Take a Peek Inside Whole Foods' Most Unique Store Yet, Opening Today
Whole Foods Market opened its newest grocery store Wednesday in New York City's financial district amid much fanfare: giveaways, free product samples galore, a live jazz band, and two intricate ice sculptures that gradually disappeared as the crowds grew.
"It's good to have a grocery store that's accessible downtown—there were no grocery stores down here," said Jackie Belson, 44, who works across the street and anxiously awaited the new store's opening. Belson and a coworker came to pick up dessert for their entire office. They settled on a fitting Wall Street-themed cake for $24. They also walked away with new socks, courtesy of a pretzel company.
"It feels luscious," Belson said of the new store, "because everything is like hot and fresh. It's like putting on a new pair of socks for the first time."
The new store, officially the 513th U.S. location for the upscale supermarket chain, is unique for a couple of reasons.
First, it contains Whole Foods' largest selection yet of locally made products from the surrounding tri-state area—over 1,000 items, in fact. Founders of several local food startups appeared in person for the festivities. "Every new store opening is an opportunity to feature new local brands," said John Lawson, Whole Foods' local forager for the Northeast region.
Second, the store's layout and interior design are unlike any other. The 42,000-square-foot supermarket is located inside the landmark One Wall Street skyscraper, a historic Art Deco-style building dating back almost a century. The store pays homage to the building's original design, with brassy fixtures and geometric patterns throughout. Large etched panels mounted to the wall in the self-checkout area come from the building's original elevators.
Because the building is landmark protected, the store's floorplan had to conform to its existing contours, lending the lower level especially a sort of labyrinth-like quality. "It definitely doesn't have that big box feel to it," Lawson said.
Everywhere you look, local products are given prominent placement. "This is our first launch," said Sharon Nevins, chief marketing officer for CHKP Foods, a new Brooklyn-based startup that makes plant-based yogurt from chickpeas. Whole Foods is the product's exclusive retailer. Available in four flavors, the low-sugar, high-protein yogurt is featured both in the non-dairy aisle and the store's coffee bar. Nevins said she was pleased by customers' response to the company's free samples: "We have gone through almost all of the product we brought."
Another product making its retail debut Wednesday is Matriarck, a line of tomato sauces made from salvaged fruits that are typically wasted. "The tomatoes come from an aggregator-processor in Virginia, who makes a high-end roasted tomato, and he's been throwing out three million pounds a year because they're too big, too small, a little too ripe," explained Anna Hammond, the company's founder. "We've created not only an environmental solution, but also a business solution."
Hammond said she was excited by the huge turnout for the store's opening and also curious to see how people respond to its unusual layout. "It'll be interesting to see how people actually find stuff," she said.
Whole Foods Market One Wall Street is located at 66 Broadway in New York City.