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Head scratcher - why do people go to the tiny Whole Foods on River Rd?

There is a tiny Whole Foods on River Road just above Arlington Road (in the small commercial strip that also has several gas stations, American Plant, a beer-wine store, McD's). It has a limited selection, narrow aisles, and the parking lot is like a war zone. The county really should never have let them put this store in this location. On days like this - a day before Tday - the traffic on River Road backs up in both directions with cars waiting to get into the lot.

About five minutes away, there is a much larger (double the size?) Whole Foods in Friendship Heights with a big underground parking garage and yes, they do validate your ticket.

I assume that Whole Foods keeps the small store open because it does a lot of business but why does it do so much business? Shopping there is such a huge hassle!

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  1. Interesting, I purposely go to the one on River Road and avoid the Friendship Heights store. I find the parking lot much easier to handle than the Friendship Heights garage, and I also prefer the River Road store. The Friendship Heights store is not full service, and doesn't even have regular sized shopping carts. To each his own!

    3 Replies
    1. re: eighthour

      Not sure what you mean by "not full service." What service do they offer at River Road that isn't available at Friendship Heights?

      I hate the big carts. Especially in small stores. Then again, I shop for two. I could see where the small carts would be a hassle if you are shopping for a family.

      1. re: Just Visiting

        There's no in-store deli counter or in-store bakery as far as I know

        1. re: eighthour

          There is definitely an in-store bakery. It is in the corner near the check-out line. There is also an in-store deli though I don't think it is a very good one compared to Rockville. They also have sushi, pizza, and hot dogs/hamburgers at counters adjacent to the deli counter.

          Just due to size alone, they have a much larger selection than the small River Road store, though like all the WFM, they seem to be unable to master inventory control and are routinely out of basic items. I get being out of products that are made by very small companies - that is a supply problem, not a WFM problem - but they are routinely out of major, standard items such as soy milk, certain boxes cereals, and so on.

    2. The Bethesda WF is my regular WF but I would never make the mistake of going there or any other grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. If you go to Bethesda for your staples you can get in and out relatively quickly and the parking lot is fine at off-peak times. The FH WF means you pay a higher tax rate and the larger size means it can take forever to get the weekly shopping done. Also, FH in general is congested.

      1 Reply
      1. re: shellymck

        If by Bethesda you mean River Road, I disagree. That parking lot is a PITA every day of the week. Some hours worse than others of course. From 4-6ish p.m., it is a nightmare and then all of a sudden empties out. At lunchtime, it is also a bear.

        The problem isn't just that the lot is tiny. It is a bottleneck entrance/exit. People pull into the lot but stop near the entrance while awaiting a space. Then others on River Road can't get into the lot. Meanwhile, the entrance/exit clogs up after only 2-3 cars are in line to exit and the line snakes through the parking lot until the light turns green. A few cars get out and then you wait again. There is no separate exit for cars going north on River Road so everyone just waits in the one exit line.

        I take River to Willard and go to the garage without ever driving through the congested part of Friendship Heights (i.e., I am not on Wisconsin, with its endless parade of self-important, privileged double-parkers in front of the furriers).

      2. The lot is fine at 10 am on weekday mornings, which is when I shop. You asked why some people go there and I gave my rationale. If you wanted to post a vent then you shouldn't have posted in the form of a question.

        4 Replies
        1. re: shellymck

          I didn't vent. I explained so others who might be making the same choices will have the information they need. Sorry that you feel it necessary to criticize someone for disagreeing with you.

          1. re: Just Visiting

            Why stop there? Bethesda is a PITA, as is Rockville, Silver Spring, Arlington and the entire Metropolitan Area. It just is.

            1. re: flavrmeistr

              No kidding. Just minimizing hassle is a survival skill around here! I have entire routines for going specific places - routes, times, ways to get around known problems. For instance, I have what I call the "magic window" of time when you can get ahead of the traffic - just five minutes can make a huge difference.

              1. re: Just Visiting

                The magic window is roughly between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to get in and get gone from DC. Otherwise, all bets are off.

        2. Even though Friendship Heights has a larger store with more departments, etc, I actually prefer going to the River Road location. Its so much easier to get in and out and have never been inconvenienced. It has all the basics that I need for every day shopping and none of the Chevy Chase hassle.

          2 Replies
          1. re: susabella

            I've got to agree with you. The one time I went to the Friendship Heights WF, I waited on line more than 20 minutues -- and it wasn't yet noon. Haven't been back since. Have never had the same problem at River Road.

            1. re: Teddybear

              That is true. Rarely any lines. Though the express checkout is right in front of the door - COLD!

          2. I appreciate being able to just park and go, not having to deal with a garage (like at FH), and not having super-long lines. The RR store is small, but if I'm in the area, I'd rather go there than FH (or Rville Pike). I haven't run into any routine product outages there (or at any of the others in the area.) Pre-holiday shopping at the RR store is a pita--but it is at all the others, too.

            1. I live very close to the FH store but use the slightly more distant Tenleytown store (where parking is usually worse). The FH store mis-lables the price per pound on items too often for my taste, and it invariably does so to make the items appear less expensive than they are. And the FH store has a terrible check-out system for those, like me, who almost always have fewer than 15 items. Also,Tenleytown sells beer and wine.

              The parking at the Bethesda store really can be a mess, but I can see some people not wanting to park underground.

              2 Replies
              1. re: dcbbq

                Huh. Thanks for the warning. Will have to keep an eye on the shelf labels. You would think that would be automatically generated by the bar code info - punch in the price, the bar code tells the label maker what the item is and how many units, and out pops the shelf label. Maybe not. Though to be honest, we buy what we want for the most part. I've found that Whole Food store practices vary from one store to the other and so do prices. For instance, at RR they sell the quesadillas two to a package. If you want only one, too bad unless you want to wait in line at the deli to have them re-wrap and re-price one. And they seem considerably more expensive by weight at FH than at the Rockville store.

                As for the 15-or-less at FH, yes a snake line can be infuriating though I've been told you can take the items to the dining area and there is another register there. I have no idea if this is true. I have never eaten there.

                I was originally skeptical of the underground parking and it is a major disaster at Rockville. The manager there told me it is their #1 complaint. We don't go there often and when we do, we park in the street. But FH has a trolley ramp so no waiting for an elevator and I "saw the light" that first time I had to go to the grocery store and it was pouring rain and so what? I'm nice and dry in a parking garage!

                1. re: Just Visiting

                  The most common problem Ida display sign saying, for example, $3.99 per pound where in fact the cartons are 8 oz and cost $3.99 each. That sort of thing. I find it annoying. They do nothing when you point out the problem, which I find appalling