Take an inside look as Whole Foods opens first Bradenton-area store

Take an inside look as Whole Foods opens first Bradenton-area store

By almost any measure, the 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market that opens at 5298 University Parkway on Wednesday is an impressive store.

From the chef-run Brasserie Honore, serving beer and wine and hot treats such as charcuterie (meat products), made-to-order crepes and more, to the imposing stacks of produce, the store offers a fresh take on Whole Foods Market’s philosophy.

Essentially, the company ethic focuses on selling only safe, sustainable, natural food products without additives or antibiotics.

The new store is one of the first to open under the ownership of Amazon, which promises lower prices on a selection of best-selling grocery items.

“Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality — we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market’s long-held commitment to the highest standards,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer.

During a media tour this week, Steve Salsberry, produce associate coordinator, said deals will be offered on nonfood items as well, such as a two-dozen roses for $24.99 from Feb. 7 until Valentine’s Day, and orchids will be on sale for $10 each for two weeks.

In the seafood department, Ryan Gord, standing in front of a “Fishmonger” sign, was serving lionfish cerviche. Lionfish is an invasive, voracious species that competes with native fish such as grouper and snapper, and has been a focus of state efforts to remove it from local waters.

“We are not making any money on it. We are just trying to do our part. Fortunately, they taste good,” Gord said.

In Whole Foods Market’s meat department, Drew Magnoli stressed the company’s high standards for quality and sourcing, and insistence on farm animal welfare.

Perhaps one of the most popular stops on the preview tour was the cheese department, where Rick Eplawy sliced samples from the heart of a huge wheel of Parmesan-Reggiano.

Anytime one of the wheels of Italian cheese is cracked, it becomes an event not only for customers but associates in the store, Eplawy said.

Unique features of the store include the Allegro coffee bar with nitro cold brew coffee and tea, self-serve cold-pressed juice, self-serve mochi ice cream, a bulk candy department, and a housewares department.

The store, the closest Whole Foods Market store to the Bradenton-Lakewood Ranch area, employs approximately 180 team members. It is the second Whole Foods Market in Sarasota County and the 28th in Florida. Nationwide, the company has 470 stores.

Moreover, it will be the second organic grocery store in the Bradenton-Lakewood Ranch area to open within five days, after Earth Fare debuted on Saturday.

“This store is a great opportunity for us to showcase what Whole Foods Market excels at,” Whole Foods Market store team leader Greg Linton said. “We’ve created a space that is not only a beautiful place to grocery shop, but also a welcoming place to gather and enjoy delicious food.”

Linton took particular note of Brasserie Honore, which seems certain to entice shoppers to stay longer in its comfortable lounge and bar setting.

The Brasserie Honore prepared foods department serves hot and cold breakfast, lunch and dinner options, as well as fresh pizza and Genji sushi rolled on site. Weekly live music nights are planned.

Locally sourced products are showcased in all departments, including produce, grocery, seafood, meat, specialty, bakery and Whole Body.

Whole Foods Market University Station is marking the grand opening by donating 1 percent of the store store’s net sales back to community non-profit organizations on each of the first five days it is open. The recipients:

Wednesday – All Faiths Food Bank
Thursday – Sailor Circus Academy
Friday – Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Assoc. Inc.
Saturday – Sarasota Military Academy
Sunday – Lakewood Ranch Humane Society

Store hours are 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.