Whole Foods Newark opens with a spotlight on local vendors and sustainable food partnerships
by Andaiye Taylor/March 1, 2017
Whole Foods Market celebrated the opening of its much-anticipated Newark location this morning with its official “breaking bread” ceremony, then threw open its doors for shoppers to begin combing the aisles in search of the store’s signature selection of organic groceries, personal products and prepared hot foods.
Located in the recently renovated Hahne and Company building at 633 Broad Street, the 29,000-square-foot store–the third location in Essex County and 17th in the state–employs 145 locals, including more than 90 Newark residents. Within the next few months, 70 percent of those jobs will be full-time and offer paid benefits.
Whole Foods employees man the seafood department.
While free samples and other goodies featured prominently during the opening, it was the presentation of community partnerships that proved the highlight of the launch.
“When we had the opportunity to open a store in Newark, we knew that we wanted to build long-lasting and powerful relationships with our neighbors, community organizations and local partners,” said Christina Minardi, president of Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region, according to a statement.
During the opening, Minardi recounted the first pitch for a Newark Whole Foods by Cory Booker and his administration–a full 10 years ago. Whole Foods “wasn’t ready to come to Newark” then, said Minardi, but after the Whole Cities Foundation was founded five years later, the framework was set for a location to open in town.
In a bid to increase food access and help elevate local organizations, Whole Foods invited Newark-based organizations to apply for Whole Cities Foundation’s Fresh, Healthy Food Access Grant. In all, 11 Newark organizations were chosen to receive the $5,000 to $15,000 grants, meant to bolster the city’s local food system.
“They don’t just come with a supermarket, they come with a whole value system for healthy eating,” said Tobias Fox, founder of Newark SAS. “They didn’t just come here with their own business model, they came with foundations to support local grassroots projects.” Fox and Newark SAS will launch the Newark Whole Cities Task Force in April to kick off initiatives that help scale local urban agriculture.
Tobias Fox, founder of Newark Science & Sustainability, is recognized as one of 11 Whole Cities Foundation grantees. Newark SAS was awarded $15,000 to offer agricultural skills development and training for youth.
Sybil Bost, the store’s community liaison, noted that this is “year one of a three-year commitment” to local organizations that are bolstering community food systems.
Mayor Ras Baraka said the store will also achieve other goals for the city. In addition to jobs and capacity for local sustainability organizations, he cited Whole Foods’ potential to increase healthy eating options for locals, bolster tourism and business, and be an anchor for the redevelopment of the Hahne’s building.
Mayor Ras Baraka delivers remarks at the opening of the Newark Whole Foods.
Defining the opening in more personal terms, he added: “I eat and shop at Whole Foods all the time, and now I can do it in Newark.” In a nod toward his predecessor, Baraka thanked Senator Booker for “getting us in the game.”
The Newark Whole Foods will feature other elements of local flair. The store has partnered with a number of local brand ambassadors who will help to personalize the store for potential shoppers and tout its products via lifestyle content.
Entrepreneur and digital strategist Lindsey Holmes will create content that includes recipe and healthy eating tips, including smoothie recipes. Holmes, who has lost 60 pounds in the past couple years, said Whole Foods was part of her success formula. “I’ll be telling my own personal story as it relates to having a healthy lifestyle,” she said. (@LindseyCHolmes on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter)
Lynette Lashawn, local style maven and owner of Off the Hanger Boutique on Linden Street, will showcase lifestyle and beauty products. “I think it’s amazing, being born and raised in Newark, that Whole Foods has come here. Those of us who are from here already know how great this city is. It’s time everyone else sees the city the way Newark sees it,” she said.
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Kimberlee Williams, newly appointed director of communications for Rutgers-Newark, shared a similar sentiment. “I don’t see it as Whole Foods coming to Newark, I see it as Newark has manifested a Whole Foods. Newark has always had a community that has shopped here, but at other locations. This Whole Foods is just catching up to us,” she said.
Whole Foods Newark will feature a number of local vendors’ products on the shelves for purchase. Baked goods from Bean Pie Café, Viera’s Bakery, and Keeping You Sweet will be available in the store’s bakery department. Shoppers will find fresh salad greens from Newark-based AeroFarms, which is the world’s largest vertical farm. The speciality department will offer T.M. Ward Coffee and Antonio Mozzarella Factory’s Oaxaca cheese. Newark-based glass studio GlassRoots, which also offers educational and entrepreneurship programs for youth, will sell a “Newark Made” collection available exclusively through Whole Foods. Aspiring Artists of the Earth will offer jewelry.
GlassRoots, a Newark-based glass blowing studio that offers educational and entrepreneurial programs, will offer products for sale exclusively through Whole Foods.
The location will offer two additional local experiences: Rita’s Cocina, a Peruvian food purveyor that will offer authentic fare, and Signature Hot Dogs, which will sell a number of internationally-inspired hot dog options, including Korean and Tex Mex hot dogs.
The Newark Whole Foods will also include the features and products that shoppers are familiar with from other locations, including breakfast, lunch and dinner in the prepared foods department and the spectrum of grocery departments offering sustainably sourced and antibiotic-free groceries and personal care products.
“This store is priced for the community. It will be affordable to shop here,” Minardi assured the crowd minutes before the store’s doors were opened and shoppers were greeted by cheering staff, some of whom were veterans on loan from nearby locations to assist with the opening.
Tech entrepreneur and self-described “buffet junkie” Vince Randolph thinks the new location will affect perceptions of Newark. “On the one side, people might be thinking it’s going to gentrify the city,” he said. “On the other, it’s about getting people to think healthier. That’s important to the culture, for people who look like us to eat healthy.”
Vince Randolph pays for his salad and juices at the grand opening of the Newark Whole Foods.
Veronica Manning of UVSO, one of the Whole Cities Foundation’s grant recipients, juggled coffee with the beef bacon and hot breakfast she’d grabbed as she explained what their $15,000 grant would mean for their West Ward organization. “We’re going to use the money to help us with communications outreach about our two community gardens,” she said.
As for personal shopping, Manning said she was not only excited to be able to “eat healthy and shop in the city,” but that she was thrilled that one major feature had been accounted for: parking.
“I eat where I can park,” said Manning. Whole Foods will validate underground parking for the more than 100 spots available for the first 90 minutes.
Whole Foods Newark is open 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call the store at (973) 755-5080. Whole Foods is still seeking new community partners and vendors. Newark-area businesses that would like to become a potential vendor partners should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Andaiye is a Newark native, Newark resident, and the show runner at BrickCityLive.com. Andaiye holds a master's degree from Columbia Journalism School and was a fellow in the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY. She was the 2012 recipient of the Erik Lars-Nelson prize for excellence in reporting and writing. In addition to running Brick City, Andaiye is also head of content for Clover. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter @andaiye.
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