When Whole Foods opens its newest Charlotte store on Stonewall Street Wednesday, uptown dwellers and working professionals will get not just a walkable place to buy groceries, but also a meeting spot for lunches, happy hour drinks, study sessions and coffee dates.
At the new Whole Foods, a prominent store at 400 E. Stonewall St. that's been under construction since January 2016, shoppers walking in from the street are greeted with clusters of casual seating areas filled with plush leather couches and chairs. Long wooden tables lie next to the bar area, which sells wine and six local craft beers on tap.
The store's prepared food section is a bit larger than you'd expect at a typical grocery store. It offers a variety of freshly made lunch and dinner options, including sushi, stir-fry bowls, pizza, sandwiches, tortas and paninis. Containers nearby are filled with colorful rows of gelato flavors, mochi and macarons.
Whole Foods is widely known as a place for gathering, for its wine bars and its “grocerants,” the moniker for in-store restaurants. The long tables that line the front of the store are meant to make the place a community gathering point, spokeswoman Rachael Dean Wilson told the Observer on a tour of the store Monday.
Amazon bought Whole Foods last summer for $13.7 billion. Since then, the tech giant has been lowering prices at Whole Foods and adding new features such as delivery in some markets. On Monday, Amazon announced it was expanding grocery discounts for its Prime members in 10 new states including North Carolina.
As another perk from the Amazon deal, the new Whole Foods uptown will have Amazon lockers, where Prime shoppers can pick up and return Amazon orders.
The opening of the store has been highly anticipated. The 36,000-square-foot Whole Foods is uptown Charlotte's first full-sized grocery store (including a mezzanine and lower vestibule area, the store is almost 47,000 square feet.) The only other option uptown is the 18,000-square-foot Harris Teeter on West Sixth Street, which opened in 2003.
Since the new Whole Foods is in a dense and quickly growing urban area, the store doesn't have an expansive parking lot, but rather a parking garage that's free for customers to use.
Within the store, the grocery selection features much of what you'd find at other Whole Foods stores.
Roughly 20 percent of the store's produce is locally sourced, meaning it's from North Carolina or within 100 miles of Charlotte. It's mostly organic. The seafood and meat sections feature products that are sustainably caught and farmed. The store's fishmongers can assist with anything from recipe suggestions to shrimp de-veining.
Shoppers will recognize a number of other brands throughout the store, including Lenny Boy kombucha and Roots Hummus from Asheville.
When the store opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday, it will be giving away 500 gift cards with values ranging from $5-$50, as well as one card for $500. Store employees will be doing product demonstrations as well throughout the day.
Developers have said that they expect the new Whole Foods to be a catalyst that draws other national retailers to the uptown area, where the population is likely to keep growing.
Whole Foods, Charlotte's No. 14 grocery-store chain by market share, has three other area stores — in SouthPark, Huntersville and Waverly.
The new Whole Foods is among a slew of other grocers opening in Charlotte recently. Organic grocer Sprouts opened its first Charlotte store in April, for instance, and Publix announced last week it will open its Cotswold store June 20.