Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
We toured the new store today for a preview before the doors officially open at 9 am Wednesday.
The store comes with a huge backstory; a lot has changed in those 13 1/2 years. It originally was supposed to be in a development called Fauntleroy Place across SW Alaska; that project stalled post-excavation and Whole Foods eventually pulled out, saying the terms of its lease – to provide a store for it to open – weren’t being fulfilled. Eventually, after a legal fight and auction, a different developer opened the project as Spruce, with LA Fitness in the commercial space. But by the time that opened four years ago, Whole Foods was already signed up as anchor tenant for The Whittaker – a seven-year journey that had more stops and starts, including a mayoral attempt to stop it and a short-lived decision to shelve the project. Then Amazon bought Whole Foods, and two years ago, the store plan was back on.
Now on with the tour:
The store is huge. The photo above looks across the checkout area – 6 self-serve, 8 full-serve – at the Fauntleroy-facing front of the store. Just beyond that is seating, plus more in a mezzanine, some outside, and some in the Brews and Blends coffee/tea/smoothie area toward the northeast entrance.
Moving south into the store on the east side, first section is Health and Beauty:
Then the produce section.
It’s not all organic, but they are serious about the retailer’s overall certification, with dividers between organic and non-organic produce, the “wet area” arranged so that water won’t drip from non-organic to organic, etc. Past the produce is the bulk section – food only, no non-edible items, although there are some unpackaged soaps in stock, such as Good soap with fair-trade shea butter, by Alaffia, one of many local/regional retailers, pointed out by cards and signage throughout the store, some including photos and bio info of the growers/makers.
Denise Breyley, one of our guides, evangelized a long list of local products as we walked around the store – finding local providers is her mission. On every aisle and every shelf, she pointed out countless Seattle/Northwest products. Some are already familiar names – like Ellenos yogurt – some, you might be seeing/tasting for the first time.
The local focus stretches to vegan, gluten-free, and other specialties. Breyley rhapsodized about Heidi Ho‘s vegan “cheese” dips – Heidi herself will be part of the opening festivities tomorrow (more on that shortly). On to the west side of the store:
You can get custom-cut meat and fish, with local/regional suppliers in the spotlight of that section too. On to prepared foods and self-serve bars, like the one with olives/antipasti:
Self-serve also applies to ordering kiosks in the prepared-food area – if you’re placing, for example, a pizzeria, taqueria, sandwich, ramen, rice bowl order – and of course the nearby hot-food, soup, and salad bar areas. Next to where you can fill your own containers, there’s also a case full of grab-and-go items (like Eat-Gud‘s beet poké), not far from an extensive cheese section (with monthly events planned) and a rack of gourmet chocolate, as well as self-serve cases of mochi ice cream and macarons.
On the way there, we passed the beer/wine/spirits section, where Beyley pointed out a specially chosen sipping whiskey from Woodinville Whiskey, named Alki 1601, with a limited amount ($69/bottle) available at WF. Yet another local sighting- this mural on the Fauntleroy side of the store:
It’s by Seattle-based artist Sarah Robbins.
A few other notes:
THE WHOLE FOODS/AMAZON LINK: Amazon Prime members get special discounts and deals, and you’ll be reminded of that throughout the store. You can download the WF app and then show your phone when checking out.
GRAND OPENING: Though the store doesn’t open until 9 am Wednesday (with store-team leader Gary Ruiz and the ~120 employees participating in a “breaking bread” ceremony that’s a company tradition), you’re invited to show up as early as 8, for food and beverage sampling outside. Tote bags with swag and more await the first 300 shoppers. One more grand-openig note: 5 percent of the store’s net sales on October 17th will go to the West Seattle Helpline.
HOW TO GET THERE: The Whittaker is at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, on multiple bus lines. If you’re driving, the garage entry is from the two-end driveway between the complex’s two buildings, on the north side of the driveway, with more than 200 spaces set aside for the store, the chain’s 28th in Washington state (its first, on Roosevelt in north Seattle, marks its 20th anniversary next month).