I went on a by-reservation-only sneak-peek tour this afternoon, and I’m beyond excited about the new store.
Most of the fresh food wasn’t stocked yet, of course, but despite some empty bins and shelves the 1.5-hour tour was jam-packed with interesting details.
I’ve been a Whole Foods shopper for years, but tonight I learned a lot about the company I didn’t know. And it only served to further cement my loyalty. Yes, Whole Foods is pricier than many grocery stores. But what can I say? You get what you pay for. And I want to fuel my body with the very best (and tastiest, of course!)
Here’s some info for current and wannabe Whole Foods customers.
The North Raleigh store is a full 12,000 square feet larger than its ITB counterpart on Wade Avenue. The parking lot is big and spacious (and boasts two free electric car chargers and a bike rack), and the patio has a bunch of tables and chairs just waiting for springtime diners. Shopping aisles are nice and wide.
The building will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified gold — meaning it’s really, really green. You’ll probably notice things like beautiful heart of pine wood featured throughout, which was reclaimed from a farm in Fayetteville. Skylights in the ceiling and big windows on the front take advantage of natural lighting. Signs are made from materials such as cardboard, brown paper and used pallets. Refrigerated items are behind doors to isolate cold. A cistern catches rainwater from the roof that is then used to flush the store’s toilets.
You can return your rinsed yogurt containers — made of tricky #5 plastic you can’t normally recycle locally — to Whole Foods and the store will send them off. The same goes for wine corks. Bring them back to the store, and they’ll enjoy subsequent lives as cork boards, pallets and other useful items.
Fresh, local, organic
As a general practice, Whole Foods stores use as many organic and local providers as possible. The North Raleigh shop will feature produce from 30 North Carolina farmers (the third-highest number of local farmers in the stores’ markets, just behind California and Florida). Items are labeled according to origin and nutritional value.
Asheville-produced Kombucha tea is available on draft, and you can even take home a growler (half gallon glass container). If you haven’t had it before, Kombucha is a unique-tasting, fermented tea that gives the drinker quite an energy buzz. (Third-hand opinion — from the brewer to our tour guide to us — has it that it’s delicious mixed with gin!)
A wide variety of breads are baked fresh 5-6 times each day.
Sushi is made on premises daily. Party platters can be ordered 24 hours in advance.)
Seafood is brought in 5-6 times a week. Clear labeling helps shoppers make educated choices — do you prefer wild caught seafood, responsibly farmed or both? And a stoplight color system (green, yellow, red) denotes abundance and sustainability.
Carnivores will be delighted to know that no meats sold in Whole Foods have been subjected to antibiotics, growth hormones, irradiation or artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The animals the meat comes from are never given feed containing animal byproducts, and all meat can be traced back to individual farms.
The butcher counter will grind beef, lamb, veal and even bison to order upon request.
Meat is rated according to animal compassion level, with the minimum standard being no cages, crates or crowding.
- The North Raleigh store will feature Whole Foods’ first and only (for now) fresh guacamole and salsa bar. Team members mix it up according to shoppers’ specifications. Chipotle? Spicy? Mild? No problem.
- The hot bar is huge and will offer breakfast then lunch/dinner daily. Some days will feature themed foods (such as Indian).
- The soup and rotisserie bar will provide eight soups — usually two each of seafood, veg, meat and seasonal. Four to five types of rotisserie chickens will be available, from naked to variously seasoned birds.
- Whole Foods is understandably proud of its Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It won’t make the cut unless it’s aged for at least 24 months and made from only spring or fall milkings (when the grass is sweetest, of course).
- Roughly eight types of pizza will be available by the slice. Customers can also order custom pies that are ready in 15 minutes.
- The North Raleigh store will include a full coffee and espresso bar. And if you bring in your own cup, you can enjoy a 75-cent cup of joe.
- Fourteen types of gelato and sorbet will be available daily.
- In addition to its usual wide array of baked desserts, there are pies — whole or by the slice — and a case of ready-to-personalize, beautifully decorated sheet cakes. Unlike most store bakeries, Whole Foods uses butter, not lard, in their cake frostings.
- The store will stock home-brewed-beer kits and supplies.
- Bath salts, liquid detergent, sliceable soaps, and pet supplies will all be available in bulk. (And, of course, there’s the usual array of spices, grains, nuts, etc.) And no plastic bags for those bulk items. Shoppers will use (and re-use, if they like) deposit-required mason jars for bulk items, and/or can bring in their own containers.
- A “Health Starts Here” center will offer resources, a certified nutritionist, demos and a supper club.
- A “Cooking North Raleigh” station staffed by a team member will provide quick meal solutions, menus and recipes.
Is it Wednesday yet?! I might have to head over for lunch, at least …