It’s finally happening, Knoxville! Our much-anticipated new Whole Foods Market will be open for business on March 24th, and many folks — at least in West Knoxville — are ready! In fact, the question around here is What took you so long?
When I pulled into the parking lot in front of the new store, a man directing traffic said, Are you here for the tour? I replied, I don’t have a reservation. But he assured me: No problem. Just go inside and see what’s up. And that’s how I lined up for a tour with Caitie from Asheville, North Carolina — here for guiding pre-opening tours of Knoxville’s new store.
We turned on our listening devices and began at the beginning — the Health and Beauty aisle where fragrant soaps were already piled high.
Caitie invited us to sniff while she talked to us about the uniquely Knoxville touches in this particular
Whole Foods Market — like murals of Tennessee on the walls, antique heart pine flooring framing the spaces, and products made locally. (Check out this article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel for more on how Whole Foods supports local companies like Cruze Farm, Blackberry Farms, etc.)
Not only that, said Caitie. This Knoxville store has something no other store has: The Rocky. We peered in to this not-finished-yet space that, upon opening, will be a place to order a craft beer, glass of wine, and slice of pizza all while listening to live music. You can come here on Friday evening, added Caitie, order a beer and pizza, do your weekly shopping, and make a night of it. (Smile.)
We walked onward, and Caitie added, Many of our teams are just meeting for the first time today. Noted: lots of huddles, group t-shirts, and people talking and shaking hands. Like these girls in the coffee area. (See that pretty heart pine decor?)
And the girls passing out gelato from a revolving case.
And the guys proud to be on the cutting edge of this new Knoxville venue.
I was already mentally mapping out my upcoming shopping strategy: Get a cup of that freshly ground coffee and then head to the Biscuit Basket for a breakfast sandwich on a fresh-made doughy treat. When one lady asked if they would have gravy for those biscuits, Caitie just rolled her eyes. Well, duh. Yeah. This IS the South. (And the official home of the International Biscuit Festival, too.)
All that walking could take its toll, but not if you’re doing a pre-opening tour of Whole Foods. They were ready for us with free samples all along the way — salad, sliced cheese, and pulled pork with a Tennessee sauce on the side!
One demo team talked about the 365 line of products, like this creamy peanut butter generously spread on freshly sliced apples. Affordable, tasty, and one of many products bearing the store label.
Caitie noted the corporate emphasis on maintaining high standards — and not just the ones that were posted. Ratings systems were also in place: Whole Foods rates their meat with an Animal Welfare Rating and fresh produce with a Responsibly Grown Rating System.
Although shelves were only partially stocked the day of the tour, we suspected that elves will finish the job the weekend prior to the Tuesday opening. Already, however, we could see busy employees filling bags of buy-in-bulk spices.
At the end of the tour, we were each handed a sack filled with sample foods and coupons for our first visits. Overall reactions from my tour group? All good. We loved the layout, the samples, and the emphasis on fresh and local. And most said they’d shop here — maybe on opening day. After all, Knoxville, the wait is almost over. And soon, very soon, we’ll be cookin’!
For more information:
Whole Foods Knoxville, 6730 Papermill Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919; wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/knoxville
Articles on Whole Foods Knoxville:
Campbell, Chuck. “Whole foods serving lunch before opening date.” Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 16, 2015). http://www.knoxnews.com/knoxville/food-and-dining/whole-foods-serving-lunch-before-opening-date
Constantine, Mary. “A Sneak Peak at Knoxville’s Whole Food Market.” Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 19, 2015). http://www.knoxnews.com/knoxville/food-and-dining/a-sneak-peek-at-knoxvilles-whole-foods-market_91200586