Restaurants / Openings

Your First Sneak Peek Inside the New Midtown Whole Foods — Loft-Style Store Brings High-Tech Perks

Below the Pearl Apartments, This Place Ups the Ante in Houston's Grocery Store Wars

BY // 11.03.19

The new Whole Foods Market Midtown opens Thursday, but a few of the grocery chain’s fans got a sneak peek over the weekend. Even though the store wasn’t completely finished, there is a lot to get excited about — particularly for millennials who live in and around the rapidly growing neighborhood west of downtown Houston.

The 40,400-square-foot store is on the first floor of Pearl Marketplace in Midtown, an eight-story mid-rise with 264 apartments that has private elevator access to the new Whole Foods. Developer Morgan Inc. specifically lured the grocer as an amenity for tenants who prefer walking over automobile travel as a priority, although there is ample underground parking for shoppers with cars.

Once inside the loft-like store, marked with open ceilings, concrete floors and a large concrete sculpture spelling out MIDTOWN HOU high along the back wall, there are a number of features designed for a high-tech audience that values time and rates convenience as a high priority while wanting to support socially-conscious grocery shopping.

In addition to the usual array of locally-sourced produce, basic stables, and sustainable seafood and meat that the chain is known for, the Midtown store features Briggo, an Austin-based company that serves hot and iced coffees and teas, seasonal beverages and specialty drinks ordered with a mobile app and made in a robotic Coffee Haus.

A large portion of the new Midtown Whole Foods is devoted to take-away food, with a long “skillet bar” of hot offerings, Neapolitan pizza served by the slice, soup stations, rotisserie chickens, sushi, sandwiches, tacos, and a large salad bar, with a portion devoted to organic vegetables.

Other millennial-friendly features our tour guide pointed out are a seafood department with ready-to-cook options like crab stuffed salmon roasts and whole stuffed bronzini that are only offered at this Houston Whole Foods store and a large meat department with a selection of finishing butters.

“Get to know your meat and seafood team. I learned how to cook salmon before I even worked for Whole Foods (with suggestions from staff),” the tour guide said. “They just have so much knowledge to offer.”

She also pointed out the large section of bulk items, including a “candy island,” and said customers can bring their own containers  “and we will weigh them at the register so you can subtract the weight for those who are really trying to reducing packaging at home.”

A Wellness & Beauty section takes up prime space in the middle of the store near the check-out counters, with wider aisles and additional lighting. It offers an extensive array of vitamin supplements, candles, cosmetics, and other beauty products, including 60 items from 12 local suppliers.

Among other store features are a JuiceLand bar offering made-to-order smoothies and juices, a wine department featuring more than 1,500 different selections, a large cheese department, and a bakery featuring fresh-baked breads, custom cakes, mini desserts and items from SweetPea Cupcakery.

Still working to shed its “Whole Paycheck” image since being purchased by Amazon in 2017, there are blue signs throughout the store offering specials for Amazon Prime members. In addition, eligible Prime members receive five percent back on Whole Foods Market purchases when using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card.

Also adjacent to the checkout area is a large yellow Amazon Hub locker where packages can be delivered and returned.

The store, located at 515 Elgin between Smith and Brazos streets, opens to the public this Thursday, November 7 at 8 am, when guests will be served complimentary coffee, samples of local products, a limited number of reusable canvas tote bags and a savings card with a mystery value between $5 and $100. Five percent of the store’s net opening day sales will benefit Urban Harvest.

For a closer look at the new Midtown Whole Foods, click through PaperCity’s photo gallery above and below this story.

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