Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Whole Whole Foods Question

I’ve been skimming Organic, Inc by Fromartz; he was inspired to investigate the organics movement in part by the whole Whole Foods Market ascendancy. Like Fromartz, I’ve been seduced, fully and happily, by the clean aisles, the piled high conventional and organic produce and the prettily packaged fair-trade parcels. And like many other New Yorkers, I’ve watched as Whole Foods gobbles up precious real estate faster than you can say Benetton. How did this happen? How did we get here? How did WF become the only grocery store where I want to shop?

My first visit to a WF was in Owings Mills, Maryland whilst visiting a college girlfriend and her soon-to-be husband back in 1995ish. I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian and the selection of fresh produce and cool, new veggie products floored me. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, any grocery store outside of NYC is a revelation of what shopping could and should be.

The next time I visited one was in 2004 in LA. I was shopping with my then boyfriend, on a Saturday night in WeHo. It was packed. I mean, packed like the hottest spot in town. Blissful couples languidly strolled the aisles, healthy-looking singletons checked each other out and Michael Rapaport tried to keep his two kids in check. I loved it and thought what a shame that it would never work in NYC. [I also thought Chelsea Piers would flop. Don’t ask me to pick your winning horse, I guess.]

Luckily, my hunch was totally wrong. The old Mays spot on 14th street, which hadn’t been able to keep a large tenant, had announced WF was coming to town. And since the she-devil has arrived I can’t stop going; I miss it when I’m somewhere else, like Jersey. That is until I found the gorgeous one in Edgewater across the street from the home of the corporate offices.

Ok, ok. Beautiful produce is one thing and WF really doesn’t have the market cornered on that; the produce prices are much better at Fairway. But here’s what it sells, and you all know it: food shopping as virtue. I actually feel like I’m doing something good by shopping at WF. No, I swear they didn’t pay me to write this. They’ve done the work for of collecting the best local stuff, fair-trade stuff, and wrapped it an accessible red bow of goodness. Their marketing works and I’ve totally bought it.

Which makes this article even more interesting. Actually the most interesting thing in it to me--aside from the fact that I JUST realized that I completely ripped off shopping as virtue comment, oopsy—is the response by Mackey, corp head guy, that he will do better to deal with more local farmers. What CEO says he will do better? I’m even more sucked in to the WF love.

I’m certain after the honeymoon glow fades I will see more of the Oz behind the curtain but for now, I’m kicking myself I didn’t buy stock in 1995.

5 comments:

Heather said...

Great post! Love it. Are their corporate offices really across from that Edgewater store? Hmm...

Allergic Girl said...

They totally are--isn't is a beautiful store? On the water with views on Manhattan...

Heather said...

You should also check out the beautiful Japanese supermarket down the road--Mitsuwa. Have you been there? It is nice up around Edgewater. Sometimes we drive up on a Saturday or Sunday--those view are terrific.

Allergic Girl said...

I have--it's great fun and good for staples, rice, veggie [i hear their fish is great too but none for fish-free gal]. Did you see the candy aisle, so many fun things. I'd love to do a tour of grocery stores across the country--

Bo said...

I'm a little late in this discussion but felt compelled to write. I did a huge research paper about WFs for my Corporate Social Responsibility class back during my MBA days. The only troubling thing about WFs is their profit margins. The retail grocery industry is a notorious difficult market to operate in. Margins are super low, typically hovering around 2-5%. Compare this to the appareal industry and their margins of 25-30%. The gourmet health food market is a completely different world. Margins in this industry hover in the 35% range. Basically put, they are charging you 30% more for those flattering lights, attractive food displays, and airy floor plans. That always irked me.