The Castro Whole Foods Has Opened

View of Whole Foods front doors from the Safeway side of the street.. Photo: SFGate

View of Whole Foods front doors from the Safeway side of the street.. Photo: SFGate

At last, the highly anticipated Whole Foods Market (2001 Market Street) grocery has opened in the Castro. Boasting a whooping 28,000 square feet of shopping space below the new, recently completed, 38 Dolores apartment building, the pristine purveyor of all things ‘organic’ threw its doors open wide on Wednesday post-cutting of the ceremonial challah bread by Dist. 8 Sup. Scott Wiener to the appreciative oohs and ahhs of about 100 shoppers.

This is the 7th store opened in the green grocer’s steady push into the City and the 31st of the chain in the region. Whole Foods prides itself on tailoring new stores to the local populations and communities wherever they open. They certainly have thrown the net out wide here in an attempt to forecast or interpret current neighborhood needs and trends with this new facility.

Whole Foods in the Castro new shoe shine stand awaits your polishing needs. Photo:  Uptown Almanac

Whole Foods in the Castro new shoe shine stand awaits your polishing needs. Photo: Uptown Almanac

In the Castro store you’ll find a shoe shine station that looks both equally new and old-timey evoking a Burning Man sans dust retail vibe. Light fixtures made out of repurposed hats, battered yet highly polished wood, and a selection of fedoras to purchase –in case you forgot yours– await you and your scuffed, unpolished, shoe-shining needs.

Post foot buff wander over to the popup oyster shucking station and, well, shuck some oysters from a wide variety of regions in the state and along the US coastline. After getting completely shucked, head to the drink bar and wet your whistle with one of the bountiful and exotic selections of available beverages.

“These things are obviously not food-related, but our focus is on community and giving the community different reasons to come in and congregate,” said Rob Twyman, Whole Foods spokesperson to SF Business News, who was hired last year to oversee the company’s expansion into the area.

Whole-Foods-logo-roundWhole Foods is based in Texas and is the 9th largest grocery retailer in the US. It recently received a 85 out of a possible 100 from the Human Rights Campaign Fund when it was rated in its standards of equality in the workplace.  The other bump to our Castro economy is the approximately 150 to 200 new full-time jobs and that’s always a good thing.

Despite my eye rolling the new grocery retail spot is a bit of a design marvel compared to all of the other city’s Whole Food locations like in Potrero Hill or Upper Haight. Steel structures and plywood were molded and twisted to make trussed canopies in the seating area. Window dressings are decidedly retro and used to balance all the huge glass windows and steel beams. You’ll also find top-hat-shaped lights providing both ambient mood lighting placed in corners around the store. The rest of the retail space is characterized by shapes that evoke Victorian era tastes, stripes as a cohesive visual element and urban street art aesthetics.

Mmmm...veggies!

Mmmm…veggies!

You’ll be able to decide for yourself if you think they hit the design mark on your next shopping excursion. Along with all the community targeted innovations the store is boasting products on its shelves from 50 local vendors with a wide variety of products from artisanal cheese to handmade soaps. Just be prepared for sticker shock. This place isn’t for those looking to cut coupons, but, should be well-tailored for all the newly minted Twitter millionaires now calling the Castro home.

Waiyde Palmer

Waiyde Palmer loves San Francisco, social activism and punk rock(ers). His work has appeared in Handbook Magazine. SF Bay Times, The Advocate, Diseased Pariah News and American Music Press . He also has an extensive and repeatedly redacted FBI file.

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35 Responses

  1. rblack says:

    I can’t afford to come here for my weekly shop, but if I’m having a special dinner or need a specialty item, they have things that I just can’t find anywhere else.

    I’ll state again how confusing the Castro CBD, and various neighborhood association’s policies on formula retail are.

    Why is CVS, Bank of the West, and Whole Foods fine, but Chipolte, Trader Joes, and Starbucks bad?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

    • Mitch Mansfield says:

      The CBD and the neighborhood folks simply voice their opinion. It’s the Planning Commission that makes us all confused. They are making up the rules as they go along.

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

      • Sanchez Resident says:

        Let’s give DTNA some credit when it comes to the Formula Retail rules. DTNA proposed these rules to the Planning Department.

        Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

        • rblack says:

          Did they object to the Whole Foods? The CVS? Bank of the West?

          All formula retail no?

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

          • Sanchez Resident says:

            rblack – I don’t remember the position of DTNA for the Whole Foods. You can check the past newsletters on the dtna.org site. There is usually information related to activity about reviews.

            I do remember that the CVS project has several conditions (i.e. delivery times, no alcohol sales, etc.) that DTNA requested and became part of the CU issued by the City. If you look back at the newsletters, DTNA didn’t object to CVS, but I don’t believe they endorsed it either.

            In a recent (maybe the latest) newsletter there is an article by the current President of DTNA related to the signage of the Bank of the West. I’m not sure of the timing, but I seem to recall that banks were not covered by formula retail rules until just recently. I think the BoftheW was permitted before the restrictions went into place.

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

          • rblack says:

            Thanks for the info!

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • MichaelB says:

      I’m not sure how much thought actually goes into some of these approvals, but lately it seems like new formula retail (CVS, Whole Foods, Bank of the West) is more readily approved when there are already established formula retail competitors in the neighborhood (Walgreens, Safeway, Citi, respectively).

      Coincidence?

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Linda says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 12

    • rblack says:

      You realize there is still the Safeway across the street right?

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

      • Linda says:

        Now here’s a response of depth and social awareness! Thanks, dear, I am familiar with the Safeway.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 9

        • rblack says:

          Then what are you complaining about? Can the local market not support both? Is the adding of 150+ jobs to the area a bad thing? Is the highlighting of 50+ local vendors a problem? What about the added tax revenue?

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 6

    • Mitch Mansfield says:

      A grocery store opens up in a city where you don’t live and you get sad, and then you admit that you shop at the store you are complaining about? I’m very confused.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

      • Linda says:

        Hi,Mitch. Sorry for mixed message. Thank you for calling me in it. Yes, I do shop certain items in WF.Shouldn’t we expect a WF in the Castro be a little over the top! I guess I was hoping for a little more community content in the article sbout the opening. My shot at techies was misplaced,and I apologize. I have close friends and family members who are being forced out as buildings in the Castro are sold.
        I know the community is working to help some of the less fortunate who live there. Take care.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    • Independent1 says:

      I AM a teacher and I have NO problem with the techies and I love that W Foods is in the neighborhood. I do have a problem with people like you blaming everything on the techies. These hardworking people are amazing!

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  3. bluesparrow says:

    The sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption.” It describes SF more and more every day.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

    • rblack says:

      Doesn’t everyone do that to a degree? (not arguing with you just thinking through your comment)

      Isn’t the person with the Rainbow Grocery hemp reusable bag making a statement as well? Or is that somehow different? (again, not being confrontational just wondering)

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

      • Linda says:

        Please check under “comments” where I attempted to sort through my emotional response to the opening of WF article that friends sent out to me. Enjoy the store. I am sure I will visit when next in San Fran.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

    • SeanC says:

      San Francisco has been synonymous with hedonism for centuries now. Why should right now’s flavor be any different?

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  4. Linda, what does your comment even mean? I work for a non-profit, am highly educated, and worked at WFM as a cashier when I was out of work in 2012. I have also lived in the Castro for the past five years. I LOVE that this store is open. It’s beautifully designed, has some wonderful food options, and is way better than shopping at the filthy Safeway across the street. Can it be expensive? Of course. I promise I learned by watching and doing while I worked there that if you shop wisely (fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, bread, pasta, etc.) and stay away from the prepared foods and luxury items (lotions, soaps, etc.) you will spend basically the same amount that you would at Safeway for higher quality food – not to mention that they pay their employees better, have better benefits, source much of their products locally, etc. And I PROMISE you it is less expensive than Mollie Stone.

    I’m so sick of the complaining about the tech people who live here. It’s become very TIRED and TIRESOME. I think it is great to see new businesses open up in the neighborhood and for decade long dead spaces come to life. Are there problems, particularly with housing, in this city and in our neighborhood? Absolutely. Does incessant whining help in any way? Absolutely not. We can make a difference by taking action and speaking out – just say something that’s productive for a change.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 8

    • Linda says:

      Thank you for your reply. Perhaps the article about the WF opening with shoe shining and all, rubbed me the wrong way at first. You would be surprised to know that I shop WF 365 brands,and watch the produce prices carefully for specials. The 365 tofu is a good buy, for one.

      I do not whine, and am also a highly educated professional. I have friends who work or, like you, have worked, at Whole Foods and they certainly enjoyed the 20% discount.

      My friends and family who live in the Castro sent me the article of the opening. Some guilt here in admitting that I frequently jump on to the Whole Foods food orgy wagon in California, and many other states, not to mention London Picadilly and Kensington High. With this said, it is still difficult to watch the rents soar in San Francisco and know of many good people who are being forced out of the city they love.

      Let’s do what we can to help those in need. Maybe Whole Foods would sponsor a small gathering of students for lunch every week from a different school in the city. Of course, I do not mean the Marina.

      Thanks again for your response.

      Linda

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  5. Linda says:

    Thanks, rblack, for re-directing me to the Safeway across the street. Now there’s a proactive and caring response for ya’

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

  6. Bill says:

    The only sad part is their Texas connection.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  7. Elsewhere says:

    Yes, WF has luxury food items. It also carries its own 365 branded items that 95% of the time cost far less. One quart of 365 extra virgin olive oil if $6.99. One pound of 365 salted butter is $2.99 (organic is another buck and half). 365 brand frozen veggies are competitively priced as well. I count myself as incredibly frugal, and my pantry is stocked with a lot of 365 items.

    Where the Castro store falls down, and badly, is the minuscule produce section that is an embarrassment. to the idea of fresh food. I was in on Sunday because it’s November and I wanted to make butternut squash soup, and in WF in November I find stacks and stacks of Chilean melons, and one lone stand of winter squash with exactly five squash on the counter. At local, seasonal, good food that’s good for your Whole Foods?

    In addition, all the produce looked tired and a bit bruised; I had to spend a few minutes finding leeks that didn’t look like they’d been banged about in transport. Fresh herbs? Sorry, already picked over and not yet replenished. All in all, very disappointing.

    The staff, on the other hand, are outstanding; when I couldn’t find an item on the shelf, a staff member approached me (I must have had a puzzled look on my face!) and when I told him what I was looking for, he checked the shelves and then went into the employee only part of the store to double check for me. The people are courteous, enthusiastic and for the most part know what they’re doing.

    It’s early yet and the store is still shaking down; I stopped by the CS desk in the front to ask if there was a reason for the small produce section and was told it was a corporate decision, but that now that the store was open and customers were responding, they were already making plans to expand the section. What bothers me about that answer is that corporate Whole Foods decided that the Castro location won’t be so much about groceries and substance as it will be about serving a population that want’s take-out made fancy so they can feel good about not cooking. The made-to-order food area is enormous, as is the entire check out section, which takes up a huge bit of real estate in the front of the store.

    So, in all, the most important bits of the store — the staff — get high marks and I wish them all the best. There are people working there who will be able to ramp up the appearance, quality and layout of the store, provided corporate Whole Foods can see that the consumers they planned for are a bit different than the customers they’ve got. And if all else fails, i can still drive the extra mile-and-a-half to the store on Rhode Islands Street.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  8. Mitch Mansfield says:

    All the comments about Whole Foods, and not a single comment about the loss of a Christmas Tree Lot? How did Noe Valley score that one?

    And every time I see a comment that includes the words “rich techies” I think “sour grapes”. Can’t we all just get along?

    Probably one of the best deals at Whole Foods is their Organic Italian Olive Oil. Very good deal for what it is trying to be. And so affordable, even for non-rich techies.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • Linda says:

      Yes, love the WF 365 organic, cold pressed EVOO!
      No sour grapes here, respect for hard workers in any work place.
      Is Market Basket in California? Produce dept. huge, quality excellent and prices are crazy low.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  9. Sasha says:

    My experience mirrors Elsewhere’s. Before the first WF opened in SF, most of my shopping was at Rainbow. The fact is that WF prices on many items are the same as or cheaper than Rainbow. There are obviously other reasons to prefer Rainbow–chief among them the fact that all the store’s profits go to its workers–but in my experience, the “Whole Paycheck” moniker doesn’t mesh with the store’s prices.
    Rainbow and Buffalo both have superior produce, though, hands down.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Vinny says:

    Didn’t the CEO give money to pass prop8? Or was that just a rumor..

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • rblack says:

      IMO he’s a bit of an enigma.

      He calls himself a “free market libertarian” which says a lot. Although he seems to be the literal kind, not the fake tea party libertarians that also want control over everyone’s bodies.

      While he only pays himself $1 a year in salary and donates the rest to charity, he’s also against Obamacare and is anti union.

      He was the first to set up humane treatment for animals in a supermarket chain, but he also says that climate change isn’t necessary bad.

      He lives in Austin, he’s a partial vegan (eats only eggs from his own chickens) and practices yoga daily.

      Kind of a jerk overall, but he pays a living wage, offers healthcare to employees, has a charity that helps the poor set up their own businesses and also a charity that helps the poor in the developing world.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

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