Want a Whole Foods in your neighborhood? The company says it’s listening.


Lots of people call or write Whole Foods asking the grocer to open in their neighborhood. (Elise Amendola/AP)

There are a lot of petitions asking Whole Foods to change its ways. One asks the company to be more respectful to customers with autism. Another asks that it back product labels alerting shoppers to genetically modified food. Others have asked that the company close all its meat counters and allow employees to communicate in languages other than English.

Mostly, however, people petition Whole Foods to open a store in their neighborhoods. People in Grand Rapids, Mich., Austin, Texas, Cary, N.C., Westerly, R.I., Dover, Del. and many other places have begun Change.org petitions to open stores in their neighborhoods.

Does Whole Foods listen to all the requests?

After signing leases for two D.C. stores in less than two weeks, Scott Allshouse, Whole Foods Market’s Mid-Atlantic regional president, said the company does listen, to a degree.

“We have a process by which we gather those requests and then it makes its way to myself and a team of people who can look at those areas and see if we can be in there and if we can we find a developer partner,” he said after announcing a store lease on H Street NE.

A lot of other factors go into deciding where to open stores, and like most retailers Whole Foods relies on demographic data, whether population trends, household income or shopping habits.

But Allshouse said part of his staff’s job is to field requests for stores and pass them upstairs to him and other decision-makers. “We have people who take those phone calls and pass those on to us, and then we pass those on to our real estate team,” he added.

As an example of the company’s responsiveness, Allshouse pointed to the Whole Foods on P Street in Logan Circle, which opened as a Fresh Fields in 2000, before most high-end retailers would consider the area.

The chain opened that store in part because of the requests from Logan Circle neighbors, Allshouse said. “The community asked us to come there and wanted that store and it was part of the reason we opened that store,” he said.

Whole Foods was a lot smaller then. Now it has close to 400 stores and more than 80,000 employees. Its stores on H Street NE and New Jersey Avenue SE will be its fifth and sixth in the District. And Allshouse and his staff get a lot of phone calls, letters and e-mails asking for new stores. Others have suggested that its newest D.C. stores will not necessarily be a great fit for the neighborhoods. He said the company is still trying to listen.

“Every day we get requests for stores all over the country and certainly in Washington,” he said.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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