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Whole Foods Opening Without Me

June 17, 2014

Never. If you asked me when I thought Albany would get a Whole Foods, I’d say never. And even when the grocer announced its plan to bring a market to the Colonie Center Sears, I wasn’t fully convinced that it would actually open.

Tomorrow. That’s when it happens for real.

Yesterday, or so it seems, the Capital Region had only two grocery stores, neither of which really appeared to be trying that hard to provide great produce, meats, or anything that might connect food to joy or well-being. Sure, there was the co-op, but it too was cramped, dingy and crazy expensive for non-working members. Adventure in Food Trading was a small bright spot. All of this drove the desperate two hours to the nearest Trader Joe’s with coolers in tow.

Today that has changed. There’s been massive expansion, renovation, and a surge of competition in Albany’s grocery and specialty food markets. It has been great for consumers, and it has absolutely improved the level of food available to residents of the region.

To give everyone just a tease of what’s to come, Whole Foods invited some members of the local media for a tour of the new store. While I’m totally bummed to be missing the grand opening tomorrow, I’m delighted that Jennifer Hernandez of Sweetly Tart agreed to come out of semi-retirement to cover the story for the FLB.

Here is her report.

Jennifer Hernandez
FLB Correspondent

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of taking Daniel’s place on a media tour of our new Colonie Whole Foods Market, a much anticipated addition to the Capital Region supermarket scene.

Whole Foods Market is pretty much a foodie’s (for lack of a less twee sounding word) shopping paradise. The store in Colonie will be the chain’s first foray into the upstate NY area. The market will open this Wednesday, June 18th at 9:00am with an 8:30am bread-breaking ceremony, which sounds exactly like something a store like that would do. I think it’s rather sweet and perfectly symbolic of the chain’s dedication to having close relationships with the farmers, merchants, restaurant owners and purveyors of whatever locale the chain is trying to become a part of.

The store is starting off on the right foot with building community relations by donating 5% of opening day sales to the Capital District Community Gardens. They’ve also partnered with local food banks to donate day-old breads, sandwiches and prepared foods. The new store will be located in Colonie Center Mall, which, I must admit, I have been and still am apprehensive about. I’m going into it with an open mind but I’d imagine it will be hell to shop there on the weekend or any other time the mall is busy.

Whole Foods Market is committed to local, organic and sustainable food and that commitment was evident in all the departments as we toured the store. All their milk is free of synthetic hormones and antibiotics and they feature local dairies like Battenkill Valley and Ronnybrook. The produce department will feature a large selection of seasonal produce from the Hudson Valley and Columbia County. The seafood department follows sustainability standards set by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the majority of their seafood will come from Massachusetts and Long Island where the company has their own docks. Their butcher department works with the Global Animal Partnership which certifies the humane treatment of farm animals.

There is an entire case dedicated to local cheeses. And there are craft beers, perhaps some local, but I don’t drink beer and I may have tuned out that part. Their bakery features products from local bakeries such as Troy’s Xs to Os Vegan Bakery and Saratoga’s Gluten Free Goods. They bake bread daily and completely from scratch which is unheard of for most supermarkets.

Rounding out the food offerings is a prepared foods section, several cases of grab and go items, a hot and cold bar, coffee and juice bar and café and made from scratch pizza. There is a play area for children and planned cooking classes to get kids interested in whole foods cooking from a young and impressionable age.

With a dedicated local forager position hired to source products and build relationships with local vendors, it’s clear that Whole Foods Market is passionate about its commitment to local communities and there is nothing to complain about there. Now I’m just looking forward to seeing if I can afford to shop there.

*Full disclosure: all tour participants were gifted with a swag bag in a reusable tote. The bag contained Tara’s Kitchen sauce, Saratoga Peanut Butter, Gatherer’s Granola and a chocolate from The Chocolate Gecko. This bag in no way influenced my opinion, they’d have to offer cash for that.

# # #

Dedicated forager? Okay. That already goes beyond expectations. This is going to be exciting. And to Jen’s point about prices, I’ve been shopping at the Whole Foods down here in Princeton. Let me tell you, some of the things on my shoppinglist are cheaper at Whole Foods than anywhere else. Like any grocery store, savvy shoppers are rewarded.

Prices can vary store to store and region by region. So I can’t wait to get into the Albany store that I never thought would exist and run it through the paces. There are good deals to be had on clean food and household goods. I’m sure of it. And the competition will just make sure to keep everyone else on their toes.

It’s a great time to be a food lover in the Capital Region who knows how to cook. And if you need help, I’m happy to be your guide. Just let me know.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    June 17, 2014 12:12 pm

    Local forager eh? Maybe he can arse around my backyard and I can sell him some of my excess radishes for 10 bucks a piece. As a local, organic, ultra-mini-farm I can command a premium.

  2. June 17, 2014 5:25 pm

    Thanks for the opportunity, Dan. It was pretty cool to see all the work that goes into the setting up of store like that.

    I’m glad to hear that the prices aren’t that bad. I’m definitely a savvy shopper which I how I usually end up doing my weekly shopping at three stores. I’ll definitely give them a try, just not on a Saturday or Sunday.

  3. June 18, 2014 10:23 am

    “Whole Foods Market is committed to local, organic and sustainable food and that commitment was evident in all the departments as we toured the store.”

    Sure they are. I just wonder, how does selling products made by 60-cent a day prison labor square with this commitment?

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