Whole Foods Market’s very existence today owes a great deal to a devastating flood in 1981 that almost killed the fledgling business in its infancy. At that time, Whole Foods Market was just one lone store in Austin, and the flood waters nearly swallowed the entire place. With damage to the year-old business’s equipment and inventory, losses exceeded $400,000. Fortunately, the store’s loyal customers and neighbors, as well as the Austin community, pitched in and salvaged the company’s future.
The founders — John Mackey, Renee Lawson Hardy, Craig Weller, and Mark Stiles — weren’t sure how (or if it would be possible) to rebuild. The company did not have adequate insurance to cover all of the losses, and the founders had already invested heavily in getting the store off the ground. The despair was short-lived, however, and they quickly realized they had all the assistance they needed. Customers and neighbors volunteered to assist Whole Foods Market staff to clean up and repair the facility. Suppliers, creditors, and investors, impressed by the grassroots efforts of the community, provided needed breathing room while Whole Foods Market got back on its feet.
A Deep Commitment to Give Back
So today, Whole Foods Market cites the community’s assistance in those early days as one of the reasons giving back to the community remains a top priority for the fast-growing chain. To that end, Whole Foods Market authorizes local store management to tailor and customize aid to their own communities through initiatives such as Whole Kids and The Whole Planet Foundations. These foundations promote healthful living by supporting a safe and sustainable food supply.
Another program Whole Foods Market operates to give back to communities is “5% Days.” Held several times each year, this sharing program provides selected local philanthropic community programs with five percent of one day’s net proceeds for the store.
An Amazing Flagship Store and World Headquarters
Whole Foods Market, now the world’s largest chain of natural and organic food stores, is fully vested in supporting the health of its customers, the health of the environment, and sustainable lifestyles. Austin is home to the chain’s flagship store and world headquarters, along with three other stores located throughout the community.
With its innovative, modern, two-level 80,000-square-foot store, Austin’s downtown location is just a few blocks from the site where Whole Food Market opened its first store 30 years ago. While it’s many times larger than the original location, this flagship store on Lamar and West Six Street maintains much of the character that has propelled the company to such success. As part of their extensive plans for promoting sustainability, local farms and products are featured each season. This practice helps pare down transportation costs and enhances the freshness of their offerings.
This one-of-a-kind Whole Foods Market is far more than just another grocery store. It features a popular café, a vast array of fresh prepared foods to go, as well as shaded snack patios and plazas, an attractive interior with lively product displays, and a friendly, educated staff to answer almost any food-related question. And more than the sum of its parts, Whole Foods Market is a social hub and community meeting space; it’s a place people go to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
Listening and Responding with “Customerized Marketplaces”
One of Whole Foods Market’s secrets to success is listening to customers on a local level, and then delivering exactly what those customers want in their own community’s store. Whole Foods Market calls the result ‘customerized marketplaces,’ and they exist throughout America, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods Market devotes a whole team to approving or declining ingredients and products based on their health benefits or risks. They make a serious effort to serve all special dietary needs with such offerings as gluten-free and and wheat free baked goods and low fat, low sodium, non-dairy, vegetarian and vegan selections in departments throughout each store.
The Lamar store has so much going on, some first-time visitors have to remind themselves they’re at a grocery. In addition to the café, there are multitudes of fresh, prepared food — all crafted on-site and under the direct supervision of several trained chefs. These to-go offerings are a showcase of the best in modern healthy and delicious cooking, featuring farm-fresh produce and all-natural ingredients, including salads, soups, sandwiches, pizzas, seafood, and Texas barbecue. The on-site bakery features fresh goods daily — and of course plenty of options for most dietary restrictions or needs.
Whole Foods Market – Great Healthy Food Is Just the Start
Whole Foods Market built their reputation on supplying customers not only with what they want, but also what they need, including products most patrons didn’t even know existed. As a result, Whole Foods Market offers more than an extensive selection of fine, gourmet, and natural products.
The store also employs a top-quality catering team, personal shoppers, and delivery services to assist customers all over Austin. The on-site Whole Foods Market Culinary Center offers cooking classes to help customers prepare healthy food while never, ever having to sacrifice flavor. And in December, the rooftop plaza is turned into an ice skating rink.
Through the entire Whole Foods Market experience, from their vast inventory of fantastic foods and wonderfully convenient café and tasty prepared meals to the healthy cooking demonstrations and extraordinary customer service, patrons are encouraged and empowered to not only live healthy, but to also live well.