Whole Foods has a very important place in both the organic industry and the American cultural landscape, and as I have gotten to know the company better, the more fascinated that I have become with it.
Since the company has so many cool initiatives going on all of the time, most of which do not get the attention that they deserve, I have decided to create something called Wednesdays at Whole Foods. This column will appear on the first and third Wednesday of each month and will showcase a wide variety of news, interviews, and other features.
If you have any suggestions, ideas, or things that you would like to see in this post, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, enjoy my new column – Wednesdays at Whole Foods!
THE LATEST IN MOTOWN
In one of the most anticipated events in the company’s history, Whole Foods cut the ribbon on a new store in inner city Detroit a few months ago and as you can tell from the picture above, it was an absolute mob scene on opening day.
This Detroit store is of tremendous personal importance to Co-CEO Walter Robb, and he spent a ton of time on it over the last few years getting it ready. In a compelling interview on Bloomberg TV, Walter Robb said that its performance is “exceeding our wildest expectations.”
Also, if you want to hear how the company plans to deal with rising competition and what’s the latest with its online initiatives, definitely watch this segment. I learned a lot.
FOR THE KIDS
This Friday, September 6th, Whole Foods will be donating 5% of each salad bar purchase to the Whole Kids Foundation’s Salad Bar Grant Program.
Despite only being in existence for a little over two years, the Whole Kids Foundation has already provided:
– 2,600 salad bars to schools in partnership with Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.
– 1,600 school garden grants with FoodCorps.
– Healthy eating workshops for 3,000 teachers with FoodFight.
Along with its non-profit initiatives, the company has partnered with PBS Kids to provide online and in-store resources in support of nutrition for kids and families. The effort kicks off this month with a suite of materials from PEG + CAT, PBS Kids’ newest series, which focuses on pre-school math and problem-solving skills.
All U.S.-based stores will offer families PEG + CAT activities, recipes, and more, and wholefoodsmarket.com/kid-friendly features kid-friendly recipes to help families eat better, quick and healthy meal-planning tips, resources for healthy eating on a budget, and nutrition information for all ages.
AT A STORE NEAR YOU
If you think each new store is just a cookie-cutter version of the old ones, think again.
After years of delays, the company just broke ground on a new store in Alameda, California. What’s so interesting about this one?
It will have a microbrewery and garden to grow hops.
Yet, the recently opened Lynnfield, Massachusetts location might be even more impressive. Why?
This store boasts a 17,000 square foot rooftop farm – the largest of its kind in New England, the first supermarket rooftop farm in the country, and the very first in the company’s history.
Notable features of this rooftop farm include the following:
– Has its own irrigation system built into it.
– The chemical-free rooftop farm will provide 25% more density than traditional farms.
– A lack of transportation costs will allow the store to grow less common varieties such as heirloom tomatoes.
– The heat from the building means that the rooftop farm could run through November.
– Has the ability to produce up to 10,000 pounds of produce per year. (WOW!!)
ON THE SHELVES
American filmmaker, musician, and meditation advocate David Lynch has launched a new line of organic coffee, which is available in all 20 locations in Southern California.
Apparently, he is a “coffee-obsessed” drinker, and meticulously taste-tested and selected all three blends – House Blend, Espresso, and Decaf French Roast. Several weeks ago in the West Hollywood store, he had a special signing and tasting event.
Also, in Southern California (does that region get all the cool stuff first?), the company is now selling vinyl records and LSTN Headphones in five of its stores – Third and Fairfax, West Hollywood, Arroyo, Santa Barbara, and Venice.
The wide music selection includes records from Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Daft Punk and Bob Marley. LSTN Headphones are made from reclaimed, exotic woods sourced from furniture and flooring manufacturers, making each pair of headphones truly unique. These headphones are designed locally in West Hollywood by LSTN, a music start-up that aims to give back through the power of music while providing unique products that sound amazing and look great.
For every pair sold of headphones sold, LSTN helps restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
At the West Hollywood store last month, there there was a party to celebrate the new launch of this music initiative where Dawes, Yellow Red Sparks, Javier Dunn, Cary Brothers, and Jesse Thomas all played for the public.
Now that Whole Foods has taken a meaningful step into the music business, I am just waiting for the day that I can write about the first store that has a DJ booth.
THE NAME GAME
One of the most interesting stories that you probably haven’t heard about is that the company is opening a new store in Wichita, Kansas but will be abandoning the name Whole Foods. Instead, the store will be called Bread & Circus, as first reported by the Wichita Business Journal.
Two questions immediately come to mind. Why in the world would the company be doing this? And, why call it Bread & Circus?
First, the reason for the name change is that there is an existing Whole Foods Association in Wichita, which operates three stores under the name of Whole Foods. So, in order to respect the existing business and avoid confusion, a different name will be used.
Second, out of all of the names that the company could have used, why Bread & Circus? If you’re from Massachusetts, which I am, you are probably familiar with the name.
Bread & Circus was the dominant natural food retailer in the Northeast before it was acquired by the company in 1992, and John Mackey, Co-Founder of Whole Foods, has said that merging with Bread & Circus was probably the best decision he has made in 30 years.
While I have zero inside information on why this name was selected, the most likely explanation is that John Mackey is paying homage to this important merger and to Anthony Harnett, the legendary organic food retailer who owned, managed, and built Bread & Circus.
(On a side note, I worked at Bread & Circus in the Wellesley, Massachusetts store during high school, and Stonyfield Co-Founder Gary Hirshberg told me that he used to personally deliver his yogurt to that store from New Hampshire in the early days. You’ll be reading more about Anthony Harnett when my book comes out next spring.)