- Gary Dinges American-Statesman staff
For years, Austin-based Whole Foods Market has worked to shed its too-expensive, “Whole Paycheck” reputation.
The latest attempt is the fledgling 365 by Whole Foods Market chain, which opens its fourth store at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Cedar Park. Ahead of the opening, an estimated 3,000 people showed up Sunday for a “parking lot party” with entertainment and food and drinks. Whole Foods also offered a media preview on Monday at the store.
In total, Whole Foods has 462 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
The Cedar Park 365 store, at 5001 183A toll road, is the first of the brand to open in Texas. It promises lower prices for budget-conscious shoppers. A 365-exclusive digital rewards program, for example, offers a number of members-only benefits, including 10 percent off about 100 products every day.
“The 365 brand is about not being so intimidating, being competitive on price and being convenient so you can get out quicker,” Jeff Turnas, president of 365 by Whole Foods Market, said Monday. “We want you to be able to walk out of here with two full bags of groceries and say ‘Wow’ – in a good way.”
Turnas said Whole Foods is eager to grow the 365 brand, especially in its own hometown. He said the grocery giant is keeping an eye out for other possible sites for 365 stores in Central Texas.
“We definitely want to be in Austin,” he said.
For 365 shoppers, there are some tradeoffs to get lower prices. Spanning about 30,000 square feet, the 365 stores are smaller than a typical Whole Foods. The Whole Foods at The Domain, for example, is 65,000 square feet.
That smaller size means a smaller, more curated assortment of products. A typical 365 store has about 8,000 products, a spokeswoman said, while a regular Whole Foods has closer to 30,000.
“There’s a little less choice,” Turnas said, “but the choice is great.”
About 40 percent of the products at a 365 store are Whole Foods’ in-house 365 brand, compared to about 10 percent at a regular Whole Foods.
There are also fewer employees. This is possible, in part, because meat and seafood offerings are pre-packaged. Some in-store dining options are outsourced to “Friends of 365,” as well, handled by Austin’s Easy Tiger and JuiceLand chains, which both have their own storefronts inside the Cedar Park 365.
“Our exciting partnership with 365 by Whole Foods will give us a chance to feature not only Easy Tiger’s food and hospitality to a new audience, but also to showcase many local farms, purveyors and products that are not typically represented on such a huge stage,” Easy Tiger chef Drew Curren said. “Joining forces with such a prestigious company as Whole Foods is a win-win for all involved, including the shoppers in Cedar Park and Austin.”
The Cedar Park store, part of Endeavor Real Estate Group’s new The Parke development, is the first 365 store to be built from the ground up. The other three – in Bellevue, Wash.; Lake Oswego, Ore.; and Los Angeles – were carved out of existing buildings.
“We’re really excited to be here,” Turnas said. “This store represents a lot that we’ve learned from the first three stores. This one turned out exactly as we planned. Everything flows smoothly. There aren’t any quirks.”