Last week I had the most awesome shopping experience at a store that's not even open yet. I was so honored to be invited to an exclusive preview event celebrating the opening of Whole Foods Market’s newest location at 10th and Gilman in Berkeley, the 41st store in the Northern California region. I got a firsthand look at the new store before doors open to the public (November 4th), and then feasted on an amazing dinner at the Berkeley Rep featuring local vendors such as Diestel Turkey Ranch, Capay Organic, Local Greens, and Gelateria Naia. As much as I love going to the Whole Foods on Ashby and Telegraph, I have been eagerly waiting for this Gilman location to open.
Cut-to-order cheese department with two on-staff Certified Cheese Professionals.
Ultimate dream pantry right here!
Who knew panko came in so many flavors?
I must say I was completely blown away by the new store. The woodsy interior with pops of sunny yellow and teal lends itself to an airy and bright feel as soon as you walk in the store. It feels roomy (wide aisles you guys!) and welcoming with lots of eco-friendly materials ranging from the reclaimed redwood exterior from a demolished sawmill in Mendocino County, to the indoor store fixtures made from wood from the Port of Oakland.
How cute is my friend Sarah from Snixy Kitchen?
LOVE the wide aisles and clear signage
This is where the grab-n-go prepared food is going to be. Portions for 2, 3, or 4 ready to go!
In addition to the environmental design of the store, some highlights that stood out to me include the new rating systems for produce and meat to help shoppers make more informed choices, the cut-to-order-wrapped-in-paper cheese department, the Allegro Coffee Roaster and huge cafe inside the store (they open at 6 a.m.!), the Artisan Bakery's breads baked daily from scratch, the grab-n-go section that serves meals of various portion sizes for super busy people and families (like me!), and the Whole Body "Try It" Bar that offers large samples of various skin, hair, and beauty products. I'm also excited to check out the prepared foods section and salad bar.
This might be my favorite spot in the store.
Sourcing Director Darrin Daniel and Jeremy Stone tell us about the small lots of specialty coffees, their team of passionate coffee experts, daily cuppings at the store, and their Loring™ drum roaster used to roast beans on-site. Interesting to note is that the roaster is one of the most precise and environmentally-friendly roasters available so you won't smell that burnt popcorn scent of roasting beans. Oh, and their Espresso 924 is named in honor of local punk venue, Gilman Street’s own 924 Gilman.
More than the physical aspects of the store is the innovative spirit and sense of community this store brings. Local sourcing is a priority for Whole Foods and they work hard to discover local food entrepreneurs and bring them to us. There is so much transparency about everything in the store and I think that's really important to people, especially families with children. They are committed to helping the community through store programs and local drives. Employees were enthusiastic, skilled, knowledgeable, and easy to talk to and ask questions.
After the store tour, we were treated to A Most Excellent Evening, an amazing community dinner at the Berkeley Rep hosted by Whole Foods Market Gilman. I had the best time meeting new people in the community as well as Whole Foods staff and partners, including the president of the Norcal region who had a pretty funny story about how he first started at Whole Foods 20+ years ago.
The official opening, at 1025 Gilman Street, is on Tuesday, November 4th. There will be a bread-breaking ceremony (and a check presented to Berkeley USD Gardening and Cooking Program) at 9:45 a.m. The doors will open at 10 a.m. Hope to see you there!