only one store said it was not closing. John Britt, store manager at the Newport News location, said it's business as usual there.

'There's nothing that I'm aware of,' he said.

Fresh Pride Web site

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