What took them so long?
That was the obvious question when Whole Foods opened its first Brooklyn store this week.
The largest retailer of natural and organic foods and the borough that’s home to the most hobby brewers and pickle makers per capita are like a match made in heaven.
Brooklyn is of course much more than just a borough across the bridge from Manhattan.
It’s a lifestyle brand; the locus of the urban artisan food renaissance; an edgy-artsy-smart meeting of old and new, tradition and technology, rustic and haute. Its population skews toward a young, educated, creative class with deep pockets and well-traveled palates. They infuriatingly blend genuine knowledge and discernment with their hipper-than-thou pretensions of alder-smoked Himalayan sea salt caramels and secret coffee handshakes of cuppings and pour-overs.
Whole Foods is the rare retailer that speaks fluent Brooklynese.
Highlights of the new store include:
- a bike repair station (plus dedicated fixie parking, or if you must there are two electric car charging stations)
- knife sharpening from a local maker of knives and cutting boards whose website describes him as ‘an American multi-disciplinary visual artist and designer‘
- something they call the vinyl venue, selling albums and accessories made from old, recycled records
- a pickle and kimchi bar
- a 20,000 square foot rooftop garden that promises to grow plenty of kale
It’s a who’s who of the borough’s food luminaries.
Brooklyn’s food heroes are all there, like Roberta’s, Mast Brothers, and Frankies Spuntino. They share shelf space (built of wood reclaimed from the Coney Island beach boardwalk) with hundreds of local, small-batch purveyors who are shooting for the same foodie stratosphere with locally-accented treats like cage-free, Sriracha-spiced mayonnaise, parsnip yogurt, vegan vanilla-hemp granola, and grapefruit-smoked salt marmalade. The Brooklyn angle is underscored by the store’s abundant signage, tags, banners, and stickers so shoppers can have no doubts about a product’s provenance.
Whole Foods has sold itself to Brooklyn as a creative, communal endeavor.
Yes, it’s a supermarket, but it’s also a participant in the local economy, fighting the good fight against the GMOs and monoculture of corporate agribusiness alongside the visionary butchers and worker-owned collective bakeries of its urban enclave.
A second Brooklyn Whole Foods is already in the works, this one in the uber-affluent and hipsterish neighborhood of Williamsburg.
To Whole Foods, it’s just so much low-hanging fruit.