Monday, June 7, 2010

Whole Foods: 30 years old, still not coming to Charlotte

Upmarket natural and organic grocery chain Whole Foods is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. But one way it won't be marking the occasion: By building a store in Charlotte. At least, not yet.

With tons of gourmet and prepared offerings, as well as extensive meat, produce and seafood sections, Whole Foods remains one of the area's most sought-after - and so far, elusive - retailers. The company's stores elsewhere are veritable palaces of food, and it has long had a presence in other parts of the Carolinas, with locations in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, Winston-Salem, Greenville, S.C. and Charleston, S.C. It also recently bought an established natural grocer in Asheville, and a new Raleigh location is also in the works, according to Whole Foods' website.

The company announced plans to open its first area store more than five years ago, but a proposed location in Elizabeth fell through, and another proposed location at Sharon and Colony roads in the SouthPark area is also off the drawing board and was removed from Whole Foods' list of stores in development. The economy has played a role in the lag, as the company - like many others - has pulled back on new store openings across the board. Whole Foods has also encountered difficulty finding the right location in Charlotte, said spokeswoman Darrah Horgan, who has been kindly fielding my "When are you coming to Charlotte?" queries for several years now.

"Charlotte has certainly been a challenge for us, as far as real estate is concerned," she said in an e-mail. "We are still pursuing stores there, but nothing has solidified."

In fact, she noted, Whole Foods hasn't opened any new stores in the South since November 2007, though there are three on the horizon for 2011 - the aforementioned Raleigh store, and locations in suburban Atlanta and Nashville.

Still, Horgan said, Charlotte remains on the radar screen: "We're still looking, and still excited and interested in bringing a Whole Foods Market to Charlotte!"

So, where could it go? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I vote for the old Eastland Mall location!!!

Jesse said...

Put it in Myers Park or Piper Glen, they can afford it.

jenn said...

We live in the Berewick neighborhood in SW Charlotte and would love to have a Whole Foods nearby. Our choices are limited to Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter. Bi-Lo is not the best quality, in my opinion, and Harris Teeter carries organic but their prices can be unreasonable. Between Berewick and Baxter Village, I would think there would be a large enough and affluent enough market to warrant a store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in this area.

Anonymous said...

this is one reason why id move back to raleigh in a heartbeat!

Anonymous said...

Two locations in 'backwards' S.C., but none in Charlotte. And Charlotte was supposed to be sooooo superior.

Anonymous said...

anywhere off of a highway exit, even if it is rock hill or fort mill.

Anonymous said...

Do we really need a whole foods in CLT? We have the locally owned Healthy Home Market (S. Blvd) and a Dean & Deluca as well as a very healthy farmer's market system (and that's before you even have to look at the Fresh Market, Earthfare, etc). CLT is not lacking healthy natural/organic food or specialty food providers as many cities are.

Anonymous said...

We need a Wegmans they blow Whole Foods away!

JennyRay said...

Whole Foods would be nice, but I'd be happy with a Publix. Harris Teeter needs some competition!

Anonymous said...

I've lived in many cities with Whole Foods, especially many years in San Francisco.

They're great stores but hardly affordable.

When I lived in SF I preferred Andronicos. It wasn't affordable either, I just liked it better.

Sometimes I think people just lose control of themselves over a brand name.

Like Prada. Or Louis Vuitton.

Fresh Market, the Taj and Trader Joes are fine here. I like the new Meat House, too.

5:02, if you would move back to Raleigh in a heartbeat, why aren't you packed?

Jen Aronoff said...

Ah, I'm from Buffalo, so I know Wegmans well (and indeed, miss 'em). Alas, the closest one is about six hours away!

As for the appeal of Whole Foods versus other natural/organic grocers, I think the size and scale has a lot to do with it - Whole Foods just seems to have so much MORE of everything. They're also skilled at presenting and laying out merchandise.

Anonymous said...

The truth is, Charlotte doesn't really need a Whole Foods. If it did, they would open here. Obviously, they think the competition is too stiff. If they thought they could make money, they'd open.

Some of you are so silly it hurts.

Anonymous said...

I actually was one of the people who had written to Whole Foods a couple of years ago encouraging them to build in Elizabeth. However since then I have noticed by visiting Whole Foods in the DC area that they are earning their nickname "Whole Paycheck". I wonder if this is because they were having to pay Emeril gobs of money to film his show from there! I frequent Healthy Home Market and the farmers markets around town and actually have found I don't miss the overpriced offerings of Whole Foods. Besides, we have a home grown organic grocer in Charlotte, Earth Fare, and we need to frequent them to encourage growth at a NC located grocer.

Anonymous said...

theres an open space at woodlawn and south blvd. a grocery store would be ideal for that space.

Anonymous said...

Jen, why don't you examine things like market share here per grocer and compare that to similarly-sized markets where Whole Foods has 1 or more stores?

That might tell you the real reason they don't open here, instead of having to repeat the banal platitudes from their corporate affairs spokesmelon (organic, of course.)

Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

Earth Fare beat them to Charlotte. Where would they go in this market?

Anonymous said...

Whole Foods is a HT wannabe. Too expensive poor quality,

Anonymous said...

I like Whole Foods better than Earth Fare. I shopped and ate at one that was relatively close to Duke frequently. As far as farmers markets; be careful!! Some "farmers" buy their produce from the same wholesalers that the supermarkets do. I always ask where the food was grown and when was it picked. If I sense any hesitation, I politely leave and take my business elsewhere.

Jen Aronoff said...

Anonymous at 5:50, it doesn't seem to be a market share issue - Whole Foods doesn't go into an area trying to become the leader in share or replace traditional grocery stores, but instead with the aim of finding the right location to attract customers from a geographic area wider than that a traditional store would target. It's sort of a quality/quantity proposition - they don't have as many stores, but those they do have have drawing power. In a weird way, it's almost like Walmart supercenters in that regard - people will travel farther to get there because it offers something different.

As for Earth Fare, they only have two stores here, and they aren't huge; the situation is similar for the Fresh Market, which has three locations. So it seems to me the market isn't saturated. I would also say the Whole Foods shopping experience is somewhat different.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jen. The Whole Foods that I frequented had a cafeteria type restaurant. I also found that their customer service was better than at Earth Fare especially in the vitamin/nutritional supplement area. I have taught high school for many years and question the reliability of information garnered from a 17 year old regarding nutritional supplements needed by a middle aged male like myself. The last time I went to an Earth Fare, the person in that area seemed more intent on trying to sell me organic shampoo as an additional sale.

Adrian DeVore said...

There's no market in Charlotte to provide a supportive customer base for Whole Foods. Plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte, is a great market for Wholefoods, but it was late at getting into the market and nowhere to go. Charlotte has an excellent organic food avenues, without Wholefoods...

Anonymous said...

Between Harris Teeter, Earth Fare, and Trader Joe's, I can get almost all the specialty foods that interest me. Heck, even Bi-Lo carries some specialty cheeses I like. Farmers markets have fresh, local produce. I don't see what Whole Foods adds to this based on other cities where I've been to their stores.

Anonymous said...

Just demonstrates Charlotte is not all that it thinks it is....the demographics are not right here. It's lacking so many things a city its size should have. I’m amazed when I travel how similar sized cities are so much more polished. The city leaders are blind that this is a great place to live (unless you’re moving from Detroit or the Northeast). And for all the homers, I am packing my bags once I find a job outside of NC. I’ve only been here a year, and had high hopes, but have been very disappointed.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty much an EDLC (everyday low cost) market, with a very strong Wal Mart presence.

In Texas, there are 16 total Whole Foods Stores and 331 Wal Mart Supercenters and Wal Mart Neighborhood Stores.

A Whole Foods would probably do ok in Charlotte, but it would have to be located in a Morrocroft-type area.

Here is the main reason why they are not in Charlotte, which goes back to my original comment about EDLC pricing - from the Seattle Times:

• The highest prices among stores we surveyed were found at Whole Foods Market and PCC Natural Markets, whose prices were 54 percent and 40 percent higher, respectively, than the average for Albertsons, QFC and Safeway. Whole Foods' prices were especially high for fresh produce and meats, areas where the chain has consistently rated very high in Checkbook's surveys of consumers. But even when we looked only at nonperishable, national brands, for which product quality is not a concern, prices at Whole Foods, for the limited number of items it had in common with the other chains, were still 20 percent higher than the average for Albertsons, QFC and Safeway.

Anonymous said...

I have a Whole Foods store in my local area of N. CA - and as nice as it is, its way too expensive for my budget. We are working to relocate to Charlotte, and I would really prefer a quality, warehouse style supermarket with a good selection of organic foods. Harris Teeter has little competition, and is also too expensive.

jen said...

Wegmans or Whole foods! Please, please come soon! Surprised by the very poor grocery shopping choices in Charlotte area.

Anonymous said...

As a native Charlottean and former DC resident, Charlotte needs a Wegmans to compete with everyone from TJs to HTs.

TODD said...

heck with Whole foods WE NEED WEGMANS!

Susan said...

The biggest obstacle in Whole Foods coming to Charlotte IS Whole Foods. They've considered developments but pulled out after deciding the sites weren't "right" for them. They're being overly picky and, frankly, other stores are quickly filling up their potential market share.

Anonymous said...

I live in Durham (has rough and nice places)
There is a Whole Foods (WF) across the street from Duke East campus...
I have lived in the 919 about yr...
WF has the unique atmosphere where ppl want to be...you feel like you are outside in a garden in a way
People here eat lunch at WF and I have too... they are not too caught up in status and trends..though they have good jobs...(DUKE, UNC)
I have shopped and eaten at the WF in Durham and Chapel Hill.

Its hard to get out of the mindset of Foodlion if thats all you know...


There is no excuse for them not building one in charlotte, especially if chapel hill has one. They said its about real estate and location... Charlotte is really a sectioned off area..
Where could they put a WF and have it be successful?
Maybe put it where the Homedepot Design center (if its still empty) used to be so it can compete with Trader joes. Its close to downtown but also near Elizbeth, MyersPark, Dilworth, and the hipsters on Central Ave. and downtown can go there.

Excuse all typos and gram errors
For now, be happy with Earthfare, Home Healthy Market, and Trader Joes.

Anonymous said...

I would kill for a Wegmans.

Anonymous said...

As a former Charlottean who now lives in Annapolis with two young children that we attempt to keep on "as organic as possible" diet, I must advise those of you excited about the possiblity of a Whole Foods that its prices, when compared to Trader Joes (its competition in the area), is outrageously expensive. From the Buffalo Burgers and speciality Chicken Sausages to the selection of fruit, Trader Joes, though lacking the size & selection of a Whole Foods, is far more reasonably priced.

Anonymous said...

Whole Foods has better prices on many cheeses than Harris Teeter and their prepared foods can't be beat. The prepared foods at Dean and Delucca are the biggest rip-off in town. Whole Foods offers a good selection of affordable wines as well as box soups, teas and toiletries. For one-stop healthy shopping they cannot be beat and Charlotte is losing out.

Anonymous said...

If you did some research you would know they have been looking at places in Southpark recently but they are dragging their feet.

George said...

Why not in SouthEnd?? There are no Grocery stores there at all. It's about time to give South End some life!

Stan said...

Somebody already said it but in DC we call this place whole paycheck. I would take Wegmans and Harris Teeter over this place anytime.

WholeFoodsCLT said...

Thanks for shining some light on this issue Jen. We at WholeFoodsCLT on Twitter are working very hard to bring a Whole Foods Market to Charlotte. Please follow us there and help us show Whole Foods that Charlotte really deserves a store! Thanks.

Katie said...

I am a HUGE Whole Foods fan!! I was a regular at the Wade Ave location when I lived in Raleigh. Whole Foods has more variety than Earth Fare & Fresh Market, isn't as expensive, and certainly not as snooty. At 1332 Central Ave there's a Family Dollar store in a run down plaza. They could buy out that family dollar (they're struggling anyway) and build there - there's already plenty of parking! It's the Elizabeth/Plaza Midwood area which is easily accessible from all parts of town, has tons of foot traffic and young adults, and would draw in Uptown lunch-goers. Come on, Whole Foods! We're ready for you!
~Kat

Anonymous said...

Whole Foods would make money hand over fist in Charlotte. They really shouldn't see Earth Fare or Fresh Market or anyone else as competition. As others have mentioned, it's a totally different shopping experience at Whole Foods. In fact, the Earth Fare in Mt. Pleasant, SC, went out of business partly b/c of poor management, but mostly b/c the Whole Foods opened up down the street.

Whole Foods can be very expensive if you get sucked into buying their prepared foods and their higher end gourmet products, but there are many great values to be found in the store, and all of the items sold under their 365 brand are comparable in price to stores like Harris Teeters' generic brand items. Fresh Market is way more expensive; I try not to even drive by the place for fear of them somehow sucking money out of my wallet.

I would welcome Whole Foods opening up in the Charlotte market and would frequent their store.

The Charlotte area does have several great farmers markets. The new Atherton Mills farmers market in South End and the Matthews farmers markets are growers only (no re-sellers), and the Yorkmont farmers market has a dozen or more local/organic farmers; they differentiate themselves from the re-sellers with signs reading "local farmer, local food." I encourage everyone to support your local farmers.

Anonymous said...

I think the only people who are obsessed with Whole Foods are the people don't have whole foods. It's the exact same thing as H&M. It's cool to have it in your city for about a week, but after that, it's just another store. In Greenville for example, the Whole Foods is off the interstate next to an empty Circut City and acorss from a run of the mill strip center with a Best Buy and Dick's. The Whole Foods is never crowded, and the clientele is less affluent than it is at Publix in town. It's mostly small town people who think they're very Hollywood because they go to Whole Foods and the hippies wandering around in wool socks and Birkenstocks.

Whole Foods is overrated said...

We're lucky in Charlotte to have Home Economist (Healthy Home Market), Earth Fare, and Berry Brook Farm. Whole Foods is like Wal-Mart for yuppies. I think a lot of people just like to be seen shopping there.

Side note to Katie who stated WF should take over Family Dollar's store on Central because "they're struggling anyway" - take a closer look. Family Dollar has had increasing revenue for the last couple of years. They're based here too, so why kick them out?

Anonymous said...

I lived in Raleigh for a while and loved the Whole Foods. Since moving back here, I have been perfectly happy with Earth Fare, Farmer's Market, HT and TJ's. However, we just stopped at the WF in Cary on the way back from a trip and I realized how much I missed it. I would never move back to the Triangle just for a Whole Foods- as Clt is superior in so many other respects. However; I would love to have one here. So much more variety and it seemed to me that they were implementing some value brands that weren't previously there. Also, I like the Central Avenue or South End ideas. There's an un-met market in both those parts of town.
-Nicole

Anonymous said...

I just saw this posting and I personally LOVE Whole Foods and think about where one should go in Charlotte all the time - which is how I stumbled across this post in the first place. I heard there might be one coming ever since moving her four years ago and I'm disappointed one hasn't shown up yet. I live in Chantilly and would LOVE to see one take over the Family Dollar on Central Ave. for selfish reasons. That would make my day. I agree with many of you, though. I don't know if a Whole Foods would do well in Charlotte. Earth Fare took the best location where a store like that would probably succeed. I wonder if Earth Fare even does well in that location. I do like Earth Fare, but if I had to choose I'd go for a Whole Foods over an Earth Fare. I guess it's all just what you're used to. All of them are overpriced, but it does make shopping fun for some reason.

Anonymous said...

How about Dee Dee's Hole in South Charlotte? Surely something needs to fill that.