April 8th, 2009 by Mike Fulton

As a general rule, I enjoy shopping.  The common stereotype would indicate this is a common female attribute, but I spend my shopping time looking at things like electronics, videos, tools, or books, rather than clothes or shoes, so my masculine ego remains intact.

One form of shopping that I’ve never really gotten into, however, is grocery shopping.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, I often find that when I buy fresh groceries, unless I want to eat the same thing for several meals in a row, a fair amount ends up going bad.   Also, it also seems like I spend as much time in line waiting to check out than I do wandering the store putting items in my basket.  Stores don’t seem to manage this very well… some claim they’ll open another register once the line exceeds 3 people, but often they’re extremely slow to do so.

Some stores have recently added a number of self-checkout aisles where customers scan and bag their items directly.  Usually there’s a store clerk at a central station watching over 4-5 of these self-serve registers.  Logic suggests that this is a very good store employee to customer ratio, but I’ve noticed that in the later portion of the evening, such stores are prone to close down the self-service registers even when they have more than one of the regular checkout aisles open.  I don’t see how this make sense, when one clerk can oversee up to 4 or 5 people checking out at once with the self-serve registers I’d think you would want to keep that setup going as much as possible.

Anyway, the other day I went into the local Whole Foods Market for the first time.  I had stopped across the street at 7-11 to pick up a soda and some trash bags, but they did not have the trash bags.  I really needed the trash bags.  So instead of going home empty-handed, I decided that I’d go across the street to Whole Foods.

I go to that 7-11 all the time, and from driving past and looking at the outside of the store, I was expecting Whole Foods to be essentially a standard supermarket but with a greater emphasis on things like “organic” foods and generally a more “green” attitude than your typical Lucky’s or Safeway.  That was fine with me, but I also had the impression it was likely to be expensive than those other stores, and I’m usually a budget-minded grocery shopper so I’d avoided it up til now.  But as I may have mentioned before, I really needed trash bags.

When I went inside, I was quite surprised to discover that they had a relatively small portion of the store devoted to the typical aisles of products, and a much larger portion devoted to fresh, hot (or cold) prepared foods, ready to eat.  It’s more like a huge delicatessen than a regular grocery store.  They have fresh-cooked everything, from Pizza to burgers, chinese food, pasta, and more.  You want dessert?  They had a wide variety of pies, tarts, cheese cakes, and more.

The desserts did tend towards being a bit pricier, but the other thing that surprised me was that most of the prepared foods were quite reasonably priced.  You could get a really decent slice of hot pizza for $2.99, or a burger hot off the grill for under $8.00.  They also have a  pay-by-the-pound buffet setup, where you pay $7.99/lb. for a selection of foods drawn from most of their other offerings.

At first, I didn’t think they had anywhere in the store itself to sit down and eat.  There are some patio tables & chairs outside the front of the store, but this isn’t a great option when it’s a bit cooler outside.  However, when I drove past the store again a few days ago, I could see that there is some sort of seating area in the front corner.  It looked like it might be more of a coffee shop area than seating for the rest of the store’s offerings, but I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m there.

Overall I was really impressed.   I’ll definitely be going back.