- By Gary Dinges American-Statesman Staff
Lots of restaurants have popped up in East Austin in recent years, offering residents a plethora of dining options – with even more on the way.
But despite all that development, there are still few options for folks looking for a place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and other necessities to cook a made-from-scratch meal at home. Some have even referred to the area as a “food desert.”
Whole Foods Market is looking to change that. The Austin-based grocery chain said that one of its smaller concept, 365 by Whole Foods stores will anchor the 10-acre Saltillo project going up at Interstate 35 and East Fifth Street.
The 30,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open in the second half of 2019, according to Endeavor Real Estate Group, the Austin-based developer overseeing the redevelopment effort adjacent to Capital Metro’s Plaza Saltillo light rail station.
“When we began the public discussion on what our community desired to see at Saltillo, access to fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables was a major request, so it’s wonderful that a local store like Whole Foods 365 will be opening its doors here,” Austin City Council member Pio Renteria, who represents the area, said in a written statement.
The Whole Foods 365 stores, such as the one that opened last year in Cedar Park, are smaller than a typical Whole Foods and tend to carry more house-brand products from the chain’s 365 line. They have a large produce section, cases of prepackaged meats, a salad bar and an assortment of grab-and-go foods, plus the usual mix of frozen and dry goods.
The 365 stores also make space for “Friends of 365” – dining areas operated by outside restaurants. The “Friends” for the Saltillo store haven’t been announced yet, but the Cedar Park store has a JuiceLand location and an Easy Tiger bakery.
“We can’t wait to open this new Whole Foods Market 365 store on the eastside,” Jeff Turnas, president of Whole Foods Market 365, said in a written statement. “At 365, customers will find familiar Whole Foods Market quality in an affordable, convenient and easy-to-shop new format, with plenty of fun surprises mixed in, too.”
There are currently seven 365 stores in operation, including the one in Cedar Park, with more than a dozen in development, according to the chain’s website.
Landing a 365 store is the result of a lot of hard work by the Saltillo development team, Endeavor principal Jason Thumlert said.
“For years many neighbors in East Austin have asked us to try and bring a grocery store to Saltillo, so we are thrilled that a 365 by Whole Foods Market will be serving the surrounding community,” he said. “This innovative concept will offer customers a simple way to shop for healthy, high-quality food at great prices.”
In addition to the 365 store, other confirmed tenants at Saltillo include a number of restaurants: Snooze, Dolce Neve gelato shop, Tarka Indian Kitchen, Epoch Coffee, Stout Burgers & Beers and Barcelona, a wine and tapas bar.
Stout Burgers & Beers and Barcelona are both restaurant concepts that will be new to Austin.
The Ginger Man, a popular Warehouse District bar, will relocate to Plaza Saltillo, as well.
Endeavor and its partner, Dallas-based Columbus Realty Partners, have hired Austin architect Michael Hsu and his team to design Saltillo, with a goal of creating a project that will “thrive for the next 100 years.” Hsu’s previous projects include the Uchi restaurant, South Congress Hotel and the Lamar Union mixed-use project.