Crowds throng to opening of Whole Foods Market in Wichita
Published by: The Wichita Eagle
More than 100 people were on hand for the ceremonial opening events, which began about 20 minutes before the 9 a.m. official opening and included Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and Whole Foods’ Rocky Mountain region president Will Paradise.
And 20 minutes after the opening, it was standing room only in many parts of the store.
“It’s amazing the community has come out in such numbers,” said David Bisek, Whole Foods’ Wichita store marketer.
Sigrid Trombley was one of those Wichita residents in the first wave of shoppers.
“They’ve got beautiful produce,” said Trombley, an Indiana native who moved to Wichita in 1981.
“I suspect the prices will be higher here, but so will the quality,” she said.
Trombley has shopped at Whole Foods stores in Overland Park and Texas. About six years ago, she said, she started e-mailing the company, asking if and when it was going to open a store here.
“I’ve been e-mailing them on occasion. And I always got a polite response” that was noncommittal, she said.
Trombley said that while the chain’s focus is on healthy, organic foods, that’s not the primary attraction for her.
“It’s important,” she said. “But that’s not the No. 1 reason. I think it’s the choice, selection, variety.”
Variety is why Stacy Schlyer said she will be making regular trips to Whole Foods from her home near Goddard.
Schyler, who has shopped at Whole Foods stores in Colorado, said she likes to try “unusual” recipes but has had trouble finding some ingredients at other grocers in Wichita.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s a nice store. It looks nice. And the way it smells, I’d like one of everything.”
Also on hand for Wednesday’s opening were area vendors and producers whose products Whole Foods selected to be in its stores.
Beth Tully, owner of Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates, was handing out samples of chocolate and dried fruit to shoppers. Even though Cocoa Dolce operates shops in Wichita and Overland Park, Tully sees an opportunity to broaden her company’s distribution in Whole Foods stores beyond Wichita.
“We hope this is the first step in a long relationship with Whole Foods,” Tully said.
Andrew Gough, owner of Reverie Coffee Roasters, was handing out samples of his company’s iced coffee at the store. Reverie is selling its whole-bean coffee in the Whole Foods store. Gough said just the process of Reverie being selected to sell its products in Whole Foods “is a testament to the business.” He said getting in Whole Foods Wichita is “kind of paving the path” to additional growth for his 14-month-old company that operates a shop at 2611 E. Douglas.
Paradise, Whole Foods’ regional president, said in his remarks before the store opened that 25 local farmers and vendors were invited to sell their products in the Wichita store.
Bisek said the number of local vendors could grow as the store and the area vendors grow more familiar with one another.
“We expect more,” he said. “It’s a continuous process to bring in local producers. Local is huge for us, and we try to promote local as much as we can.”
Paradise, Whole Foods’ regional president, said in remarks before the store opened that one person had been lobbying for a Wichita store for more than a decade.
That person, he said, was Aunt Louise – an aunt to the wife of Jim Sud, Whole Foods’ executive vice president of growth and business development.
“She started this campaign 15 years ago,” Paradise said.
He also said in his pre-opening remarks that the Wichita Whole Foods set a company record last Saturday, when it held a public preview of the store. Normally those previews attract about 1,000 customers. “We took almost 3,000 people through the store,” Paradise said.
The store employs 120 people, 108 of whom are from Wichita, Paradise said.
Work on the nearly $4 million, 30,900-square-foot store began last September.
It is the anchor tenant to the Waterfront Plaza on the northwest corner of 13th and Webb, and directly across the street from the Waterfront office and retail development.
The store was earlier slated by the Austin, Texas-chain to be called Bread & Circus, because Wichita already had an independent grocer named Whole Foods. But the name changed in May after negotiations between Whole Foods and GreenAcres Market owner Barb Hoffman. GreenAcres purchased three Whole Foods Association stores that were not affiliated with the larger Austin chain.
The store’s regular hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.