South Charlotte residents now have another grocery option thanks to Whole Foods Market’s decision to place its first Charlotte location in SouthPark.
“We are looking forward to giving the community a sneak peek of our first store here in Charlotte. We’re also thrilled to partner with Friendship Gardens, since their vision really aligns with our commitment to our community and to healthy eating. It’s really a great organization,” said Whole Foods Market’s Charlotte store team leader, Trevor Barhydt.
The company’s been planning to spread to Charlotte for years.
“This will be the 10th Whole Foods Market in the state, but Charlotte has always been on our list. It just took a bit longer than we had planned,” said Darrah Horgan, public relations and marketing director for Whole Foods. “It’s no secret that the SouthPark area is a destination for food lovers, and we knew there was a strong interest in natural and organic foods.”
The 42,000-square-foot store features a produce and floral department, in-house smoker, a gelato and smoothie bar and a large café area in addition to standard grocery. There also will be a cooking school offering a wide range of cooking and demonstration classes, children’s play area and a bar serving both wine and beer.
Cooking and eating healthy are a main focus for the store and company, so the new store will have a dedicated Healthy Eating Specialist and a cooking coach on staff, according to a news release.
Horgan said the store hopes to make an impact on the surrounding community.
“One of our core values as a company is caring for our communities and our environment,” she said. “Each store reflects the community that it serves, and we have a full-time marketing and community relations person based in each store. Already, our team leader group has volunteered with Friendship Gardens and we have another volunteer outing this week. It’s just a part of what we do and who we are. We also offer a variety of healthy eating options, a full-time Health Starts Here team member, and a Cooking Coach, so if you’re not sure what to eat or how to prepare something, we’ve got you covered.”
The store will open for business Wednesday, Aug. 29, but customers who register in advance could get a special sneak preview.
The store will be hosting pre-opening tours on Sunday, Aug. 26, and Monday, Aug. 27, to offer an early look. For a $5 donation to Friendship Gardens, future customers can take a tour of the store located at the corner of Sharon and Fairview Roads and learn about some of its highlights and features. Tour participants will get to taste samples from each department and receive goodie bags.
“The tours are really a lot of fun,” Horgan said. “Future shoppers go around to each department and learn a little about the products available in each one; there are lots of samples and a goodie bag at the end. The tours offer a behind-the-scenes look at what will be a really fun and unique store. The tours last about 45 minutes.”
Horgan said Whole Foods chose Friendship Gardens as a charity to support in order to connect with the community and because it shares the same dedication as the company.
“Friendship Gardens is a great local program that incorporates growing healthy food and giving back to the community,” Horgan said. “We thought it was a perfect fit for Whole Foods Market.”
Horgan said the new SouthPark location, which hired about 240 team members, would bring something to the table that similar businesses don’t.
“Our team members are very knowledgeable and they love talking to customers,” she said. “The store itself has a lot of unique bells and whistles, in addition to groceries. We have a cooking school, called Salud!, which offers a variety of hands-on and demonstration classes, and we also have a wine bar in the back of the store called Queen’s Corner. We’ll serve a variety of wines upstairs, and local craft beers downstairs. We want the Charlotte Whole Foods Market to really be a destination, and we want people to stay awhile.”
Those interested in participating in a pre-opening tour must register for a time slot at http://charlotte.wholefoodsrsvp.com.