The Whole Foods Market in Upper Arlington reopens this morning with nearly two-thirds more space and thousands more products than in its previous location - and a full schedule of social and educational events.
The Whole Foods Market in Upper Arlington reopens this morning with nearly two-thirds more space and thousands more products than in its previous location — and a full schedule of social and educational events.
A tip for shoppers: Use the store’s new main entrance on the east side of the building, where there are many more parking spaces.
That is, unless you’re an early riser in search of breakfast. In that case, the W. Lane Avenue door will lead you to the Social, the store’s restaurant, which will open daily at 7 a.m., beginning on Thursday.
The larger store will offer “new products, new concepts and other innovative ideas” that the temporary Whole Foods location didn’t, said Defausha Hampton, spokeswoman for the Austin, Texas-based retailer of natural and organic foods. “This supports our core values of bringing the highest-quality natural and organic products to our customers.”
A crew of 41 had been working in temporary digs in the Shops on Lane Avenue since July 2011 while the store a few doors away was razed and rebuilt. About 25 workers from the former store have returned, and nearly 100 new workers have been hired to staff the new store, said Jared Pinkos, store team leader. At 35,000 square feet, the revamped store is slightly less than half the size of the company’s store on the Northwest Side.
Pinkos and Tiffany Smith, marketing team leader, point to new concepts in the Upper Arlington store: The Social is a place where customers can buy breakfast, lunch or dinner, or gather for happy hour. The bar has 10 beers on tap, including two exclusive craft brews from Great Lakes Brewing Co., Pinkos said.
The bulk-foods section, called Cooking Upper Arlington, offers flours, seeds, nuts and dried mushrooms; whole-grain pastas and cereals; and oils, vinegars, honeys and nut butters. The name also covers a new cooking program by coach Jim Yue.
The store sells more than 500 types of cheese and 50 varieties of tea cookies, and it makes its own cakes, cookies, breads, rolls, bagels and pastries every day, Smith said.
The store is offering an extensive menu of ready-to-eat foods. Its 33-member kitchen staff is serving made-to-order tacos, sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas, as well as Indian, Asian and comfort foods and soups, and organic and seasonal salads for hot and cold buffet lines.
Customers can order and pay for their lunches at three touch-screen terminals that, in a nod to the store’s proximity to the campus area, accept Ohio State University spending cards.
Signs in the store are designed to help shoppers learn more about their food, including its origins.
“Our mission is to make sure our customers know exactly what they’re eating,” Smith said.
Whole Foods is a growing chain, with 322 stores in the United States, seven in Canada and six in the United Kingdom.
In the year that ended on Sept. 30, Whole Foods sold $11.7 billion in food and services, up 16 percent from 2011. The company opened 25 stores last year and expects to open as many as 32 this year.
“Our continued growth depends on our ability to increase sales in our identical stores and open new stores,” the company said in its 2012 annual report.
One way that Whole Foods is increasing sales is by taking steps to combat the perception that its products are too expensive for the average shopper.
That reputation might be dated. A dozen cage-, hormone- and antibiotic-free eggs at the Upper Arlington store starts at $1.99, Pinkos said. A bottle of Three Wishes Cabernet wine, the house brand, goes for $3.59, he said.
Whole Foods has been aggressively rolling out value-brand products and has created a house brand, called 365, to emphasize the everyday affordability of such products. “A key to growing our sales over the longer term is to continue to improve our relative value positioning,” Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb said during an August presentation to investors.
As a result, Whole Foods is becoming more price-competitive. Whole Foods’ prices were “7 percent cheaper than Safeway, and only 4 percent higher than Trader Joe’s, the perceived low-cost leader,” according to an Aug. 22 report by Kate Wendt, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, and her colleagues.
Lee Peterson is happy the store is reopening.
“That’s where we do most of our shopping. We were suffering because they tore down that store and moved to a little space,” said Peterson, executive vice president of creative services at WD Partners, a Dublin-based consulting company.
Peterson, who consults for Whole Foods Markets in the Chicago area, said no expense was spared in the Upper Arlington store, pointing to its copper soffits and Craftsman-style window mullions.
The grand opening starts at 10 a.m. today with a bread-breaking ceremony.