There has been a charge of change with regards to neighborhood development – especially along North Shepherd – and the first of a trio’s arrival in the local area arrived with much fanfare last week.
Whole Foods Market 365 opened its first store in Houston – and 10th store nationwide – Aug. 22 to a throng of shoppers eagerly awaiting its arrival. The 30,000-square foot store, located at 101 North Loop West in the Independence Heights neighborhood, has Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rated meat, sustainably caught and responsibly farmed seafood, freshly prepared grab-and-go items and a variety of special diet options even closer to home.
Through the Friends of 365 program, the store also includes two partners that will operate their own venues inside the store. Houston favorite Peli Peli Kitchen – South African-inspired restaurant featuring a melting pot of flavors – and Austin-based juice and coffee bar Juice Society will both operate inside the market.
“It more than surpassed my expectations! One-stop shop for our household, and the most exciting thing to happen to our neighborhood! [It’s a] game changer.” Judy Mineo said.
“It is going to be a great addition. I was there [Thursday] night, but didn’t do any full shopping. Prices are very reasonable for many things,” Jeff Berlat added.
Such a sentiment also rings common among other residents such as Megan Rasmussen, who had not planned on visiting the store until the madness died down. But, out of necessity, she changed plans at the spur of the moment – and said the store’s convenience is nearly second-to-none for her situation. For years, she had driven out of her way for a dinner stop — but no more.
“I discovered I’d forgotten the meat for the tacos I was making that night. It was on the way home, so we took our chances,” she said. “I’m very excited about a new store on this side of the loop. When I’m heading home on 610 west, I always exit at Shepherd to get to my house in Candlelight Plaza, so I hate having to go past my house to Ella and up to Kroger for a last minute stop.”
The Austin-based grocer announced the new concept in May of 2015, and wasted no time searching Houston for a good location, saying it is designed to meet the public’s growing demand for natural foods through the use of a curated selection of products in a store occupying a much smaller footprint than its flagship brand.
Despite the considerably smaller footprint, however, representatives believe the concept will have just as much staying power in Independence Heights as its older brother everywhere else.
“We’re excited to have such a warm welcome from the community,” the company said.
On opening day, the first 100 customers received a Whole Foods Market 365 gift card ranging in value from $5 to $365 and a free reusable tote bag, while hundreds more later lined the store’s checkout lines and filled the store’s parking lot nearly to capacity in anticipation of the neighborhood’s newest shopping option.
“As someone who grew up in this neighborhood and still spends so much time here with my wife working at a school nearby, I couldn’t be more excited to help bring the first Whole Foods Market 365 in Houston to this neighborhood,” said Store Team Leader Gerardo Rojas, “We have already hired 85 team members for the new store and connected with so many people that are part of the Independence Heights community in Houston.”
It remains to be seen how the new concept will mesh with H-E-B on the southeast corner of Shepherd Drive and West 24th Street (just southwest of the Whole Foods 365 site) upon their arrivals, but one thing is for sure–Garden Oaks and Heights shoppers will soon have their pick of quality grocers within a convenient distance with Whole Foods 365, H-E-B, and ALDI when it opens in the Garden Oaks Shopping Center in Spring of 2019.
“I’ve been twice this week, and it’s great! Similar selection to the Whole Foods on Waugh, just a bit smaller. Great salad bar and prepared foods,” Lauren Reeder said.
“[Whole Foods] may not be the only place I shop but I’ll probably be there a lot,” Rasmussen added.
Regular store hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. For more information, visit the Whole Foods Market 365 website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.