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August 6th, 2009

The Food Amusement Park

Not terribly long ago, something changed at Whole Foods. In their quest to be the Wal-Mart of upscale grocery stores they decided, unlike Wal-Mart, to make their stores as ostentatious as possible. Sure, sure, there was still good food to be had – some prices silly, some acceptable – but they seemed to start focusing on the full experience.

This is perhaps no more apparent than at their Lincoln Park location in Chicago. Multiple friends had gone and told me and The Wife about how amazing it was: large, glorious, with five restaurants and two full-service bars. Plus lots of parking. And $6.50/gallon organic milk.

So yesterday we had some time to kill and decided to check it out. And, well, it’s ridiculous. The store itself is quite large, and every single department (outside of the main grocery aisles, which feel totally perfunctory here) is over-the-top. There’s a wine and cheese bar with seating. There’s a coffee bar abutting the main (booze) bar. The bakery is large. There are, indeed, five main restaurants. I enjoyed that nearly every foodstuff had its own bar: there were bars for olives, salads, sides, hot dishes… even bath salts (!) had a self-serve bar.

As I thought about it this morning I realized that the new Whole Foods isn’t a supermarket, although one can certainly buy groceries there. Rather, it’s a food amusement park. There are lots of things to see and do, lots of overpriced items, souvenirs (tote bags and t-shirts, in the least), activities (classes and other events), and many exotic and/or interesting things one may have never seen before.

It’s worth going, in other words, but it would be very strange to get used to actually shopping there. (Although I could.)

Posted in Everyday Life

Aanen August 17, 2009, 4:04 pm

I like the grocery stores in Norway. Small, compact and easy to find what you need.

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