Whole Foods Announces Store Plans

Whole Foods is providing specifics on their planned move to Hydraulic Road, Seth Rosen writes for the Daily Progress, and it sounds like it’ll really shake up that corridor. Their new location, next to Kmart, is slated to include a three story parking garage, and will necessitate moving the traffic light on Hydraulic back from 29, closer to the bypass. Whole Foods says that the 66,000 square foot building “could be the chain’s most environmentally friendly grocery on the Eastern Seaboard and would feature a large community space for meetings and farmers markets.” Whole Foods has historically been terrible about selling local produce, and they may be taking this opportunity to improve their image.

Anybody who has cause to drive on Hydraulic during rush hour knows what a mess that spot can be — along with Emmett south of Barracks, it’s one of the most backed-up spots in town every day. So while change to that area sounds good, it sure would be unpleasant if it made things worse. The Hillsdale Connector is planned to run along the edge of Whole Foods’ property, which could make things better, but there’s no reason to expect that to exist for a decade.

56 thoughts on “Whole Foods Announces Store Plans”

  1. This project fills me with dread, and not just because I nurture an irrational hatred for Whole Foods. Thank goodness we have a couple of alternative routes out of our neighborhood. I’m going to close my eyes for the next several years and pretend it isn’t even happening.

  2. I find it amusing that Whole Foods, which markets itself as being upscale (and certainly has upscale prices) is going next to Kmart.

    I’m sure Whole Foods will continue to thrive in this area no matter what, but when I hear “parking garage” I think three things: 1. ugly 2. inconvenient 3. why I don’t live in northern Virginia. Maybe it’s because I had a car accident in a garage once, but I’d much rather deal with a parking lot, even a poorly designed one as WF’s is now, than a garage. I know plenty of people in Cville hate WF with a passion, but I find their salad bar to be a quick and healthy way to get dinner late in the evening, and now it’s relatively easy to get in and out of there. If there’s a parking garage, I’ll never bother.

    And yes, I’m sure it will make that intersection even more of a nightmare.

  3. I own Whole Foods stock, and applaud their efforts to do the right thing in many areas. Along those lines, I hope Whole Foods manages to sell or facilitate the sale of local items, as this may be key to their long-term success. It will be interesting to see how the farmers’ market idea plays out in the long run.

    We shop at conventional supermarkets more than we shop at Whole Foods and C’ville Market combined. You either value what Whole Foods is providing or you don’t. Unfortunately, there will be some that do value it but can’t afford to shop there with any regularity. That, understandably, might be a source of some of the hate.

    As far as the new location, it will be less convenient for me, which might translate into fewer visits. Their current location certainly isn’t fun to navigate.

    I say bring on our new solar-powered wonderment.

  4. I’m curious about why people hate it. Is it the frenzied 29N location or the awful parking lot or the dearth of locally grown food or the high prices? I’m not being snarky, I really want to know. WF is not my favorite store–I especially hate navigating the aisles when it’s crowded–but I like the friendly customer service, and the fact that the store brand milk is hormone free and costs the same as conventional milk at a regular supermarket.

  5. For me, it’s the awful parking lot, the way the store is organized, and the difficulty in navigating the aisles. And it’s expensive.

    I don’t find the staff tremendously friendly compared to Harris Teeter, for instance. But at least they don’t have those ridiculous kiddie carts and car-carts like HT. Gaaaaah.

  6. I thought it hilarious that some City wonk said “they’ll be on the bus line”. Dude…most of the bus crowd doesn’t shop at Whole Foods. The Mexicans from Michie Dr. can walk there though.

  7. Wait a minute. My kid loves the kiddie carts. They make shopping possible for those of us who can’t afford nannies, daycare, etc…

  8. I’m thrilled to hear that they’re building a much bigger store. The store is now a real pain when it’s crowded. It’s a place to be avoided on Saturday and Sunday.

    The dairy product prices in Whole Foods are competitve with the “regular” grocery stores and they are hormone free. The bulk food products, particularly the nuts, are high in quality and the prices are competitve as well. Being able to buy a couple of teaspoons of a certain herb or spice is really nice. A lot of the store brand prices are also competitve.

    Still, a lot of the stuff is expensive, particularly meat and produce and I would never buy all my groceries there. Usually I shop at Sam’s, Whole Foods, Giant, Reid’s, C’ville Market and the City Market and get the best deals for me that each store has to offer.

    The staff at WF is friendly. Beth, Selma, Elder, Anna and others are always nice and helpful. Oh, I also enjoy all the free samples. The free cheese at Whole Foods is always interesting and usually tasty.

  9. I’ve actually compared prices at various grocery stores. I made a list of 15 items I buy weekly and then recorded prices at Whole Foods, Teeter, Giant, and Kroger. Surprisingly, the average shopping trip didn’t differ by all that much. Teeter was the highest, followed closely by Giant, and then Kroger.

    Whole Foods came in at different spots, depending on if I compared WF’s organic foods with comparable organic products at the other stores (less expensive at WF) or if I compared WF’s organic foods with conventional foods at the other stores (more expensive at WF).

    I buy organic foods for a reason, which is why I shop at Whole Foods. I also shop at Rebecca’s, C’ville Market, and occasionally Main Street Market, but they have more limited selections.

    I really like Whole Foods, as I find the staff to be very friendly and helpful. Yes, the parking lot can be a real drag, but you can say that about just about any parking lot in town. Part of the problem with the crowding inside the store is that there is simply not enough room in there, which is why they’re building a new one. It is my understanding that this is one of the smallest Whole Foods stores in the chain.

    I’m not wild about the new store’s location, as traffic over there is a real problem, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop shopping there.

  10. Actually, I’m kind of glad they are taking initiative to build a parking garage. Without it, they’d need to spread the parking spaces over a large area and use up valuable space, and would create much more runoff. Parking garages, when used effectively, can make a community more walkable. For example, the design at Hollymeade “Town Center” could have been 100% better if most of the site wasn’t just one massive parking lot. Then people could drive in, park then walk around to any stores they wish to visit. You wouldn’t have someone get out of Barnes and Noble then drive to Harris Teeter or Kroger.

    I am glad thought that the city is getting them to reduce the number of spaces in the garage and create a setback. These are good improvements.

    Does anyone know specifically what the gripes were that the planning commission had with the landscaping?

  11. I’m no expert in green construction, but might there be more rainwater collection/reuse possibilities with a parking garage than with a parking lot? Maybe solar advantages?

  12. Traffic will be a nightmare there but the city will do everything to have the store built ASAP. All the city sees is the tax revenue from the new store. My question is will this store kill off Giant or will Giant. Kroger, and Whole Foods fight it out on the price front?

  13. You’re absolutely right, Perlogik. There are, what, two major grocery stores in the city limits? Or is it just one now? The city is sick of losing revenue to the county on this front.

  14. I’d just like to point out that the Daily Progress has kept cvillenews.com readers in the know for nearly a month’s worth of entries. Nice work, Seth, Brian, Jeremy, Tasha and others.

  15. The cville WF store is cracking at the seems. It needs a larger footprint and it needed it yesterday.

    The service at WF is by far the most consistent and best in town. Imagine what they could do with a reasonable amount of space to accommodate their customers and employees…

    Prices for staple foods like milk are very competitive. For the rest, they offer foods that are often simply not available in other stores. Plus, you can shop the bulk grains if you know who to cook, and save right there. They employ people that tend to be there for more than just a summer job (like Teeter). The WF custom catering folks are the best and compete favorably against specialized caterers.

    The local WF Management needs to get off their butts, stop milking that decrepit building and build a much bigger store NOW. Hydraulic isn’t the best choice, however, I’m sorry to say. Why not Pantops, for instance?

  16. Working up in Quantico during the week, I just went to the grand opening of Wegmans near Potomac Mills. This chain from upstate New York is building several new stores in Prince William. The store is fantastic. Good prices for regular grocery items, gourmet food counters that put WF and Foods to shame. Organic and natural food, bulk items, wine shop. Their food court is like seven different restaurants (not mall food) in one. Man, if these folks ever come down to C’ville, you could say bye-bye to several chains.

    On a second note, except for giving me grief for wearing a Yankee hat, I think the folks at HF are top shelf, friendly, and knowlegeable (except about baseball).

  17. Well Waldo there are 2 Krogers, a Giant (the 29 one is still in the city), Harris Teeter and the 5th street Food Lion. It reminds me of the mistakes that were made when the city went “planning be damned” and sold their soul for the Best Buy.

    Hey Best Buy, how is the traffic light you were promised?

  18. Well Waldo there are 2 Krogers, a Giant (the 29 one is still in the city), Harris Teeter and the 5th street Food Lion.

    Really? I felt quite sure that only the Fifth St. Food Lion was in the city — that both Krogers, Harris Teeter, and Giant were all in the county. I’d check on it, but I don’t actually have any idea of how to do that from the comfort of my living room. :)

  19. I’m not saying this about anyone posting on this threat, but I do believe that some people hate WF because it’s a mega-corp, and that’s not PC. It’s not IY, in other words. Me, I like it a lot. I am boggled by the people I see who seem to do ALL their shopping there, and run up HUGE bills when they check out. Me, I use WF for the few things that they have that are unavailable at the mainstream grocery stores and for certain fresh produce items (since I don’t go to the farmer’s market…I might try the one at Forest Lakes, though). It is crowded, but I find it’s a friendly crowd. And when I bring my kids, they can snack their way through the store, which is really, really helpful.

  20. Yep, Barracks Road is in the City, as is Seminole Square, so that puts one Giant and two Krogers plus HT in the City, along with the Food Lion on 5th. Plus, there’s an IGA on Cherry, and of course Reid’s. I’m not sure adding Whole Foods is going to dramatically affect the grocery availability within the City limits. Plus I hear that Trader Joe’s is going into the Whole Foods space, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a definite improvement for that space. TJs is an amazing grocery store with killer store brand products, low prices, and zero pretentiousness.

  21. Kroger @ Barracks Road: City
    Kroger @ Hydraulic: City
    Harris Teeter @ Barracks Road: City
    Giant Food @ 29N: City
    Food Lion @ 5th: City

    Plus Reids Supermarket, Integral Yoga, C’ville Market, and a dozen mostly ethnic joints….

  22. I Googled and found that the sales tax is the same in the city and the county–4.5%. So if that’s right, you’d pay the same amount of sales tax whether you’re at a county grocery store or a city grocery store.

  23. Actually, food is at 2-1/2% in Virginia. General sales tax is 5%. 1 percentage point of each of those numbers goes to the locality where the item was sold (Charlottesville or Albemarle) with the remainder going to the Commonwealth. As a city resident, I’ve made it a kind of mission to shop within city limits whenever possible since pumping up sales tax revenue has the potential to reduce other taxes I pay. Meals tax is the variable local tax, though the city and the county are currently maxed at 4% (the highest legally allowed).

  24. Jumping to a thred above, I’d have to agree that Best Buy was a planning disaster. Why in the world did they allow an entrance and exit right in the Bypass turn lane? They should have required all traffic to flow through the existing road to the side of the store.

    Also, I can’t imagine how the ARB approved that with the big glowing lights and everything else. (I’m suspect many a Luna Moth met it’s final end at that store.) Most of the Bypass is actually rather scenic right until you see the big glowing box looming on the horizon…

    Yeah, so while I really doubt the design will be anywhere as bad and unsustainable as Best Buy, we still have plenty reason to be vigilant about Whole Foods.

    ..and yes Elizabeth, I think there are many more opportunites to be creative with a parking garage than a parking lot. They can green-roof it, collect stormwater, install solar, all sorts of fun possibilities…


  25. Waldo the one grocery store factoid was the one oftern told about Reid’s since it’s the only place you can walk to from the Downtown Mall. It always screws me up that Giant is in the city but across 29 North is the county. I think the Post office is the edge of the city on the east side

  26. I like WF. Everyone there is cheerful and they have a big selection of stuff you can’t get anywhere else.

    The only time I’m normally on Rte 29 is to go there. I’ll be happy when I don’t have to get on 29 for anything any more.

    In fact, it will be nice to be able to ride my bike to WF without negotiating all those lanes of traffic. (From downtown, take Dairy across the bypass, walk down the steps to the sidewalk beside the bypass, takes you right to Hydraulic).

    And, in reference to the remark about “the bus crowd”, I’m guessing that crowd is going to get a lot bigger soon.

  27. I like Whole Foods. The selection, the staff, everything. What I don’t like is that its located in the 29 North area and will be the same with new store,albeit closer to the city.
    Due to changes in my life circumstances I no longer have to go out on that end of town and avoid it whenever possible. Since I live in the Downtown area, Giant on Pantops has become my grocery store. It is great,prices are good, staff friendly and professional.
    I too always felt WF could carry more local stuff-but maybe that will change with growing attention to “buy fresh, buy local.”

  28. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that someone could summon up dread and hatred when thinking about Whole Foods. (It reminds me a little of people who shudder just thinking about that awful Clinton administration. You wanna say to them, “What was the worst part? The peace…the prosperity?”)

    Whole Foods is pricey, but I suppose it’s because you get what you pay for. I don’t buy everything there, but I must say that when I stop at any other supermarket first, then walk into Whole Foods, I can feel the intelligence level around me rise as I walk in the door.

    So maybe that’s another reason for the higher prices: they pay their employees more and wind up with smart people in every department. (And I’m not talking about pretentiousness. Ain’t nobody pretending nothin’. Just well-informed, intelligent people selling good stuff.)

    I hope that location can be made to work (I’m not even sure what the Hillsdale connector is, or would be.). My sense is that section of Hydraulic is clogged up much of the time because the traffic light at the intersection with 29 has ridiculously short green (and yellow) intervals.

  29. What impact will the new WF have on the residents of Michie Dr.? How long before they are forced out because that land is needed for something else? Just curious.

  30. They say “You know you’re from Rochester, NY when Your baby’s first word was ‘Wegman’s.'” Yep, there’s good reason for that, they are simply amazing.

    Wegman’s will eventually make it to Cville, I’m hoping they time it right to build in the Avon / 5th St center in a few years.

  31. “Pine reminded the Commission that the future Hillsdale Drive extension will be more walkable than Hydraulic, and that the Whole Foods project would set a tone of pedestrian character.”

    Not with a 533-space parking garage, it won’t. Unless they’re aiming for the “towne centre” effect.

    I don’t know that a parking garage shouldn’t be compatible with a pedestrian character. Neither of the parking garages on the Downtown Mall seem to obstruct the area’s pedestrian character. A parking garage is a great deal better than an equal number of spaces on a flat lot–such lots present a pretty significant pedestrian obstacle, and make clear that this is a place for cars. A reasonably designed parking garage just looks like a big building, and the sense of enclosure is actually really helpful for establishing an urban tone.

  32. I predict a Wegmans-Ukrops showdown in Charlottesville at some point.

    I can finally share the tidbit of info I’ve been holding onto for a while. When Whole Foods left the Albemarle Place project, the developers (one of whom told me the project is back on) replaced it with Fresh Market. How many supermarkets can thrive in such close proximity?

  33. With gas & food prices the way they are: lots! Much easier to get the least expensive milk here, paper towels there, and canned goods over there. Which should keep everybody’s prices competitive.

  34. Joining this conversation late, but I second that Harris Teeter’s prices are typically on par with, or more expensive than, WF. The Teeter prices have really zoomed as of late.

  35. I’m from Buffalo, and every summer when we go home, we stop at Wegman’s to marvel at the type of supermarket we don’t have down here. If they built a Wegman’s at the planned Fifth St. development, I’d be in heaven.
    You can get out of Harris-Teeter without spending a ton as long as you stick to what’s on sale, but of course you need your VIC card to qualify for sale prices. That’s one thing Whole Foods has in its favor: they don’t spy on their customers by making them sign up for membership cards in order to pay sale prices for things that are on sale. I think the VIC/MVP/Bonus cards should be outlawed, but that’s a whole different thread.

  36. Thirding the observation that HT is pretty darn expensive. Risking flames, I’ll offer that I’ve begun doing some of my grocery shopping at…Target. I’ve never been sensitive to grocery prices before, but reality is starting to sink in, and I can’t help but notice how much cheaper some things are at Target (especially if you have coupons). Buying staples there makes me feel less fiscally anxious about buying organic fruit at Whole Foods.

  37. Cecil, you’re not alone. I pick up staples at Target as well, if I happen to be up there anyway. I also shop at Kroger. But in Cville (and other places too, probably) I can’t help but notice that it’s all about class. It seems like if you’re upper middle class, you shop at Whole Foods, period, even if you could find the same box of organic mac n cheese for your kids cheaper at Kroger. Or you might go to Harris Teeter once in awhile. I think that explains some of the derision some have for WF.

  38. Mac ‘n cheese? Make your own!
    We buy bulk at Sam’s (which has gotten better with decent quality fare), buy the unusual foods at WF, and pick up the sales items at Giant/Kroger.
    In terms of service quality (on average), my ranking goes as:
    1. Whole Foods (by far)
    2. Giant (the one on 29 has mostly professionals)
    3. Sam’s (service? we’re there for price, but at business hours, the isles are large)
    4. Kroger (invariably abysmal service, perhaps has a few pros)
    5. Teeter (just a bunch of kids who don’t give a shit)

  39. Are we talking about the Harris Teeter on Barracks Road? The staff there has gone way out of their way to help me with all kinds of things. I do try to avoid the UVA crowd there. Maybe I’ve been lucky.

    There’s something of a class divide among the various grocery stores, and even within two stores in the same chain. But that doesn’t bother me as long as I’m getting a good deal. I can be any class I need to be.

  40. “There’s something of a class divide among the various grocery stores, and even within two stores in the same chain. But that doesn’t bother me as long as I’m getting a good deal. I can be any class I need to be.”

    True. And I can be any class too: local, yocal, international, whatever. But service is service, whether that’s with a cashier calling you “honey” or “sir”. It’s the attitude. It’s the care for a job well done.

    Giant on 29, for instance, is not high-class and maybe even a bit stern. But I can count on their profesionalism, most of the time.

    Teeter, well, forget it. You may have won the roulette one day and had decent service, but by and large, the kids there are hateful, pretentious and unprofessional. Not that that’s any worse than the cashier/bagger “badassers” at Kroger near Lowe’s! But Teeter’s prices are the highest of all for the same stuff, so they get no pass from me.

    Whole Foods can be quite expensive, but in terms of raw produce, you get what you pay for… We never shop the cold-side prepared foods, as those are not really competively priced and are necessarily better. But this is not to be confused with the catering dept, which kicks ass!

  41. Interesting perspectives! I go to the Barracks Road HT and, like Elizabeth, find their customer service wonderful. The cashiers are almost always friendly and helpful. I’ve also spoken to the general manager a couple of times about various things and found him helpful.

    But HT’s prices are driving me back to the Barracks Road Kroger, except when I buy seafood – Kroger’s seafood selection is pretty miserable. And I find the staff at BR Kroger to be a bunch of rude kids. Not to mention they don’t seem to know how to turn on the heat in the winter. I also agree that Whole Foods has great employees. But unfortunately, with rising food prices, I can’t always favor the store with the best customer service. I’ve never been to Giant much, but maybe I should try them.

  42. I like Giant’s service–I like the fact that they are union employees (at least I think they still are). They tend to be older (esp at Seminole Square) and maybe not the fastest checkers in the world, and they do get to chatting in a leisurely way with some customers…but I like a grocery chain that hires adults, pays them a union wage, and basically seems to treat them more like partners than like temporary wage slaves (maybe a Giant employee would tell me it’s not all that great, I don’t know).

    Some HT employees do a good job, but I hate the way they’ve all been trained/forced to ask me, in a very scripted way, if I was able to find everything I was looking for today. I distrust companies that “ensure” good customer service by requiring employees to parrot a script–window-dressing, I think.

    Whole Foods employees seem to be respected by their employer, as well–they seem to be allowed to have distinct personalities rather than being standardized and scripted into submission.

    Kroger and Food Lion, I just can’t deal with–those places just depress me. The workers seem disaffected and disrespected, that bleeds over into the way the stores are kept up…it sounds classist and snotty to say I avoid FL and Kroger’s, but it’s not because I think I’m too good for them–it’s really that the stores depress me. Same thing with WalMart. Target does not, though.

  43. I wonder if the various conflicting impressions are because people shop at different times of day and buy very different lists. I shop mornings at BR Kroger, HT, WF, and rarely,Giant. I find the help to be fine everywhere- I like that all these stores seem to do well keeping the older adult employees which I hope indicates adequate compensation. For the items I buy, I find that WF has become less expensive recently, and I am paying lots more attention to sales everywhere else to offset the increased costs of food.

    Who on earth cares about the status/class of where they grocery shop? Surely not folks who are securely upper middle class?

  44. I don’t shop at Harris Teeter much-their prices are higher for identical items found elsewhere. But I have found the clerks to always be helpful and professional. Any establishment can have a few jerks.
    If I ranked the grocery stores, Whole Foods and Giant would be in a virtual tie, followed by Kroger and Harris Teeter. And Food Lion would be at the very bottom of the heap. Their selection, store atmosphere,customer service-all very unimpressive. Okay for some things-like canned goods or nonfood items,but I would never buy fresh produce or meat there. I have heard the one on 5th St extended referred to as “the Hood”-and one does tend to see some pretty hoodish looking characters in any Food Lion.
    Of course the store I really miss is Safeway-and A&P was not bad at all either(not true of its replacement at Barracks Road,Farmer Jack with theat hoorid bumpkin logo of theirs).

  45. Arugila is good and all, but where can a man find some good ol’ wagyu beef to throw on the Barbie, oh, and to cook out, too.

  46. I’ve shopped at the Food Lion on 5th Street Extended for the past three and a half years. It’s not always my first choice, but the closest to my neighborhood. I have come to enjoy shopping there, because of the dedicated staff members who I’ve come to know over the past few years. You see people from all backgrounds, and it is what it is – a neighborhood store that’s convenient to get to for those of us who live nearby.

  47. I think HT has great customer service. There are a couple of cashiers there who remember I get a student discount before I even take my ID out. I’m really impressed with that. Still, the aggressive crowd control at HT is annoying. You’ll settle into a checkout line, with maybe one person ahead of you, you begin to peruse the magazine titles, and then a manager is making you drag your heavy cart into a different lane with a shorter wait. And for some reason, at HT, they freak out if you try to bag your own groceries. Why should I stand there like a dummy and let my food pile up so that the cashier can bag it all at the end? It’s faster and better for everybody if I do it myself, but any time I try, someone will come running over and stop me, and I almost worry I’m getting my cashier in trouble for allowing a customer to bag groceries.

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