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Monday, June 16, 2014

It's the Whole Foods Countdown

So it's really happening - in two days the Capital Region will get its first Whole Foods. Now I say first, because the word is out they are planning on opening more in the area. Where, I don't know... but if they think it'll work, more power to them.

Turns out today is the media day/sneak peek. I don't know... I think my invite got lost in the mail.

I kid.

Kind of. Maybe.

Whatever. It opens on Wednesday and you betcha I'll brave the traffic and head there. Possibly after work. Or after I work out. Either way, I am so there.

If you've been to Colonie Center in recent weeks, you would have seen glimpses of what awaits. The shelves have been stocked for some time, and the banners for the different sections are up. The tables for the food court area are assembled and have been used by staff as they do their team meetings (that's what it looks like through the windows). The distressed displays are in the main entrance, waiting to be stocked with weekly sales items. And hey... it even looks like the lights in one of the signs is starting to go out!

If you haven't been there, or have never stepped foot in a WF before, worry not. I went out and checked some of the nearby locations to give you an idea of what to expect.
 
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Whole Foods Market (Hadley, MA)
 
I thought I took more pictures of this place, but I guess not. While it may look like the store is big on the outside, the inside is cramped. At 43,000 sq ft it shouldn't feel so crowded. But I suppose since the next store is in , they have to pack in as much as possible. And on my visit, it seemed like that. A maze of sorts to get through all the different departments. The only areas where there was breathing room were at the ends. And the eating area. Everywhere else seemed too close together. But it could have been crowded. It was later in the evening... who knows.

I remember a wine section. I really liked that. I really want ours to have one (damn New York and their archaic laws... let me have my wine!!!) but watch it just be beer. Healthy Living Market has the wine shop attached... BJ's has the liquor shop. So it is doable. I'm hoping for the best.

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Whole Foods Market (Paramus, NJ)
 
This WFM is attached to Bergen Town Center, a mall I love to shop in (outlet stores!!). The layout of this store is what I envision the Albany location to be like, although it's more than twice the size (77,000 sq ft). You can enter from inside the mall (can't at the Albany location... unless they were hiding it), or from the parking lot. So both the mall shoppers and people from the surrounding offices can run in and quickly grab something. 

I remember checking it out when it first opened (so much closer than Edgewater, and bigger than Ridgewood) with Mags and it was... wow. Nothing along the lines of the clouds parting, rays of sunshine beaming down, and a choir of angels singing as we walked in. It was just... big. If you enter from the parking lot, you walk in to the produce area. This is a large area, and spaced out. Lots of organic produce, local produce, conventional produce. Local organic, local conventional. Organic local, organic conventional... wait... scratch that last part.

Ha ha? Ha ha!

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If you come in from the mall, you walk in to their prepared food area. You have to walk past a makeshift wine wall to get to the food, but ooh... wine. This area is spacious - more than enough room for people and carts to go around and pack up foods in their madefromrecycledmaterialsandheyyoucancompostitwhenyouredone take out containers. It's not bad though... how can a dedicated dessert bar ever be bad?!? And looking at Pinterest, some WFs have Paleo bars. Must be major cities...

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This location is the only one I recall in New Jersey that has a wine section. And it is a very nice section indeed. The don't have two buck chuck like Trader Joes, but they do have $2.99, $3.99, $4.99, and $5.99 wine deals. Their own label, 365 was pricer than these... and despite the low prices they were quite drinkable. And the wine chiller... That swirling vortex of ice cold water to chill your wines. Makes no sense really - they warm up when you get back to your car anyways.

This is probably one of the more spacious WFs, and hopefully the Albany location follows suit.

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Whole Foods Market (Edgewater, NJ)

Before the Paramus location opened up, this was my go-to Whole Foods. Sure, the one in Ridgewood was closer, but it was small and cramped. not to mention getting there was annoying. Same goes with their parking lot. But the Edgewater one, it has a lot going for it: right up the road from Mitsuwa and other shopping strips; and they have a Jamba Juice in store. Say what you want about JJ, but smoothies are my jam. I am hoping that the Albany location would have one, but they have fallen out of style.

It has the space, but the store feels cramped. You constantly have to weave in and out down the aisles to pass. The seafood counter? Consistent bottleneck. But hey, when in Jersey...

I made a funny. Ha ha!

It's right off of River Road, which is a high traffic area. There is a parking lot, but they share with the other stores in the strip. Normally I dint have a problem parking, but peak hours you're looking at a trek from the far corner spots. You just have to keep thinking you're pre-emptively burning calories for the treats that await inside.

And there are other store I can mention, but they pretty much fall into that same category of packed full of items in a small space. They are all about good practice when it comes to the foods they sell, so you can't fault them for that. And they really do push local items in their stores, but based on the posts on Facebook, they really seem to be pushing the local angle for the Albany store.

I really hope the Albany location resembles that of the Paramus location, but I am sure it will be more like the Edgewater/Hadley ones. Of my concerns, parking may be an issue. Especially since it is in a mall and mall goers need to spots too. Cost isn't as shocking as it once was, and spending a little more for better quality is worth it.

And for those of you bemoaning this arrival, move along. Yes, I support local businesses. Hell, it's going on almost a decade of being a member at Honest Weight. Do I shop there exclusively? No, that isn't practical. And this does not mean I will shop only at Whole Foods. I shop at many store because each has (stating the obvious) its own niche. And like any other shopper, I compare prices. If it's a good deal, it's a good deal. No matter what the store is.  

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