Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market is celebrating it 30th birthday this weekend. Special events and promotions are being held at its 298 stores, located in 40 U.S. states and three countries, which include Canada and the United Kingdom in addition to the U.S.
[Related story - September 18, 2010: Keep On Truckin' - Whole Foods Market Celebrates 30 Years This Weekend]
In yesterday's piece (linked above), we noted that Whole Foods Market will open it's 299th store, a birthday week milestone of sorts, on Wednesday, September 22.
Store 299 in Northern California
Interestingly, but far from surprising, Whole Foods' newest store, number 299, is in Northern California, in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Santa Rosa, in Sonoma County. The store is also a milestone unit of sorts in that it has one of Whole Foods' first health and wellness centers inside.
The new store is at 390 Coddingtown Mall. It's the grocer's second unit in Santa Rosa. The other Whole Foods store in the city is at 1181 Yulupa Avenue.
The reason the location of the birthday week new store opening isn't surprising, is because Northern California, and particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, is Whole Foods' leading U.S. region of focus in terms of having the highest percentage of new stores in development, as we first reported and detailed in this May 9, 2010 story: 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. Also see - 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.
New Santa Rosa store
The new Whole Foods' store opening on Wednesday in Santa Rosa is a whopper, and features most all of the grocer's in-store specialty departments, along with something new.
At 49,700 square-feet, the Coddington Mall/Santa Rosa Whole Foods' store features an expansive fresh-prepared foods department featuring a universe of grab-and-go foods, ready-to-heat foods, and food bars offering numerous varieties of comfort, higher-end and ethnic foods. It also has a sit-down dining area for eating in-store.
The nearly 50,000 square-foot store also features a tap room and bar with 16 varieties of beer on tap and plenty of wine, a self-serve ice cream and gelato bar, a huge produce department, which will feature fruits and vegetables from dozens of local growers, a fresh meat department with both pre-packaged, self-service meats and a full-service butcher counter, big bulk food and health and body care departments, and much more.
Something new: In-store health & wellness center
The Santa Rosa store will also have one of the grocer's first "health and wellness centers," which includes a community lecture room in the store where informational sessions, educational seminars, discussions and meetings on health and wellness topics and issues will take place. It's the something new mentioned above.
Here's what Whole Foods Market Co-CEo John Mackey said about the health and wellness center and club concept, from our story yesterday: "We're going to do five wellness clubs where we're going to have intensive educational programs, a healthy dining club. Once you graduate from the club, you'll get a membership card that will give you discounts on produce and other really healthy items we sell."
Northern California of strategic importance
The Coddington Mall location is a unique one for Whole Foods, or for any grocery store for that matter, since the retailer seldom if ever locates its stores in mall centers. The Coddington Mall store though has an outside facing and entrance - its not an actual inside-the mall-entrance-only venue - which makes it similar to being in a traditional shopping center. The owners of the mall/center are trying to increase business for its existing stores. They say they are banking on the new Whole Foods store opening Wednesday to draw increased and new foot traffic to the shopping venue.
Northern California is strategically significant to Whole Foods Market in terms of its future store growth, as well as sales and profits. The region, where co-CEO Walter Robb got his start in the business, is also home to many of the grocer's most important, and most innovative, suppliers. As such, it's fitting that if the new store opening on birthday week can't be in Texas, it should be in Northern California, as Whole Foods Market celebrates its 30th birthday this weekend, and into next week.
Whole Foods Market: First 30 Years
Much of Whole Foods' growth in store-count and sales since 1984 has come from acquisitions, its biggest being the 2008 acquisition of rival natural/organic retailing chain Wild Oats. The grocer's most recent acquisition, just a couple months ago, is much smaller than the $500 million purchase of Wild Oats. It's Greenville Grocery, which consists of a couple stores in Greenville, South Carolina.
Below is a list of all of Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s acquisitions since 1984 (in ranked order, from first to most recent). Note: 'Food for Thought,' on the list below, was a multi-store independent natural foods retailer based in Sonoma County, California. The Whole Foods store at 1181 Yulupa Avenue in Santa Rosa was previously a Food For Thought unit.
•Whole Food Company
•Bread & Circus
•Mrs. Goochʹs Natural Foods Market
•Bread of Life • Fresh Fields Markets
•Merchant of Vino
•Food for Thought
•Harry’s Farmers Market • Select Fish
•Fresh and Wild
•Wild Oats Markets
First 30 Years: Milestones
>Whole Foods Market went public on January 23, 1992, at a split‐adjusted IPO price of $2.125 per share. Whole Foods' stock closed at $37.09 per share on Friday's NASDAQ market close.
>Since 1993, Whole Foods Market has given back at least five percent of its after‐tax profits to the community through what it calls quarterly 5% days, as well as through donations to non‐profit organizations and schools.
>Whole Foods' has been on Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list every year since it was first published in 1998.
>Whole Foods Market became the first National Certified Organic Grocer in the U.S., doing so in June 2003.
>On average, approximately 20 percent of Whole Foods Market’s fresh produce is locally.
>Whole Foods Market joined Twitter in 2008 and today has more than 1.5 million followers.
>Click here for a list of additional milestones in Whole Foods Market's first 30 years. You can also view other 30-year Whole Foods' highlights and related information here.
'Northern California Market Special Report' 2010 series stories:
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