NEW STORE: Whole Foods Opens To Big Crowd

More than 350 people lined up this morning to get inside the first Whole Foods Market in Iowa. City and store leaders broke bread to signal the opening of the new West Des Moines Store.

Sarah Johnson could hardly contain her excitement. She says, “I used to live in California, and we moved here 5 years ago. So, they have tons of them out there, so now we’re getting our first one here, and I’m just really excited to go in that store.”

She got to the store at 6 a.m., three hours before the doors opened. She says, “I just wanted to make sure I was in fact the first person.” Inside, employees clapped as shoppers walked through the doors.

The store features natural and organic produce and aisles of specialty foods, including products made in Iowa. Spokesperson Daphne Christensen says, “We have cheese from Maytag. We have beers, wines from some of the local wineries.”

You’ll also find a meat rub made in Des Moines, pork from Stratford and vegetables from Grinnell Heritage Farm, just to name a few items. If you want to know how something is made, or where it’s from, just look for the signs, or ask a team member. Christensen says, “Our produce team will be able to tell you when that product was picked, where it’s from, and again, if it’s organic or conventional.”

Christensen says the goal is to get 20% of the store’s products locally. Buy Fresh Buy Local Coordinator Matt Russell says the fact that Whole Foods Market opened a new store in Central Iowa, shows there’s already a vibrant local food movement. He says, “The local food movement has really grown in the last decade.”

He goes on to say, “But, the other thing we need to think about is: we also already have lot of places people can go to buy really authentic local foods.”

Russell points to the many area farmers’ markets, the nearly year old Tallgrass Grocery Coop in Valley Junction and locally owned Campbell’s Nutrition. But, he says the new store is one more opportunity. He says, “It’s certainly going to increase competition. My hope is, and I think we can be optimistic about this, is that the competition is going to create opportunities for some farmers to scale up.”

Christensen says Whole Foods Market wants to help farmers improve. The company offers a local loans producer program. Christensen says, “We were able to help Tiny But Mighty Popcorn enhance their business by loaning them money to make equipment better.”

Better for customers like Johnson, who says she’s anxious for one more place to shop.

145 people work at Whole Foods Market full and part time. It’s located in the Water Tower Place in West Des Moines.

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