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May 29, 2011 08:56 PM

Whole Foods: Regional differences

This weekend, Mom and I drove from NJ to Richmond VA. Leaving NJ, our route took us pass the Whole Foods, we normally (it is the closest WF we occasion, but still a 50+ mile drive) frequent. We decided that a short road food shopping trip was in order. That was an excellent idea. Meant that once we arrived Hotel-wise, we already had excellent nibbles to relax over and we also well supplied with drinks and snacks en route. We stayed in the Short Pump area near Richmond and discovered a WF We stopped by to pick up some items to bring to a party and got a tad bit of an education.
WF apparently has some regional specialization going. And I wonder what else is up their bag of tricks! The VA. store we shopped at had wine and beer, local laws allow that. Yeah the selection was awesome. But two things I saw there I sure would love to see at my local WF: fresh salsa bar and a hot smoked meats bar. The salsa bar featured a good selection of chopped fresh veggie items that could be gathered then mixed with about 5 offered salsa bases. Nice idea and one I am sure could work in NJ. The smoked meat bar, well. BBQ, pulled, BBQ, beef, pork, chicken with some nice fixins' mashed pots, MAc and cheese, collards, garlic green beans and Gooooood!

So what does your WF have that maybe another region does not?

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  1. That certainly is catering to the Southern influence. Love it. My WF in Reno has THE best arugula I've ever tasted. I've wondered if others do.

    1. I worked for WFM in a couple different regions back in the nineties. The individual store managers and especially the regional heads used to have a good deal of control over the stores layout, features, etc. Buyers even had control over the local selection, though this became less so before I left in 2000. The warehouses started to have more of a say, and decisions were made higher up more often, especially regarding pricing and product mix. I honestly don't what what that situation is currently, but the company certainly has a history of local and regional decentralized control.

      1. Have only been to one other WF (in Chicago) so I don't have much to compare to, but the store here in Milwaukee has a gigantor beer section. Massive. The beer coolers stretch pretty much the same length as the entire deli/pizza/sandwich counters. Tons and tons of local and regional brews. I actually prefer WF to any local grocery/liquor store because they have such a great selection.

        Oddly, the WF in MKE also seems to always have a high portion of Indian food on the hot bar. This has always been a mystery to me. I wonder who I have to talk to about getting some of that Indian food replaced with a salsa bar... :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: mse924

          "Oddly, the WF in MKE also seems to always have a high portion of Indian food on the hot bar. This has always been a mystery to me.'

          Maybe for all of the Indian doctors from St. Mary's?

        2. Some of the differences are also simply in the store size. I remember a BBQ bar in Cleveland similar to the one you mentioned. The big difference between there and here in PIttsburgh is that store is probably twice as big. Of course store size is one of the other things they are tailoring to regions at this point, or in most cases they have scaled back and new stores are going to be smaller. The new one they're doing out in the north Pittsburgh suburbs is about the same size as the Pittsburgh city store. Another thing that accounts for difference in store size is the ability to sell beer and wine, true. In PA they can't do that so they don't bother planning for it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: CrazyOne

            I'm not so sure that store size has that much to do with the in Manhattan, the Bowery location has a separate beer store with taps, growler service and a full selection of home brewing supplies. There is also a separate climate controlled cheese room; however, the store itself is by no means the largest in NYC, and nowhere near as large as the Whole Foods in nearby Edgewater and Paramus, NJ.

            The NJ Whole Foods have their own unique additions, The Whole Foods in Edgewater, NJ had a Jamba Juice when Jamba was still exotic, and used to have a BBQ bar. Yet none have beer sections with beer brewing supplies or cheese caves.

            Likewise, the Whole Foods in Tribeca is larger than Bowery, but lacks the beer and cheese extras. Instead, there is the largest fish section I have ever seen (a monstrous 3-sided wrap-around deal with great fish, even on Sunday).

            So here it seems to be more a function of demographics rather than size.

            1. re: rifkind81

              Thanks for that info. Wow a cheese cave! Now I know how much I am missing!
              Hear that WFM???

              1. re: rifkind81

                Very interesting. I do know that product selection is quite regional, sometimes even down to the individual stores. They get locally sourced produce around here in the summer and sometimes local packaged foods that they take a chance on. But things like hot and cold food bars, that seemed to be size-related in that the huge stores have so much more of these than our tiny little store.

                Home brewing supplies, that is really crazy! Maybe the manager's own hobby? ;-)

            2. the NC locations have BBQ bars to serve local BBQ preparations, and of course a lot of Southeast produce. I like that they tell us where the produce is coming from. Around now a lot of it is local or from Florida/Georgia/S. Carolina.

              1 Reply
              1. re: fara

                The Reno, NV, store is having weekly farmers markets in nearby Sparks. Looking forward to checking it out.