Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whole Foods Market North Raleigh Location Opens Wednesday 3/16/2011

Attention all Whole Foods Market fans in Raleigh... A much needed second (and larger) location which has been in the works for nearly ten years will finally open on Wednesday, March 16th, 2011.  I've been following this story since September 2008 when a neighborhood grassroots effort began the process of attracting the grocery chain to North Raleigh.  The store officially broke ground in February 2010 and is now ready to open.  The new store is located at 8710 Six Forks Road near the intersection of Six Forks and Strickland just south of the I-540 Outer Loop.

I had the opportunity to take a sneak peak tour of the new location yesterday, a nice preview of the store before it opens to the public.  At first glance, the store appears very well done, incorporating new concepts, great signage and organization and many "green" building techniques.  But how will this new location serve Gluten Free consumers?  If you have previously been to the Wade Avenue location, you know two things - 1) the store is too small, cramped and busy and 2) if you are a Gluten Free shopper, you really only need to visit 2 aisles.  The majority of the stores GF items are grouped together which to me makes the often difficult task of GF shopping much easier.  I've always enjoyed the dedicated section approach - something that other area stores like Kroger and Harmony Farms also do.  Then there is the other approach that stores like Earth Fare, Lowe's Foods or Food Lion take - that is to mix in all the Gluten Free items with regular groceries.  Which do you prefer?

If you plan on shopping the new NRal Whole Foods location, hopefully you prefer the mixed in approach because that is exactly what they've done.  To me, it's a mistake and makes shopping much more difficult, especially for brand new GF'ers.  When you first start shopping GF, you don't recognize any of the brands and must re-learn all of your brand loyalty.  When GF pasta is mixed in with regular wheat pasta, it makes the possibility for mistakes much higher.  Additionally, you must rely on store employees to correctly put that little Gluten Free tag on the shelf under the GF product to draw your eye along with very careful reading of labels (you should do this regardless).  When GF goods are in their own dedicated section, this issue is eased somewhat.

Putting that aside, another location for Whole Foods which carries a huge selection of GF products, is a huge win for Raleigh area GF consumers.  I saw many of the products I've become loyal to over the past 2+ years along with some new products that are hard to find in other stores.  Not all of the shelves were stocked yet, but I'm assuming this location will probably carry the largest selection of GF products in Raleigh once it is fully stocked.  In addition, the location will stock excellent meat, seafood and produce sections with products from local vendors - all of these items are naturally GF. 

While this location is not really any more convenient for me personally than the Wade Ave location (it took me 30 minutes and about 50 stoplights to get there from downtown Raleigh), I will definitely stop in when I am in the area.  The only other item I'd like to mention is that in the 40,000 square foot store, they did not include a classroom or education center.  At the Wade Ave location as well as at Earth Fare in Brier Creek, these rooms can serve as meeting spaces, classrooms or cooking demonstrations for Gluten Free topics.  I'm a little disappointed there is not a space like this in the new NRal location - a space they could have used to put on Gluten Free events to draw in hungry GF consumers.

Overall, this is an awesome addition for the Gluten Free Raleigh consumer - let me know your thoughts.


The Gluten-free 'Dish' said...

Zach, thanks for sharing!

Zach said...

Having GF products in one section makes shopping so much easier. I tried the Whole Foods GF Bakehouse bread & for me it has been the best yet.I'm on my second loaf.Thanks for that tip. I can't remember who sent it to me. I eat GF because my Doctor said I had no choice. It is not fun so thanks for the help.

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