Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Fresh Look at Wellesley's Whole Foods Market

Most Wellesley residents didn’t become successful by making haphazard decisions about anything, not even something as commonplace as grocery shopping. For months, speculation, excitement and controversy has surrounded the new Whole Foods Market location. Final preparations are underway and on Monday, shoppers will get to experience the new store for themselves.

The expansion of Whole Foods in Wellesley points to an interesting dynamic at work.  According to Whole Foods Market, their “business is intimately tied to the neighborhood and larger community that we serve and in which we live.” The new expanded store will compete with Roche Bros. which is headquartered in Wellesley. Anyone who has spent any amount of town in Wellesley knows that Roche Bros. is a well-entrenched part of the social landscape. Been to a child’s birthday party? A Roche Bros. cake is almost certain to have been served. So how does Whole Foods intend to serve the community when its new store hopes to lure shoppers away from the longtime hometown grocer?

With a local flair
Taking cues from the old store and what’s worked at other regional stores, the product mix at the new store will reflect local preferences and demands. The store will host local purveyors of goods in a unique outdoor space intended as a seasonal farmer’s market and will continue sourcing from local producers throughout the year. The space that was formerly Tian Fu has been converted to a Community room complete with a demo kitchen which will be available to non-profits and cooking groups. To meet the need of the education-minded Wellesley consumer, the new store will be home to a “Cooking at Wellesley” specialist who will guide newcomers as they explore the bulk foods section. Shoppers who inquire can take a store tour with team members who will share tips for how to find the best values in the store based on the individual's needs and preferences.  Many of those team members will be familiar faces from the existing Wellesley store joined by new transfers from around the region.

Convenience served up
The new store has features that may appeal to the typical Wellesley shopper looking for convenience. There are extensive options for prepared food options ranging from the antipasti bar, wood fired pizzas, gourmet deli, taqueria and a full line of ‘grab and go’ foods. All of these options take convenience one step further by helping health-conscious consumers make smarter choices. Prevalent throughout the store and in the prepared foods, standards are in place guiding the products the store carries. Shoppers won’t find items with artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, hydrogenated fats or a host of unsightly ingredients. Convenience does come with limits however. For the consumer who has Diet Coke on their weekly list, Whole Foods may not be the place for one stop shopping. And unlike Roche Bros and Super Stop and Shop, Whole Foods doesn’t offer grocery delivery.

Gourmet options
The store has several premium features aimed squarely at competing with the town’s local specialty retailers. Toward the rear of the store is a case filled with dry-aged steaks and premium cuts that could replace a stop at John Dewar & Co. Pigeon Cove fish and seafood fires a shot over Captain Marden’s bow and the Fromagerie and Charcuterie gives the Cheese Shop a run for its money. While prepared foods are definitely a focus of the store, chef-worthy raw ingredients can be found in the aisles too.

Store features
While the new store is technically a remodel of the former Star Market, there is little reminiscent of the old space. The new building has received a Green Globes certification assuring that it was built with sustainability in mind. The inside features slate and concrete floors, reclaimed wood, recycled materials and LED lights, which all contribute to the unique aesthetic found in their newer stores. Signage is quirky and abundant with personal, hand-written flourishes throughout. The overall feel of the store reflects how you want your groceries -- fresh, vibrant and clean.

In the redesign of the building, a walk up window was added where customers will be able to approach from the outside and order takeaway items like gelato and made to order coffee. A small café seating area will make dining-in an option too.

While the old location had the character of the original Bread & Circus, the new building offers space for many more products. The new store isn’t nearly the size and scope of the Dedham flagship store but it is a far cry from the tightly packed shopping experience of late. Almost as notable is the much improved parking experience with more than 200 spaces in a dedicated lot.
Check it out for yourself
More than 1000 previewers are expected at the new 442 Washington Street location for Friday’s “sneak preview.” Registered attendees can participate with a $5 donation to the Wellesley Food Pantry. Frequent shoppers at the old location should say their goodbyes this weekend as the store will be closing Sunday night for the last time. The Grand opening begins with a 7:30am bread breaking ceremony (coffee, anyone?) followed by the official opening at 8am on Monday, August 22nd.

Whole Foods Market Wellesley
442 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA
Hours: 8 am - 9 pm daily (except holidays)
On Facebook

Further Reading from the Wellesley Wine Press:
Inside the Bread: Whole Foods to Open New Location in Wellesley

Thursday, August 04, 2011

First Look: Pinkberry Wellesley

Trendy frozen yogurt purveyor Pinkberry opened in Wellesley tonight, offering up free t-shirts and yogurt from 6-9 pm. The t-shirts were gone by the time we go there, and given the lines it all felt a little illogical at times. But in the end we got our free treats and I'm glad we got a taste of what Pinkberry is all about.
I thought I'd heard they were taking over the space vacated by The Gelato Cafe last year, but Pinkberry is actually a couple doors down. It's a prominent location they've got on the corner, and along with recent aesthetic improvements to Linden Square the area felt lively. I don't think I've ever seen so many people out in Wellesley past 7 pm.
Judging from the crowds, buzz, and smiling faces, Pinkberry knows how to run a grand opening. Along with employees offering small samples to people waiting in line they had what felt like as many people as they could possibly fit behind the counter:
Even Miss Massachusetts was there:
The hook, as far as I could tell, is a frozen yogurt product with health benefits like live active cultures like you find in non-frozen yogurt. I was wondering what differentiated it from old school frozen yogurt like TCBY so I had a look at their website and noticed they have a new product called Super Fro-Yo. Gotta love the competition and America's thirst for the new.

They offer up a wide range of toppings which are positioned as being high quality and fresh:
The free offer for their grand opening was any flavor small yogurt with all the toppings you wanted. I went with a coconut yogurt with blueberries, yogurt chips, and -- since they were out of praline hazelnut crunch -- Heath Bar pieces. The coconut yogurt was outstanding. Just the right about of coconut flavor, just the right amount of tart, and a very clean finish. I think could have used more guidance, a la Cold Stone Creamery, because I don't think the sum of the toppings I chose was much better than the components. Still, I enjoyed it very much.
I think Pinkberry is a welcome addition to Wellesley that will do very well. I'll look forward to getting back there again when the lines are shorter and with a little more time to think about which toppings work best with which flavors.

3.75/5 Stars: Very Good Stuff

Check 'em out:
Pinkberry Wellesley
180 Linden Street
Wellesley, MA

Question of the Day: What do you think of Pinkberry? What's your favorite place for a frozen treat near Wellesley?
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