The Haight gets a major upgrade next week when a new Whole Foods opens its doors after years of waiting.
Formerly a dilapidated Cala Bell supermarket, where Haight touches Golden Gate Park, the building was completely gutted and transformed into an upscale grocery store.
Initially, there were plans to tear down the building and erect a modern high-density structure. But when the economy tanked, funding for ambitious construction projects evaporated, so the developer had to be content with a revamp of the existing property.
The store will employ about 180 employees, and uses lots of recycled and re-used elements. The checkout area sits atop a former high school gym floor, and some walls are made of reclaimed redwood. That redwood was carbon-dated to about 2,200-years-old.
Yes, you read that right. Parts of Whole Foods are older than Jesus.
Because space is tight on a lot, the store has had to get creative. The tight parking lot will have attendants to help keep traffic flowing smoothly. Inside, the store will do away with traditional checkout lines. Instead, there will be a single line with an attendant directing shoppers to the next open checkout station, sort of like at an airport.
The store will feature plenty of locally-produced food, including Mission Minis cupcakes in the bakery, and coffee from Ritual Roasters and Four Barrel.
They'll also have kombucha on tap.
A reflective roof, low-energy signs, and temperature-sealing doors on dairy cases round out the facility's new eco-friendly measures. Picnic tables near the entrance may wind up being an attractive, friendly feature, or could attract a sketchy crowd. Thatmight wind up being a good early test of sit/lie.
Aside from the gritty locale, customers might find themselves stymied by another quirk of the neighborhood: because there's virtually no AT&T cell service in the Haight, you won't be able to whip out your iPhone and look for recipes while you shop. On a recent visit to the under-construction store, we were unable to connect to Foursquare to check in.
Whole Foods hopes to become a neighborhood fixture, and will host a series of events all month. They'll hold a Valentine's Day flower sale this Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm, with food trucks on Sunday. The store opens Wednesday, the 16th, at 8am with a bread baking ceremony.