Davis has long prided itself on being a community that cares. We care about education, we care about community, we care about the environment and sustainability. To further cement that reputation, Davis is now home to another grocer that claims to care about all of those things as well. Fans of Whole Foods can rejoice because the unabashedly yuppie grocer is opening its doors this week Wednesday at 10 AM in its new location at the Davis Commons.
Taking the space once occupied by Borders, the Whole Foods banners have covered the windows for months but in just a few days, the wrapping is undone and the doors will be open wide.
I’ll admit up front, I’m no Whole Foods junkie. In much the same way I didn’t eagerly anticipate its rival hipster grocer, Trader Joe’s, I greeted the news of Whole Foods arrival with interest, but not overt excitement. Truth be told, my wife and I have three kids and the idea of adding another store to the list of places to visit is daunting. I had heard, read, and seen Whole Foods before, but I had never even set foot in one. (Insert audible gasps by the stores devotees). So when I was invited to take the tour and sample some of the foods prepared on site by Whole Foods chefs, I was curious, but not giddy.
Walking in to the store is a bit of a throwback to earlier days. The store itself is less than 20,000 square feet, and much of the space is dedicated to the prepared foods section where hungry folks can grab a bite to eat. That said, it didn’t feel small or cramped – more homey – like the smaller grocery stores I remember growing up.
They’ve done their homework to endear themselves to the Davis community with bike parts and murals to showcase the local community. They’ve attempted to give it a “Davis” feel. The signs in the aisles and around the store are from repurposed wood and other items. (Ironic side note: many of the signs have what is commonly called “chicken wire” as part of them, historically used for chicken coops, even as Whole Foods promotes their free-range chicken meat on adjacent signs. I chuckled as I took the tour, but no one else seemed to think it funny.) That said, the store is funky, bright, and rather enjoyable to walk around in. That opinion may change on a Saturday afternoon when its chock-full of people, but the layout seems nice enough.
Irony aside, customers looking for local vendors, sustainably raised meats, foods with no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives, and healthy alternatives to all sorts of foodstuffs that are less than “whole” will find themselves more than pleased with the offerings at Whole Foods. Indeed, their motto of Whole Food, Whole People, Whole Planet is designed to make consumers feel like they can trust what is available throughout the store, as opposed to hunting for conscience-clearing items in other stores. Granted, what exactly is sustainable or local or guilt-free shopping is highly subjective, but Whole Foods seems intent on earning a shoppers trust. They’ll give you a nickel for using your own bag, with the laudable option of donating that nickel to a local charity they work with each quarter. For the opening, those nickels can go to the UC Davis Arboretum or the Davis Farm to School program – both excellent choices that even a cynic like me can’t fault them for.
In a store this size the wine and beer selection won’t blow you away (they don’t have the floor space) but what they have is carefully chosen and for the most part, seemed pretty good. Keeping with (certain) student drinking habits, one can even pick up a six pack of what is generously deemed a “lager” for $2.99. Normally, regular shoppers at Whole Foods profess their love for the store with the financial caveat – you get what you pay for. In other words, don’t expect rock bottom prices for high quality food. The same is undoubtedly true of the beer – if you pay 2.99 for a six pack of beer, well, you get what you pay for.
I have spoken with people who are thrilled at Whole Foods arrival, people who are indifferent, and people who will refuse to shop there. Wherever you find yourself on that spectrum, the folks at Whole Foods want you to know they are proud of their store, proud of their products, proud of their reputation, proud to bring jobs to Davis, and proud to be a company that cares. In that sense, they’ll fit right in here.