The original Whole Foods Market had been founded in Austin, Texas in 1980. Whole Foods went on to acquire a bevy of companies that were committed to the same vision of marketing natural foods. But this particular store offered not only the traditional non-GMO and USDA certified organic selections, but a building flashing recycled technology from every porchlight.
Near the bathroom, there’s a plaque explaining how the store is built of reclaimed wood, and glazed brick from post-consumer recycled material. The Gilman store also has upped the ante regarding refrigeration, using a “transcritical CO2 system,” a natural refrigerant that outdoes traditionally used HFC (hydrofluorocarbons) refrigerants resulting in reduced energy consumption. It doesn’t stop there. Floors are made of “marmoleum,” a natural linoleum product manufactured from linseed oil, wood flour, pine resin, jute and limestone; bags at the check-out counter are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and made of 100% recycled paper.
I wanted to get the whole Whole Foods picture. So I returned. There’s an entire aisle devoted to different chips including Kale Krunch and Avocado Oil Potato together with any number of differently prepared pretzels and popped corn. Tom’s Toothpaste totally elbows out Crest and Colgate brands. At the checkout counter I found no candy, only energy bars, no Good Housekeeping or Enquirer magazines. Standing tall were copies of the Harvard Business Review and Naturally.
I bought one item and made my way to the coffee bar run by Allegro roasters, large burlap sacks of beans piled on the floor. On the counter were glass milk bottles filled with differently colored coffee beans. In addition to the usual lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos, I also had a choice of home brewed, Chemex, and a number of other possibilities. My mind froze. I knew about Chemex and decided to go with a Guatemalan blend. Pastries were expensive; I did look twice at the lemon brioche tart and the sesame lime and guava financier. The name itself was a show-stopper.
My coffee was brewed by a young woman with a single blonde braid She talked with her co-worker who wore two sleeves of tattoos, bicycles running up his arm with a set of keys dangling from a spiky biker belt.
Who shops at Whole Foods? I saw mostly young people who looked like they had jobs, moms with kids in strollers, and a few retirees. Organic seems to be the new trendy thing that comes with a hefty price tag. Maybe it’s the tie-dye of a new generation. Anyhow, I applaud Whole Foods for stepping out there as a model, even if I do prefer my own Farmer Joe’s market in Oakland’s Fruitvale District where the produce is fresh and the prices more reasonable.
I carried my jar of chipotle salsa back to the car.