We were lucky enough to be invited to a behind the scenes sneak peak of the new Whole Foods Market in Southpark, Charlotte’s newest all natural grocery store. The grand opening for the Whole Foods in Charlotte is tomorrow, Wednesday the 29th, at 9:00.
Get there early for a little breakfast served in the parking lot and the Whole Foods Grand Opening tradition of “the breaking of the bread”. Everyone will get a fresh baked piece of bread to nibble on while exploring Charlotte’s newest contender to the grocery scene.
At first glance it was easy for us to see that this was not going to be your average grocery store. Not only is everything in the store either all natural, local or organic, it is also beautifully displayed with fun and artistic touches around every corner. We like to think of it as being Earth Fare’s big brother :)
The store is chock full of the best of the best selection, from the organic veggies and local dairy to health and beauty and even a nutrition specialist on staff. I’ve always been a little cautious shopping all natural or organic because it can get expensive pretty fast, but the Whole Foods store brand “365″ won’t even come close to breaking the bank.
We love to cook and are always trying to eat healthier but don’t always have the time, so one of the things we found pretty exiting was Whole Foods wide selection of pre-made foods.
There’s a huge hot bar, soup and salad bar, olive bar, coffee, smoothie and gelato bar, plus pre-made sandwiches, pizza, and sushi.
They even have a make your own trail mix bar!
There’s plenty of seating to enjoy a nice big bowl of gelato. There’s seating both downstairs and upstairs, a play area for kids, and you can even enjoy the Carolina blue sky out on the second story veranda.
One of the most unique parts of Whole Foods is upstairs in their in -house cooking school called Salud! They will be teaching all sorts of cooking classes with a focus on educating about the importance of eating locally and organically.
There are kids cooking classes, themed dinners, date night, interactive, etc… For more info on class schedules check out wholefoodsmarket.com/charlotte.
There will be guest teachers like Virginia Willis who will be preparing classic southern food and Justin Blames (The Next Food Network Star) who will be hosting a farm to table feast.
I was super exited to see that the instructors at Salud had prepared a little treat for us. It was a muscadine grape clafoutis with a molasses creme anglais, and it was fantastic!
While campaigning in 2007, President Obama asked an Iowa crowd “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?”
So just in time for the DNC, Whole Foods will be having a sale on arugula :)
Our next stop was back downstairs and over to the bulk dry good section. They had nearly every spice, bean, grain, nut, flour, salt, oat or chocolate chip imaginable.
This whole section is self serve so you can really go crazy, and they even had a machine to grind your own peanut butter or almond butter.
Then we made our way over to the meat department where we learned 100% of their beef is grass fed and local from Profit Farms in Kings Mountain, NC. On top of that… all of their beef, pork, chicken and turkey has an animal welfare rating by Global Animal Partnership ranging from 1-5 .
Step 1 requires the use of no cages and no crowding, then the requirements go up progressively to Step 5 where the animal had spent its entire life on the farm living a natural life.
There is even a sustainability rating given for the seafood.
There is a huge section of specialty items overflowing with cheese, wine, chocolate, and cured meats.
Right next to the specialty section is the coolest part of the store, a little bar where you can enjoy some of those specialty items called “Queens Corner”
They serve four local beers on tap and 8 different wines all of which they rotate regularly, and with 65 local breweries in Charlotte it could be a while before you see the same beer twice. Our behind the scenes group of bloggers included Mary from Fervent Foodie, Vanessa from Life Undeveloped, Sweet Tater and several others I cant remember the names of :(
They had also prepared a sampeling of some menu items including charcuterie, specialty cheeses, anti pasta, and salads just for us :)
We were delighted to find out that we would be treated to some of these little plates full of the best meats and cheeses I have ever had, then get to wash down with a little champagne.
I was surprised to hear how reasonable the prices are for these platters. A platter for 2 is $8, for 4 is $15 and the big platters is $25.
Queens Corner is opened from 11 am – 10 pm but they dont reserve seats so your best bet is to get there early and stay all day.
One of the coolest programs they are doing is “buy a beer for your buddy” so if you are ever enjoying a beer at Queens Corner and you want to buy a beer for a friend all you do is write their name on the wall and next time they come in they show their id and get to enjoy a free beer.
My name is Ella Hailey by the way, feel free to buy me a beer anytime :)
Just upstairs from Queens corner is the wine bar. It’s an enomatic system where all of the wines are in a super fancy machine where you put in a prepaid card and then you can choose any of the 24 wines and have either a 1 oz taste, a 2.5 oz half glass or a 5 oz full glass.
They also have an old dewey decimal filling system where you can keep notes on your favorite wines and then keep them filled under your name for next time you come by.
If you’re planning on going tomorrow to the grand opening, my suggestion is to not go just for groceries. Instead walk around, take in the sights and explore all the varieties of natural and local products they carry and plan on being there for at least an hour.
The Whole Foods grand opening is going to be a BIG deal and we can only hope other grocery chains (Harris Teeter, Food Lion, etc…) take notice to the ideas that this company brings to the market. The idea that local food, natural food, humane food, healthy food, can be affordable, profitable, and better for the world.
We certainly hope Whole Foods finds great success in Charlotte and maybe… just maybe… Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Trader Joe’s will be able to further promote the idea that eating natural, local, and healthy is the the only option.
Everybody should care about what’s in their food and with a Whole Foods in the area maybe the other grocery chains will be forced to adopt similar practices.
We wish Whole Foods good luck and cant wait for the doors to officially open :)