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Whole Foods tours, party a hit with locals

ENCINITAS — Hundreds of visitors toured the new Whole Foods Market June 26 at the grocery chain’s newest location in Pacific Station at 687 S. Coast Highway 101. The pre-grand opening party gave potential customers an opportunity to meet with local vendors, sample their offerings and learn about the store’s mission.
The 23,000-square-foot store will serve as the anchor tenant for the Pacific Station development, which combines office and retail space with upscale residential units in the increasingly popular “mixed-use” scheme.
The store features products and produce from several San Diego county growers and food companies. To celebrate the grand opening, Whole Foods held a block party, with live music and free food samples June 29.
The Texas-based Whole Foods Company has more than 300 stores across the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Much of the daylong tour and party was spent educating consumers. “We try to promote healthy lifestyles, not just healthy eating,” said the store’s Marketing Director Julie Hickman. Several wellness speakers are scheduled to give talks throughout the year, she added.
“The whole body department is one of my favorite parts of the store,” said Leucadia resident Pam Murphy. “I like the fact that products are organic and labeled in a way that I know exactly what I’m getting.”
After announcing it’s intention to open the store in 2007, residents have been waiting for the store to open its doors. “I’m not sure if the wait is really worth all of the hype,” said Jennifer Bolucci, an Encinitas resident. “But I’m going to be one of the first in line for sure.”
The new market is designed to be a community hub with a courtyard eating area and a wide variety of cooking, eating and educational events created to serve the neighborhood according to company officials.
Matt Pedigo, a specialist in the specialty food items section, showed off local meats, and chocolates as well as a selection of cheeses from around the world. “We try to keep it as authentic as possible,” he said, referring to the paper wrapped cheese cut from bulk wheels.
“Pacific Station is a great space with a wide variety of attractions for the community to enjoy. This location is the first new retail space in downtown Encinitas in more than 20 years and is an ideal place for us to introduce Whole Foods Market to the Encinitas neighborhood,” said Patrick Bradley, president of the store’s Southern Pacific region.
But some residents wonder if the upscale market sometimes referred to as “whole-wallet” or “whole-paycheck,” will be a detriment as it may bring more traffic from outside the community and charge higher prices. “It’s being billed as a neighborhood grocery store but I think most people in Encinitas already have plenty of options for good organic food,” said Jon Barton, an Encinitas resident. “It’s probably just going to bring more people from north of the city who don’t want to drive all the way to La Jolla.”
Hickman responded to criticism about high food prices by pointing to the company’s private label product line as an affordable alternative available in most items.
“You’re going to get the same great quality,” she said.