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FROM A STARBUCKS IN THE PARKING LOT OF 365 BY WHOLE FOODS, Cedar Park, Texas--I have no chill about the new 365 by Whole Foods Market going up in my neighborhood.
In fact, I'm writing this while staring at workers putting up signage in the parking lot of said 365 store. There's two weeks until opening day, and I've been watching this barren patch of ground sprout retail over the past 18 months with the eagerness of a 7-year-old waiting for Christmas morning.
Why am I so excited? I have four fantastic H-E-Bs, a handful of Sprouts Farmers Markets, two Wal-Mart Supercenters, a brand spanking new Randalls, Super Target, a Natural Grocers, and, guess what, this 365 store shares a parking lot with Costco.
I'm well covered with high quality, affordable groceries.
But do I ever shop at Whole Foods.
Nah, man. The only time I buy something there is if I'm store checking, if I want those tasty green falafels and marinated feta off the salad bar, or if we're doing the "Disneyland of Food" gig at the HQ downtown.
But I've had a taste of what 365 can be, from a visit to their Silver Lake store in Los Angeles. It was full of produce. It was affordable -- a 32-ounce tub of fresh-cut mango was only $5 -- and it had none of the widgets and gizmos that crowd my preferred shopping experience.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has promised us a 2.0 version with this new store, so here's five things I hope to see -- or not -- when this store opens April 26:
1. Produce, and lots of it.
The Silver Lake store was easily 1/3 fresh produce, most of which was value priced. And it wasn't all fresh-cut and prepared foods. There was a lot of bulk, and even *gasp* poly bagged apples.
2. Veg Valley.
I thought this concept was smart. Veg Valley is a separate room, a quasi-cold room like Costco has, where the wet rack and selected vegetables hang out at a cooler temperature than the rest of the store. It definitely will help with shrink, especially with a compacted labor force I suspect Whole Foods plans to use at this concept.
3. Local producer collaboration.
I attended a fantastic panel at the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association featuring one of Whole Foods' Rocky Mountain folks. He said the company is working to collaborate better with local producers to bring their products into the stores, rather than reinvent the wheel and source it in-house.
4. More checkouts.
I waited in line a staggering 20 minutes to check out in L.A. because they were running those really tiny Trader Joe's-like checkouts--without the rapid Trader Joe's checkers. Let's speed this up and get some belts in there, please.
5. Please, let's not clog this up with pricey center store.
The thing I liked most -- and that I think will serve Whole Foods well in this concept -- was less of a focus on high priced hippie quackery center store junk. I, and many others in this target demographic, breeze right by the expensive clothing, shoes, jewelry, soap, essential oils and toiletries. If you're going value-oriented, we need a few feet, not a whole aisle, of expensive pet food.
So, 14 days left to wait, but who's counting?