“We have our dedicated customers that have been coming here for years,” said Davis, one of the store’s managers. “They like our prices, they like the atmosphere here, and they are going to continue to come here.”
For years, the county has been trying to lure Whole Foods — and its attendant cachet — to Prince George’s. After repeated delays, plans for the store and a surrounding development project in Riverdale Park could be approved in the coming weeks, over the objections of opponents who say it will spoil the area.
The natural-foods stores in that corner of the county say they aren’t anxious about the prospect of a Whole Foods in their midst. They say they have cultivated a special place in their communities that will keep their customers loyal. At least three organic grocery stores thrive along the Route 1 corridor, from Mount Rainier, on the border with the District, to College Park, just inside the Beltway.
Glut has made itself a gathering place where funky music is always in the background and whole grains and medical herbs are in demand. Workers greet customers by name and see them come back for the fresh produce and the expansive selection of incense. Customers, who often help bag their groceries, leave with weeks’ worth of rice, beans and nuts.
Whole Foods, with 16 stores in the Washington region, has set its sights on the area. But not everyone sees the chain as competition. Although Whole Foods has helped popularize organic foods, it sells lots of conventional products. By contrast, the smaller stores like Glut say that almost all of their products are organic.
And some of its would-be competitors say that Whole Foods would serve Prince George’s well. “There really is not an upscale grocer in the area,” said Scott Nash, owner of MOM’s Organic Market in College Park, about four miles from where the Whole Foods is planned. “Competition is to be expected, and it’s really probably good for the community. They might take a few customers, but we know that we will be fine.”
At Yes Organic Market in Hyattsville, just a mile from the proposed Whole Foods, the assistant manager, Eric Kim, said the local community has made the store — one of the chain’s seven outposts — a shopping destination since it opened less than two years ago. “Our customers really love us here in Hyattsville,” he said.
Paul Jolly, 52, of Mount Rainier is one of those loyal customers. Jolly buys most of his groceries at Yes Organic and doesn’t plan to change that.
“Whole Foods is a lot more expensive, so I am not likely to be shopping there,” he said as he headed out of the Hyattsville store with two bags of groceries. “We got lots of choices here between Glut, Yes Organic and MOM’s in College Park. There’s no need for a Whole Foods.”