New Whole Foods fills food hole

by Brian Clarey

The much-anticipated Greensboro Whole Foods Market opens Thursday morning, with a bread-breaking ceremony at 8 a.m. before the doors open for the first time at 9. But I attended a preview tour Monday morning for a sneak peek at the city’s newest grocery store, and I left eager to return and spend a bunch of money.

I’m familiar with the Whole Foods concept, which espouses healthy, sustainable living, having shopped at the Winston-Salem outpost before. I was also a regular customer at the New Orleans store in Mid-City, before it took over an old bus hangar Uptown.

The Greensboro store is smaller than that behemoth — about 30,000 square feet of the Sears building, still pretty huge by local grocery-store standards but not as big as the superstores in places like New York, Los Angeles and London.

Part of the chain’s philosophy is to adapt each store to its environment. The Greensboro store uses reclaimed barnwood for artistic effect, farm sinks in the produce section for touches of authenticity and artwork throughout the store provided by Elsewhere Art Collective, the quirky downtown Greensboro group.

Whole Foods puts as much thought into its wares as its décor. Produce is predominantly local and organic. Come Thursday, the bins will be stocked with North Carolina strawberries, carrots, radishes and kale, with more to come as the growing season deepens.

Produce items will be marked with an ANDI score — aggregate nutrient density index — to help shoppers make healthy choices.

The Whole Body section includes herbs and supplements, first-aid, homeopathics, toiletries and even clothing, all made without artificial colors, chemicals or surfactants. All products are non-petroleum based and never tested on animals.

The Healthy Eating section is for education, with books and recipes. This is where cooking classes, demos and supper clubs will convene, and an expert will be on hand for one-on-one nutritional guidance. The nearby Cooking Greensboro corner holds bulk spices, grains, nuts, beans and such. The store will allow customers to bring in their own containers to cut down on waste.

Fresh seafood comes in six days a week, each fish labeled by its sustainability. And the meat counter boasts the highest standards in the US grocery business — no hormones or antibiotics, no animal by-products in the feed, no artificial color, flavor or preservatives, and no pink slime. Butchers are on hand to cut meat to order, and beef is ground fresh all day. All eggs are of the cage-free variety.

The Specialty Foods section has “all the good stuff,” as one store employee puts it: cheese, beer, wine, coffee and tea, chocolate and more. Local breweries Natty Greene’s and Red Oak will be on hand, and there is a build-your-own six-pack station by the beer cooler.

The Prepared Food aisle boasts a sushi chef who rolls all day, a pizza counter, hot and cold buffets, rotisserie chicken and a rotating menu of specials dependent on what is local and in season.

The Bakery uses unbleached and unbromided flour in every loaf, cookie and cake. The coffee bar uses only fair-trade beans, and the juice and smoothie bar uses only organic fruits and vegetables.

As I toured the store, I tasted many samples of what is to come from Whole Foods Market — pineapple salsa, California quinoa, shrimp cocktail, an incredible Parmesan-reggiano and fudge brownies among them. Everything was fabulous, and I look forward to a return visit so I can delve into the aisles a little deeper.

wanna go?

Whole Foods Market 3202 W. Friendly Ave., Greensboro