Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Look Inside Whole Foods Market's Newest Store, A Mall Location in Santa Rosa, California

Were they alive today, the late hipster beat poets, Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac, who created the beat generation and movement while living in San Francisco in the 1950's-1960's, where they spent many hours in the cafe's of North Beach writing poetry, and who were known to dig the bucolic scene and locally-grown herbs produced in nearby Sonoma County, would feel right at home writing poetry at the hip 'Organic Aromatic' drinks bar in the new Cottington Mall Whole Foods Market store in Santa Rosa, California.

Northern California Special Report

Over the weekend, we wrote about Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s celebration of its 30th birthday which took place on Saturday and Sunday.

We also reported on the Austin, Texas-based grocer's plans to open its 299th store on Wednesday (September 22), at the Coddington Mall in the Northern California city of Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is in Sonoma County, in the northern San Francisco Bay Area.

The stories: September 19, 2010: Whole Foods Market Gives Itself A 30th Birthday Present: 299th Store Opens This Week in Santa Rosa, California and September 18, 2010: Keep On Truckin' - Whole Foods Market Celebrates 30 Years This Weekend.]

A look 'in-store'

As we noted in our September 19 piece, the new Santa Rosa Whole Foods' store, the grocer's second in the city, is nearly 50,000 square-feet and features most of Whole Foods' latest-version in-store departments and special features, including an expansive fresh-prepared foods area, which features an in-store dining area that seats 70 people.

The store has an outside-the-mall facade and entrance. But the in-store restaurant also connects to the inside shopping mall, allowing mall shoppers to walk right in from their mall shopping and get a bite to eat.

Below are a few of the in-store special features and departments at the new Santa Rosa Whole Foods Market store opening on Wednesday:

>The Tap House: It's an in-store pub/beer lounge, with seating, offering 16 locally-produced craft brews on tap. The design, country-modern, fits in with what one might expect a local pub in Sonoma County might look like. (See a picture of the Tap House in the slideshow linked at the end of this piece.)

>The Organic Aromantic Drinks Bar (pictured at top): Along with every type of coffee and tea drink you can imagine, the hip drinks bar, which has a sit-down area right across from it, features numerous other beverages, including the popular healthy and according to some folks magical beverage Kombucha, which is offered on tap. Shoppers can have a glass - or fill-up a reusable container; size of their choice.

>Frozen Yogurt and Gelato Bar: It's an in-store version of the corner frozen and yogurt shop, except it's self-serve. Shoppers can build their own frozen yogurt or Italian ice cream treats from a selection of dozens of varieties and toppings.

>In-Store Bakery: Breads, cakes, pies, pastries, snacks and more - conventional, organic, vegan and gluten-free. Many are fresh-baked in the bakery's high-tech ovens.

>The Butcher Shop: The department offers nearly every concievable meat option, from the basics to dry-aged, organic and sustainably-raised beef, pork, lamb, poultry and more. There's pre-packaged meats as well as unpackaged meat and poultry offered from a butcher counter.

The butcher shop puts a particular focus on offering meat and poultry from numerous local purveyors, including what its calling the "super-local beef program," which sources drectly from North Bay Area ranchers.

The shop also features Whole Foods' 5-step animal welfare program, which rates how chicken, beef, pork and other meats are raised.

The department also features a full-selection of value-added (marinated, ect.) meat items for quick cooking at home.

Their's also a full-service fish and seafood counter. And because Santa Rosa is near the Sonoma Coast, a special emphasis is being put on offering locally-caught seasonal fish and seafood varieties in the department. The department also features Whole Foods Market's just-introduced color-coded seafood sustainability rating system and chart, which rank-orders fish and seafood varieties offered using simple color codes.

The Cheese Shop: It's got it all, from local cheeses (which are numerous in the region), to imports. Like in many of Whole Foods' other stores, this one is a complete cheese-shop-within-a-grocery-store.

Produce, With A Local Emphasis: The store's produce department is big - and packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. Because the region is home to so many sustainable and organic fresh fruit and vegetable growers, the store, like Whole Foods' other markets in the region, is putting a najor emphasis on the quantity of locally-grown produce items available in the department, with the local origin of each item noted on signage.

In fact, "Local" is big throughout the store. For example, Whole Foods says the store will initially feature products of all types from at least 125 Sonoma County farmers and producers, with more to be added. The local products range from fresh produce, meats and prepared foods, to flowers, plants, honey, cheeses, craft beers, wines, packaged grocery products and more. Additionally, products from scores more local (within an about 100-mile distance) purveyors will be offered in the store.

Gluten-Free and Vegan: There's a special store-within-a-store section featuring an expansive selection of gluten-free and animal-free packaged food and grocery items, along with recipes and other information about living a gluten and animal free lifestyle.

Bulk Foods and Bulk Spices: The store features a mega-bulk foods and bulk-spices section. The bulk products range from basics like flours and oats, to snacks. There's also a selection of thirty-something different varieties/flavors of bulk granola, offered in clear, gravity-fed dispensers. Also included are dozens of different varieties of spices, from the basic to the exotic, along with at least that many varieties of sea salt, from plain to smoked and flavored. The bulk spices and sea salts are also merchandised in attractive, clear dispensers.

>Health and Wellness Center: Last but far from least - and we have by no means listed all of the store's special features - the new Santa Rosa Whole Foods Market store has one of the grocer's first in-store health and wellness Centers.

The health and wellness center includes a large room where community educational seminars and discussions on health and wellness topics and issues will take place. Their also will be wellness club. Club members will get discounts on various healthy foods items sold in the store as part of their membership benefits.

A look 'in-store' - in pictures

Although the store opens on Wednesday, and has a big grand opening event on Sunday, September 26 - which includes a BBQ from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring free grilled meat and seafood, along with side dishes, desserts and drinks, plus live music and a family fair, in which those attending can meet local ranchers and attend workshops about buying, cutting, marinating and cooking meat - Whole Foods invited a group of media folks and others in the store on Monday for a preview of what's to come on September 22, when the doors open to the shopping public.

One of the people attending the store preview yesterday, who happens to be a regular Fresh & Easy Buzz reader and correspondent, provided us with a nice overview of the store, offering a bird's-eye view written report, along with sending us a link to an excellent photographic slide slow of the store, taken by a staff photographer for the local daily newspaper, the [Santa Rosa] Press Democrat, and published in the paper.

The slide show contains 24 photographs of the inside and outside of the store, including pictures of most of the features detailed above.

As you'll see when viewing the photographs, and as we've described above, if the new Santa Rosa Whole Foods store had a middle name, it would be... "Local," which it is, from its localized store design elements, departmental signage, and shelf tags, to its store-wide focus on merchandising locally-grown and produced food, grocery, beverage and even non-foods products.

[You can view the slideshow here.]

A good time for a birthday party - and store number 299

With the 30th anniversary opening of the new store in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, store number 299 for the chain, it's likely Whole Foods Market's celebration of its 30th birthday, which officially is today, will continue on for a few more days.

It's hard to blame them. Whole Foods Market had a tough 2007-2009 but got its game back in early 2010 in spades. As such, the 30th birthday and 299th store comes at a good time for the grocer and its 54,000 employees (which it calls team members) in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

Reader Resource

Stories in our 2010 'Northern Califoria Special Report' series:

September 20, 2010: About Today's Walmart Stores, Inc. Smaller Stores Media Frenzy: We Scooped it On July 6, 2010

September 19, 2010: Whole Foods Market Gives Itself A 30th Birthday Present: 299th Store Opens This Week in Santa Rosa, California

September 18, 2010: Keep On Truckin' - Whole Foods Market Celebrates 30 Years This Weekend

September 14, 2010: Eight Plus One: Napa Unit Added to Eight Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores Opening in Northern CA in Early 2011

September 5, 2010: BevMo Chain Ends Full Time Employment For Store Workers; They Say No Way and Join With UFCW Union to Demand 'A Better BevMo'

September 3, 2010: How the California Grocers Association and its Members Can Snatch Victory From the Jaws of the Defeat of California's Plastic Bag Ban

August 25, 2010: Going Rural: New Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store Planned for Sutter Creek in Northern California

August 23, 2010: Hybrid 'Good Eats' Market-Cafe From Raley's CEO Michael Teel & Company Opens Today in Sacramento CA

August 22, 2010: The Insider: Challenges & Opportunities: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Will Supply its Northern CA Stores From its Riverside County DC in Southern CA

August 21, 2010: April 2010 Prediction Correct: February 2011 Target to Open First Eight Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores in Northern California

August 19, 2010: Tesco Will Open its First Eight Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores in Northern California in 'Early 2011.'

August 17, 2010: Henry's Farmers Market 'Beats' Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to Northern California Despite Multi-Year Head Start; Elk Grove Store Opens Tomorrow

July 29, 2010: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Putting Together List of Managers Interested in Transferring to Northern California

July 25, 2010: Safeway to Start Construction on New Pleasanton, California Flagship Store Soon; Thanksgiving 2011 Target Opening

July 22, 2010: 'The Insider' - After Four Years in the High Weeds in Northern & Central California, Kroger Co. is Emerging to Grow its Foods Co Chain

July 21, 2010: Vacant Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store in Pacifica, California Has the City's Mayor in a Pickle

July 18, 2010: 'The Insider' - When it Comes to Northern California - its Competitors are Rome Burning and Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is Nero Playing the Fiddle

July 14, 2010: Tony Bennett Has Nothing on Whole Foods Market When it Comes to Loving San Francisco...That City By the Bay

July 6, 2010: Walmart Looking for Store Sites in Northern California For 20,000 Sq-Ft Neighborhood Market by Walmart Prototype Store

June 28, 2010: Smart & Final to Open its New Format SmartCo Foods Stores in California and Arizona

June 26, 2010: Tesco Planning to Announce in July When First Northern California Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores to Open

June 14, 2010: Newly-Named Whole Foods Market CO-CEO Walter Robb Comes Full Circle With the Opening of the New Store in Mill Valley CA

June 5, 2010: Sprouts Farmers Market Opens First Northern California Store in Sunnyvale; Strikes Up Partnership With Local Non-Profit Farm

May 29, 2010: Going Rural: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to Build First Store in Los Banos, California

May 28, 2010: First Phase of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market-Anchored Condo Development in San Francisco's Bayview Set For Completion in June

April 19, 2010: Tesco Debating Whether to Launch Fresh & Easy Into Northern California This Fiscal Year... or Wait

May 9, 2010: A Whopping 15 of Whole Foods Market's 41 New Stores in Development are in California - And Nine of The 15 Are In Northern CA

May 8, 2010: Sprouts, and Likely Henry's to Beat Fresh & Easy to Northern California Despite it's Big Head Start

May 6, 2010: Going Smaller & Getting 'Hybrid': Walmart's Smaller Supercenter in Vacant Retail Buildings Strategy Began in 2008

April 19, 2010: Tesco Debating Whether to Launch Fresh & Easy Into Northern California This Fiscal Year... or Wait

[Also: click here , here and here for a selection of past stories on Fresh & Easy and Northern Calfornia.

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