Crowds filled the sidewalks and part of the parking lot Wednesday for the grand opening of Whole Foods' 43rd Bay Area market in Dublin's new Persimmon Square.
The open air shopping center is located at Hacienda and Dublin Boulevard, across from Hacienda Crossings.
The new market is Whole Foods first for the Tri-Valley cities of Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin. With 225 employees and 40,000 square feet of space, the new store, which has a "modern farmhouse" look that incorporates reclaimed wood and tin, aged metals and colorful chalkboards, is larger than the company's older store in San Ramon, with far more special amenities.
At the invitation of Beth Krausse,Whole Foods regional public relations and social media manager, I had a walking tour of the new store just prior to Wednesday morning's opening. It was probably the only time I'll be in a Whole Foods market without rubbing shoulders with other shoppers. It also gave me a chance to talk to managers and look behind the counters to seer how Whole Foods controls its legacy environmental-friendly reputation.
Right up front, the store posts a sign promoting "Full Health Energy" and listing suppliers who have earned the grocer's best rating for conservation, with labels marked good, better and best in terms of how they use less water and pesticides to provide their products. Whole Foods technicians survey their vendors' sites before awarding the labels.
At a free-standing wine counter, customers can enjoy tastings and also shop for Livermore Valley and other wines that are graded on a "90 point" system, based on those designated ratings used by three of the leading wine magazines.
An elaborate cheese section includes two experts behind the counter who can explain product tastes, how ocean air may affect the processes of certain cheese and then offer help in building a cheese platter for a customer planning a party.
Down the aisle is a seafood section where Whole Foods uses third party specialists to audit farmed fish standards, ruling out fish that are fed antibiotics or that contain artificial colors or preservatives. Wild-caught fish go through an approval process from Marin and Monterey Bay Aquarium sea watch programs designating the store's fish as green or yellow. Whole Foods doesn't carry fish with a red rating, which the program considers endangered species because ocean supplies are running low.
Meat sold at the store also goes through a five-step rating system supported by 100 animal welfare centers. This shows that farmers raise their stock responsibly with audits affirming that none is raised in cages, that cattle are kept outdoors except in extreme weather, that they are born and raised on the same farm and that they've never been in a crowded feed lot. Farmers who qualify as meat vendors commit to fattening up their herds in the field, taking grain to them instead of bringing them into a feed lot.
Whole Foods also is joining the global effort to offer more non-GMO foods. GMO, or genetically modified foods, are those produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA. And while not considered dangerous by government standards, shoppers are increasingly hesitant to buy them. Now, some products carry a non-GMO label, which by 2018 Whole Food will require vendors to label all of their products stating if they have GMOs.
"It'll be like a peanut allergy label that's become common" Krausse explained.
In addition to Whole Foods customary selection of natural and organic products, the Dublin store offers dining and entertainment, including a pizza venue, tap room and an outdoor patio with a space for live music and performances.
"We want to give local musicians a place to play, a wide selection of trending ingredients to share with friends, and parents and a comfortable, welcoming place to have a quick and easy meal with their kids," said Allen Culp, the new store's team leader.
Paul Barron, marketing team leader, agreed, adding that the Dublin store will offer local partnerships, sponsorships and charitable giving, such as "5-Percent Days" and "Nickels for Nonprofits."