Whole Foods vs. Harris Teeter

Thursday, May 24, 2012


You would have to be living under a rock if you weren't aware of the Wholes Foods Grand Opening which was yesterday, May 23rd in Wilmington, NC.  I know I am not the only Wilmingtonian that is beyond thrilled to have a Whole Foods here.  It's almost hard to believe that my hometown has a Whole Foods.  Us Wilmingtonians are used to having to travel to get the 'cool stuff'.  When I was in high school I would skip class and ride up I-40 to go shopping at Banana Republic and J. Crew.  I still go to Anthropologie and lulu lemon athletica when I am there.  After college I lived in places that had the 'cool stuff':  New York City, Raleigh, Austin, and Houston.  While in Austin, I worked at Anthropologie, which is across the street from the mothership Whole Foods.  And, I am not embarrassed to admit that I spent more time at that Whole Foods than in my apartment.  I love Whole Foods, even if it is known as 'whole paycheck' by some.  And, now Wilmington has one, in my neighborhood.  Weird, wonderful, different, fantastic.  I decided to check it out.

I visited the Wilmington Whole Foods today, and I was impressed, of course, but found myself uncomfortable.  No one acts like this at Harris Teeter.  The atmosphere in and around the building was explosive.  When I encountered a group of friends who had obviously run into each other, I couldn't help eavesdropping.  They were talking about Whole Foods and the excitement in their voices made me feel slightly embarassed for them.  One girl in the group actually started singing and twirled on the sidewalk.  Her friend shot back, "I know, now we don't have to wonder where the meat came from or be grossed out by it."  First of all, is this how you communicate at Whole Foods (it's been a while)?  Does a song and a twirl convey something that has to do with meat selection? 

I kept walking trying to take in the 10 minutes I aimed to spend there.  I walked around towards the entrance and was pleasantly surprised that Whole Foods was selling herbs in miniture pots: basil, thyme (lemon leaf...hmm), oregano, cilantro, and more; it was a great selection.  I smiled thinking that Harris Teeter should do something like this.  Then, I glanced at the price, could this be right?  2 for $5, pick and choose?  Wow.  That's not my whole paycheck.  I grabbed them and placed them in my cart walking inside. 

Inside was madness.  Excited madness.  If you've been to a Whole Foods before you can gage how the store is organized.  I wanted to pop in, but I was also in a rush, so I went directly to the prepared wraps, grabbed one, and a sparkling water (Poland Spring, only $1.19 for 33.8 FL OZ!).  I passed two ladies who were in the same excited boat as the rest of the store.  One of them grabbed a water and said, "this water is sooo cold", as she cradled it, then added, "maybe I should get more than one?"  Well, lady, it's hotter than Houston outside and I promise it won't stay that cold for long.  Cute.  I wonder if she ever said that about Harris Teeter water?  I moved to the check out. 

The check out was madness, but I found a line that was almost vacant.  The customers in front of me were chatting with the checkout lady; they were new best friends from the sound of it.  Oh, how I miss Harlene!  I did however make it out of there in less than 10 minutes.  But, I think I was one of the few who knew her intentions.  Besides the herbs, other highlights included free almost everything:  the blueberries were beautiful, some goey stuff not so much, but everyone loves something for free.  On the way out I couldn't help but notice the corn on the cob outside drenched in ice.  Wow, Harris Teeter would never go to that expense.  Or will they? 

So my brain started doing something that resembled thinking.  We have a Whole Foods, and it's great.   But, is it better than Harris Teeter?  Is it really more expensive to shop at Whole Foods than Harris Teeter?   How are they each viewed by Wilmingtonians?  Once the hype calms down, will people continue to shop there.   Will the hype ever calm down. And, what will happen to My Harris Teeter?  

My brain came up with a plan.  For the next 60 days, I will assess my experience with both Harris Teeter and Whole Foods.  Specifically, do I spend more at Whole Foods than at Harris Teeter.  Will I switch completely to Whole Foods (I'd miss Harlene!), or remain loyal to Whole Foods?  What will Wilmington do?  How will Whole Foods change this community?  Follow my progress, share your experiences, and, as Cher Horowitz would say...


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