On Wednesday, Whole Foods unveiled the first Bay Area location of 365 by Whole Foods, a more affordable alternative for customers who want organic goods without paying the grocery chain’s notoriously high prices.
The store is located in Concord’s recently-constructed Veranda Shopping Center, next to several restaurants, retail shops, and an IMAX movie theater. The project had been in the works since 2015 and is one of only seven 365 shops around the country.
The store gets its 365 moniker from Whole Foods in-house brand, 365 Everyday. About a quarter of all products at the new store carry that label, a strategy that ultimately swaps variety for lower prices.
"In a Whole Foods market, you might have 100 different olive oils to choose from," explained Chris Tiger, the store’s team leader. "At 365, we’re a little more curated. You might have 10 to 20 different options and a greater focus on the 365 line."
Tiger said foot traffic at the store has "surpassed expectations." He estimates that at least 10,000 people have shopped there since its opening Wednesday morning.
To streamline shopping and make for quicker check-outs, there are multiple pay stations throughout the store. Produce shoppers also have the option of weighing and printing out price tags within the fruit and vegetable departments.
Whole Foods aficionados will enjoy the chain’s popular hot food and salad bar. Noticeably absent, however, are fish and meat counters. Instead, a butcher is on-site to help with recommendations and selections.
The store also incorporates outside brands into the mix. Next Level, a vegan burger joint, and Urban Remedy, an organic cafe, also occupy space in the 30,000-foot megalith.
For the most part, customers seemed pleased with the shop on Friday afternoon. Some said this was their second or third time shopping on Wednesday.
"It was really crowded the first day," said Brenda Seybold, who was on her second trip. "No one knew where they were going. It was pretty funny."
Others came for a quick bite to eat.
"I thought it was really good for lunchtime — lots of grab-and-go," said shopper Fran Westwater. "My children are strict vegans, so I’m always looking out for food for them, and the prices do seem to be lower."
Most shoppers cited the low-prices as a factor in their decision to check out the new store. The traditional Whole Foods has often been criticized for pricey ingredients, earning it the moniker "whole paycheck" on social media. In 2015, the chain was bought by Amazon after failing to meet revenue goals.
Gloria Vega and her husband came to the 365 store just to take a look. They typically shop at the organic sections at other grocery stores in the area due to price concerns.
"My cousin told me that it’s more affordable, so we’re excited to check it out," Gloria Vega said before entering the store. "We don’t shop at Whole Foods a lot, because it’s not the most affordable option, but we’re always looking to see if there’s something we can find here that works for us. "