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09 November 2006

the new whole foods

the new whole foods, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Yesterday, about noon, the Chef and I walked into a madhouse.

About an hour before, he casually mentioned that he needed to pick up a few pounds of jasmine rice for the restaurant. (He’s making aromatic rice with the organic king salmon special, a rice simmered with lemongrass, pepper, ginger, and butter.) No problem — part of our day is driving through the city, fetching the fish for the restaurant and stopping for supplies. I love those trips with him. We’re in the car together, commenting on all the strange people we pass, singing along to good songs on the radio, and talking about food. At stoplights, sometimes, he puts his head on my shoulder, and I put my head on his, and we sit like that until the light turns green and it is time to go again.
How could I mind that kind of errand running?

Yesterday, after he mentioned that he needed jasmine rice, I sat up in bed and said, “Hey! That new Whole Foods opens today! Let’s go!” (I grow excited, to the point of three exclamation points, about new sources of food.) For days, the newspapers had been building this story. A big grocery store downtown! Organic food! Thousands of square feet big! Always wanting to see where the food action is, the Chef and I drove down Denny and made our way to the entrance of the store.

As soon as we entered, chaos ensued. Women in expensive coats banged into thin young men with goatees to reach the gleaming piles of produce first. Seven sushi chefs stood behind a plastic partition, furiously chopping and producing pretty tuna rolls. Walls of cheese beckoned us over to try more and more samples. Dozens of scrubbed-clean employees bustled through the crowds, wearing green aprons made of organic cotton and enormous, Stepford-wife smiles. They were just so happy to be serving us. There were little towers of tiny tins of spices, breads bursting out of their bags, and an entire section devoted to brightly colored useless kitchen utensils. (Really, does anyone actually need an avocado slicer?) Every aisle was full-to-surging with downtown residents on their lunch break, gawking at aisles of olive oil and a seafood station where they smoke fish for you as you wait. At the entrance of the store, a steady stream of tourists snaked their way in, after a stop at the Space Needle, which loomed in the distance. Most of them looked up at the high ceilings and the bounty of food before us as though they were entering a cathedral.

Maybe this is as close as we come to a cathedral in modern-day society.

Poor Chef. He was overwhelmed. He grew up in a town of 500 in Colorado. And even though he has lived in Seattle for many years, and he even spent six months in New York working at Gramercy Tavern — at the same time as I lived there, and we lived twelve blocks away from each other and never knew it — he is a country boy at heart. Crowds intimidate him. More than that, he truly does take everything in through his senses. He has no filter. So the barrage of intense color and frantic noise, organic food and thronging crowds, made his senses shut down. Luckily, I lived in New York longer than he did, and I know how to turn my body and make my way through crowds fast. I held his hand and led him to the bulk section. We filled a large bag from the brand-new bins and walked fast to the check-out counters. As we left, we saw twenty-two more people coming in.

We both felt good being back in the car.

I’m of two minds about Whole Foods. On the one hand, I’m a little overwhelmed by what a brand-logo-way-of-life they have become. It’s clear when you walk into any Whole Foods — but particularly the one I lived in for ten minutes yesterday — that they are selling more than tortilla chips and toilet paper. If you want to live the Whole Foods way, you sip organic tea as you lounge in your organic combed cotton robe from Japan and eat organic vegan cookies and write to your congressperson about organic farming.

Then again, that’s not entirely a bad way to be. (Well, I’m not a big fan of vegan cookies.) If they’re going to sell a way of life — and isn’t that what every corporation is doing? — at least it is a good one.

Their gluten-free cookies, brownies, and scones cost more than some people in Latin America make in a week. $7.89 for four cookies?

Then again, they have a gluten-free bakehouse that supplies an entire country with gluten-free baked goods, and I love them for that.

Their organic produce has the vivid colors of a Magritte painting and the gleaming-perfect skin of a fifteen-year-old fashion model. How does that happen when the apples and pumpkins I buy directly from the farmers have beautiful imperfections on every piece of fruit?

Then again, at least Whole Foods is bothering to establish a connection with local farmers and support organic growing.

Oh, I don’t know.

The fact is — I shop at Whole Foods. I also walk across the street to our local store nearly every day. I wander through farmers’ markets at least once a week, if not more. I heart Trader Joe's and PCC and Metroplitan Market. And sometimes — gasp! — late at night, the Chef and I are seen in Safeway.

Where do you buy your food?

I have to say, as maddening as the experience was — it made me happy to see a mob rush toward an organic grocery store. All for good food!

I’m just not going back until the tourists stop traipsing in.


At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shop at whatever is easiest. For me I do a combination of four places: Pike Place Farmer's Market, Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Costco. Today, I got a package from delicious planet which specializes in organic, locally grown, healthy meals that are ready to eat. We shall see how that goes; in theory, I like that I can have yummy food that is line with my values delivered to my door.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Mindy said...

Hello Shauna-
Never left you a comment before- but have been a fan of your blog for awhile. My guy John works at Whole foods where we live in Portland, Oregon. I know! IT IS crazy in there. But his 20 percent discount rocks our world! But I know what you mean about its corporate chain-ness. I like to shop as much as possible from the farmers market.
I have so enjoyed your stories and food. I have had many an inspiration based on your postings, example: Fig Newtons- Oh my GOD! I read your blog as you were meeting the chef, and Congratulations! It seems to be magical for you.
Please check out my own recently created blog:

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We shop at the Princeton Whole Foods every week. I like the hormone-free milk and meat. Yeah, I'm sure the crowds will die down soon, but we do love it!

When we were in San Francisco, it was actually cheaper to eat there than the hotel restaurants!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Elle said...

Our local organic food store, known officially as Food for Thought and sort of fondly as Food for Profit due to the fairly high prices for most things, sold out/ was sold to Whole Foods. Things are still pretty expensive but it really is nice that there IS a store with all of those good things in one place. The farmer's markets are still more fun and support really local growers. Our locally owned grocery store is where I buy lots of my food and they have a really extensive organic selection, too. Safeway is last resort. I love Trader Joe's, but they are quite a distance away, so it takes planning to shop there. We are so fortunate in this country to have so many choices.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Meredith said...

Good question! I try to just buy my produce from the Farmers' Market and almost everything else from Trader Joe's. If absolutely necessary, I will go to Ralph's to pick something up but I try my darnedest not to do so.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Angela said...


Good piece.

I live in Spokane, and we have very little here in the way of large whole food stores. Huckleberry's is the best, but very expensive since its a mom and pop shop.

Our farmers market is very small and not that great, but we have some GREAT farms in Greenbluff Valley (Spokane's Farmland) where we go to pick apples(probably where the apples for your applesauce came from!), pumpkins, peaches, etc.- all of summer and fall's bounty! And we have friend's that have an Organic Farm, near here, that provide us with great veggies and eggs!

So the rest of the food, spices, etc. we are left to buy at our local Safeway, or God forbid (gasp!)... Super Walmart!

Variety is good in Seatlle!

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very much with you about Whole Foods. Here in the Bay Area there just isn't a need to shop there much - We have lots of amazing farmers' markets with produce that is fresher, more local, more ethical (takes less gas & other resources to get from farm to my plate), and CHEAPER. We have big independent grocery stores that sell natural foods, and Trader Joes' (Joeses?) up the wazoo.I love Whole Foods and I hate it.

I love it because a) Their 365 store brand stuff is so cheap, and other than TJ's is one of the only sources of truly affordable natural foods... b) THey have so much GF stuff... c) They have a natural and/or organic version of EVERYTHING.

I hate it because a) their produce is often not local and is OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced (to the point where I want to laugh and point at anybody who buys it)... b) They are union-busting and corporate and put local establishments out of business... c) It is full of obnoxious yuppies. We call it "Whole Paychecks" because it's so expensive.

So the only things I buy there are things I can't find anywhere else, or gluten-free specialties. But I can spend hours and hours walking around in there, looking at all the things I COULD buy if I only had the money. I think at WF, you pay for the experience of being in a huge supermarket full of food you can rest assured doesn't have HFCS or MSG in it, and the experience of feeling upscale and New Agey (in that yuppie organic cotton & pilates kind of way). That is smart business on their part.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger leedav said...

We've had Whole Foods for a long time but just got Trader Joe's recently. I recently posted about how I wasn't very impressed. I'm lucky, though, because I have access to a year round farmer's market and an amazing co-op that supports local farmers in a way Whole Foods only dreams about!

At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am afraid I have become lazy; I order weekly from an organic delivery service that has ties to another service that carries a lot of GF stuff.
I only have Jewel-Osco, Dominicks and SuperWalmart out here in the sticks (1 1/2 hours from Chicago) and the nearest Whole Foods or Trader Joes are a somewhat long car drive away. So I am lazy and make most things come to me LOL

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Calli said...

We have a number of stores we go to.

1. The close Safeway.
2. The good Safeway.
3. Whole Foods.

We shop according to our needs -- the close Safeway is... well, close. The good Safeway has a gluten-free section and is much closer than Whole Foods. Whole Foods is almost half an hour away and we can only go about once a month to stock up on dry goods. I dig Whole Foods, but only once in a while. I'm a student, after all, and it's pricey.

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first comment but I have been reading your blog for months and LOVE IT. I completely sympathize with the chefs reaction to crowds, especially at Whole Foods. It is completely overstimulating, as is Wild Oats. Why is it that "health food stores" have been transformed from quiet,enticing food refuges into life style must-haves?
That being said I too am glad for the abundance of gluten free products and the awareness they bring.
As a Celiac and mother of two Celiac daughters I shop taste and price. I love our seasonal farmers market but do not reject the organic produce at Costco. And Safeway is actually doing a good job of highlighting organics and healthy foods in general. So, while not my ideal standard, shopping for deals has enabled me to stay home and cook healthy meals for my family.
Shauna, you are an inspiration, not only as a gluten free food lover but as a writer and a keen observer of life. Thanks for sharing it with us.

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Rachael Narins said...

I sometimes shop at a seriously low end market on the far reaches of LA (for cheap produce, especially herbs, and ethnic treats) and have found that quite a few things I buy there cost less at WF because, well, I dont think the Hispanic community is buying hummus and tofu at the same rate...

As for WF, I love them for what they are, and go many other places for what they arent. And the vegan pumpkin and snickerdoodle cookies they sell rock my world.


At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We here in Cleveland OH have been waiting for our "coming soon" Whole Foods for quite some time. The Whole Foods web site first showed Cleveland getting one "soon" early in 2006. When I asked about the status while in Columbus, I was told the Cleveland one is now pushed off until March 2007. So much for "soon".

From what I saw in Columbus, I like what Whole Foods has to offer. But, I sure hear you about the price of those cookies and such. That's why we make our own -- I am not eating cookies that are $2/each when I can bake my own. Though, I have heard some of theirs are rather good - perhaps I'll give in and try one just to see how they compare. I did buy some of their stock recently when it plunged 25% in a day, so I guess I should help their bottom line by buying more of their high-margin GF products :)

Either way, be glad you have another GF resource near by. Easy access to GF foods, and more GF supplier options are always good!

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I began boycotting Whole Foods as soon as I discovered their policies do not allow use of the reusable, washable containers from home in their deli / prepared foods section(s). I love reusing sturdy containers so I was frustrated and saddened the day Whole Foods employees told me I had to take home more plastic even though I'd brought perfectly clean, reusable ones of my own. This is hardly sustainability minded. The bitter icing: the plastics they insist you use aren't even recyclable in Seattle. This sets up a situation where you either keep every piece you acquire from Whole Foods or into the landfill they go. _Much_ of Whole Foods' refrigerated prepared foods are also housed in non-recyclable plastics.

The lesson I've learned: Whole Foods gives lip service and superficial gestures at sustainability, yet has built-in policies affecting the daily processing and packaging of their foods that are entirely hypocritical to their company's purported mission.

Now, shop at PCC all the time. PCC has no problem filling containers I bring from home with tasty foods.

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We went to Whole Foods once and feel no need to return. The GF stuff was very expensive, the organic produce more expensive and in no better shape than we get it in the neighbourhood, and frankly the big-boxiness gives me the creeps. I hate parking lots. I hate driving, period, and this alone keeps me away from Whole Foods and Costco.

That said, I'd like to recommend one kind of mega-food-store experience in southwest: Shun Fat. Go for the snake beans. Go for the lotus root. Go for the live frogs. Most of all, go for the swooning '80s musak: where else can you hear "One Night in Bangkok" in Vietnamese while you choose between fourteen brands of coconut cream? And a shopping cart you can barely push will still probably ring-in at double-digits. We love Shun Fat.

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Calli said...

Bah!! The live frogs in Shun Fat make me cry! They're all bloody and trampling over themselves... T___T I love frogs though, so I guess I'd be sensitive to that. I just stay out of the meat area now.

(Cultural food differences are hard sometimes.)

Um, second comment. Sorry. xD

At 12:33 AM, Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

"If they’re going to sell a way of life — and isn’t that what every corporation is doing? — at least it is a good one."

WF is a corporation. A Union-busting corporation based out of Texas. They are no better than any other business like this except that they put more money into spinning a larger tale about who they are and are not.

In Florida I could not have been happier to see them. But most other urban areas with farmer's markets and local health food shops? I'd rather not see them there.

Think I'm pulling your legs? I took them to the NLRB when I was 22 and I won.

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Amy said...

Around here, I can shop at three farmers markets (yay) a pretty decent Giant Foods (with bulk bins and a great selection of cheeses) more farm stands than I can count. The nearest Whole Foods and Trader Joes are near Philly, but they give me and excuse for a road trip. My eggs come from a friend who raises chickens. It's just very difficult to get a ripe avocado around here.

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whole Foods Market has despicable labor practices. It infuriates me that the (as you point out) brand-logo-way-of-life people who shop there can think of themselves as decent people because they shop at WFM, when they would never step one prissy (toulene-free) pedicured toe into a Wal-Mart.

In addition, when one talks about Food Politics, WFM has removed the impetus for the monied classes to get involved in the cleaning of our food productions. So what if dangerous pesticides are used on this fruit or that one? The people who used to use their cultural/class clout to agitate for clean food can afford $29 for a week's worth of out-of-season lettuce.

I love your weblog. Your recipes. Your verve. Rock on.

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here on Cape Cod we have no Whole Foods...nearest one is over 75 miles. I visit it on occasion but dislike the overstimulation, big business feel,and high prices. I feel I do just fine shopping at my local natural foods market where the owner remembers me and they suport local vendors. I shop at open air farmers' mkts in the season and do the rest at a locally owned village market. Our economy is so fragile here (very tourist based).I feel strongly about supporting the local people who tough it out to keep themselves going in the off-season.
Love your site, and your life, Shauna. I have used a lot of your writing to help a friend who in his 70's now knows he is gluten intolerant. Just visited him yesterday and brought some of your ideas and a pkg of the great Bob's Mill multi-grain cereal.
Thank you, for your openness and ability to put it into such delicious form for so many to enjoy!
My sister lives in the Alki area and she loves your writing too. She is looking forward to a visit to the Chef's restaurant!

At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Whole Food is bad, but it's not local, and I prefer to support local businesses. Plus it is a bit pricey. I will shop there in a pinch, but here in northern CA I shop at the venerable Berkeley Bowl - a home-grown kind of Whole Foods type of place. It's still a mob scene, but they have a phenomenal selection of produce, a good butcher/fish market and they are very inexpensive.

I have also noticed that not all that much of WF's produce is organic, but it's all fairly expensive. I'd rather shop at BB, which admitedly has less of a selection of organic, but all is reasonable. If I really want organic, I shop at the farmers' markets...

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Lianne Raymond said...

Ha - that's kind of funny since I'm going to be a tourist in Seattle tommorow (coming down from Victoria) and I've now added the new Whole Foods store to my list of places to go. And I wouldn't have even known about it if it weren't for your blog! ;-)

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I just got back from a grocery shopping trip- we do most of shopping at Trader Joe's and we love the fact that we can just walk right in and get our "list" of foods that we can't live without. I commented to my boyfriend on the way out that I spent $70 and if I had gone to Whole Foods I would have spent 4 times as much.

That said, if I could afford to shop at Whole Foods for all of my groceries, of course I would want to. The quality is unrivalled in terms of the fresh meat and fish. However, I love the egalitarian spirit of Trader Joe's, and the sense that somehow, because you're paying less, you're somehow not contributing to a consumer culture, or something.

And, since I needed to buy a chicken to roast for dinner later, and they don't sell those at Trader Joe's, and I couldn't afford one from Whole Foods, we stopped by Albertson's on the way home. Much as I'm not happy about roasting a Foster Farms chicken, what can ya do, right?

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and I also subscribe (when I have the cash) to an organic produce delivery service. It's $29 a box, for about 10 different varieties of fruit/veggies and the quality is amazing. If anyone out there is in SF or LA, it's called Organic Express. It's actually cheaper to have it delivered to your house than if you went to Whole Foods and bought it and brought it all home.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger GrewUpRural said...

Before my gluten intolerance, I would go to the local supermarket. Since the intolerance, I still go the supermarket, but also add Whole Foods and my local health food store. The Whole Foods is located in the city which can be a pain for me to get to. However, WF is putting another location in our state, which happens to be near my part-time job. I am excited that I don't have to fight traffic to get my gf pasta and desserts.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger a. said...

Hi Shauna, I love reading your blog. Congrats on 200 and your upcoming nuptials!
I'm from Austin where Whole Foods got it's humble start, and I remember going there with my mom while in Elementary school in the 80's. The store was very small, and my favorite part was ordering smoothies and sprout packed sandwhiches from the little food counter. Whole Foods has come along way since then, it's all over the country, and growing. Austin recently got the International Headquarters, mega store, which sounds like what just opened in Seattle. It is completely overwhelming, and strange in many ways, but it's alot like a European market in ways too. When I go there I look at all the rich stylish people shopping there and picking organic this and that. I want to hate them and the whole concept, ( because I was privy to the concept before them, and before it was cool) but then I think why?
Whole Foods is a store peddling -whole foods, and organic foods at that, to the whole country, on a large scale, in the world of mcdonalds and taco bell, thats just what we need. (Fast food should be illlegal) This country is largely overweight, and in very bad health and needs to change its diet. In france they dont feed animals hormones and pump produceup with chemicals. Why do we do it here? Hopefully the continual growth and popularity of Organic farming will increase, and later lower the price so people of all economic backgrounds can afford it. SAdly the whole foods shopper is in a certain economic,educational, and sometimes more than not- a racial bracket. That needs to change. Eating healthy and caring about where your food comes from and how it's grown, has become trendy, and thats o.k, because there are worse trends to follow. I also can't afford to get all my groceries there, but I get what I can.
Walmart scares me, Whole Foods doesn't.

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like a. above, my first experience with Whole Foods was at their original store, a small, funky place near downtown Austin. It was one of my two neighborhood groceries while I was in grad school in the mid '80's. I loved it in part for being more similar to the food co-op I'd joined while in college in New England than to the standard, though largely pre-chain, groceries with which I'd grown up in Houston. At a time when finding any organic food in Texas was difficult, WFM was a bright spot for me.

By the time I finished grad school, WFM had several stores in Austin, and were expanding around Texas. When I moved back to Houston, I was thrilled to find that one had opened nearby. I shopped there regularly, although I became disenchanted with the corporate culture as they grew, bought out local stores elsewhere, and became less the place that I'd so loved in Austin.

My parents and sister still shop at WFM regularly; there's only one other grocery in Houston that can match WFM's quality.

I feel phenomenally lucky to be living in a place with such amazing local food. I buy much of my food at farmers markets, supplemented by trips to Metropolitan Market and Trader Joe's. I go to Whole Foods for particular items that I haven't found elsewhere - seville oranges in January, for instance. I would probably not shop at Safeway at all, were it not for some no-salt-added condiments and reduced sodium bacon; my husband is on a very low sodium diet, and I haven't been able to find those products anywhere else.

At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have yet to experience a Wholefoods, but I won't need to travel over the Pond in order to do so. I can just sit here and wait for 2007 and Wholefoods to arrive in London. Until then, I make do with Borough Market, Marylebone Farmer's Market, Fresh & Wild and Planet Organic. And I buy my gluten-free bread online or in Waitrose...

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your site a couple weeks ago through an article posted in the Washington Post - great job you're doing!

I understand your mixed feelings about Whole Foods.

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance about 2 months ago. I've loved reading your early posts about how the new "diet" radically changed your energy levels and such - it's done the same for me.

Anyway, back to the Whole Foods recently-diagnosed, I'm still struggling with "where and how" do I get healthy, and relatively inexpensive food. I'm a single mother with a pretty demanding 40+ hour/week job - I need convenience and cheap when it comes to shopping and cooking. My new shopping habits seem to be mean committing an entire afternoon each week to grocery shopping, at a minimum of 3 different grocery stores. This is hardly "convenient" to me. If I could do all my shopping at Whole Foods,I would. But the prices are way too high for me. I imagine my grocery bill would come to near $150/week for a 2 ppl household on a single salary - yikes!

But your blog is helping me to think of some creative ways to work around these issues. I'm eager for any advice you can share on "conveneince" issues relating to shopping and cooking!

Keep up the wonderful work on your blog!

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe all of the horrible things people are saying about Whole Foods. Sure, the prices are high, but despicable labor practices? I've worked at Whole Foods for over a year and I'm pretty pleased with the company. I make $3 more an hour than the other grocery stores pay, have FREE healthcare ( yes, FREE), get gainsharing ( which is $200 to $300 a month) and had a chance to get PAID to do community service outside the store. They almost always promote from within too. So really, is that THAT bad?

On the gluten free products, I work in the bakery so I know how much we pay for the products at wholesale. Something that we pay $5 for, we'll mark up to $7 or $8. Not a big markup for a bakery item.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Wow. Yowsa. Obviously I touched a nerve here, unintentionally. Fabulous!

I don't have the answers, and I'm not going to try to moderate. But it's clear how important our decisions about how we buy our food really are in the world. Whatever choice we make — to shop at Whole Foods or not — we must make it consciously. I really thank all the different voices here for speaking up, and for listening.

I can't address everyone personally, or I would be here all day. But I have to say a) Shuna, you rock, as always. b) Lianne, you should come to the Chef's restaurant instead of Whole Foods! c) Cape Cod Kitty, you made my day. If there's anything I can do for your 70-year-old friend, please let me know.

Keep thinking and talking, everyone.

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The closest Whole Foods to me is on Roosevelt and that is still 20-25 minutes away in good traffic... I would like to explore them more, but I never have found them to be convenient or not-crowded.
My favorite place to shop Gluten-Free is Manna Mills. With Food Emporium running a really close second.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger firefly said...

I found this thread in February 2007 by Googling "i hate whole foods". Their new store opened in Portland, Maine last week (in the middle of a blizzard, ha ha) and we finally went today to "grocery shop" but this time the ha ha was on us.

I visited quite a few links on the hit list from this phrase and found that WF's pattern is to move into a town, buy out the local organic grocer, and turn shopping into a total f*ing nightmare. Well, same here. I have food sensitivies (can't eat gluten or casein) and shopped the local organic place because the merchant took the time to bring in all kinds of interesting stuff from all over the world (like non-dairy cashew pesto from Italy). Their prices were a little bit high, but there were sales that went on for a whole month, and anyway when you can go into a store and pick and choose and know that everything there is organic and already vetted according to certain guidelines, it's worth it. Fresh stuff was local and had recognizable names -- This Farm for organic beef, That Farm for organic pork, Another Farm for organic produce.

Whole Foods moved in gradually over a year and in the past few months all that began to change. The choice became to either buy cheap crappy store-brand '365 Organic' stuff (from where? who knows) or pay full list price for the brand stuff ($20 for a jar of organic raw almond butter? yeah, right). Stuff I'd gotten used to started to disappear. A month before the new store was scheduled to open, stuff in the old store was discounted 20 percent and all of a sudden there was nothing to buy so we had to scrabble between Wild Oats and the local chain grocery store to make up the difference. Is this how they 'care' about their customers? Profit from the store brand stuff lands in their pockets, and the markup from the brand name stuff lands in their pockets too.

Yesterday we tried to get to the WF store. No dice: parking lot full, situated in a place that is near-impossible to get to. Today went again. Found a spot on an outer street. Place was jammed with people gawking like 'organic' means 'freak show' and, sure enough, more of the stuff I'd gotten used to was gone. All the meat at the butcher counter was 'natural,' not one labeled organic; that was all shrink-wrapped with a generic "produced locally" label in a refrigerated display. This Farm, That Farm, and Another Farm? All gone, at least in terms of names on the labels. WF said in a press release that to them 'local' means the whole northeast region plus Nova Scotia. It takes 8 hours to get from one end of Maine to the other, and that ain't local.

I don't care that they came to Portland; Wild Oats moved right in next door to the Whole Grocer and both places prospered. What I hate is that Whole Foods wiped out the Whole Grocer and now I don't have a choice -- I have to shop at a "corporate logo organic" store.

I'm really a little angry with the owner of the Whole Grocer. They established a 'customer rewards' program that kicked in with $10 off after you spent $400 there. I used to get my discount every 4 or 5 weeks.

But my new motto is 'no loyalty.'


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