“Whole Foods is continuing to open new stores in great locations,” Pacific Northwest regional president for the grocery chain Angela Lorenzen told CHS during a pre-opening tour of the store Monday as workers put on the finishing touches and stocked the shelves of the two-level, 40,000-square-foot supermarket.
Whole Foods Madison Broadway — diplomatically labelled so as not to play favorites with the First Hill and Capitol Hill neighborhoods it straddles — is set to open at 9 AM
8 AM Tuesday morning with a day of giveaways, and, of course, a DJ. “There will be a line — and lots of excitement,” Lorenzen said.
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The new grocery store at the base of The Danforth, a 17-story luxury apartment building that opened this summer, comes four years after CHS first broke the news on the project as Whole Foods officials said the First Hill Streetcar line and proximity to First Hill’s hospitals and nearby Seattle University were important factors in choosing the Broadway and Madison location.
The new Whole Foods stores continues the wave of heavy investment from large grocery chains in the area around Central Seattle and across Capitol Hill. In the years since the project was first announced, a New Seasons Market has been lined up for 23rd and Union, H Mart made Capitol Hill Station plans, and a PCC in Madison Valley has been so far stymied by anti-growth litigation. Whole Food’s location at Broadway and Madison seems prime for coming residential growth on First Hill including new affordable housing projects boosted by Sound Transit.
At the corner where First Hill meets Capitol Hill, construction began in late summer 2016. The project from Columbia Pacific Advisors passed design review in January 2016. That summer, CHS reported on the demolition of the three-story masonry medical building that stood at the tri-corner of Harvard, Broadway, and Madison since 1928.
Inside the main entrance at the Broadway and Madison corner, shoppers will be greeted by an unusually robust floral department, an element Whole Foods’ Rachel Alkon said was in anticipation of demand from the area’s nearby hospitals and medical facilities.
Wide, bright aisles with peek a boo views of busy E Madison display the usual Whole Foods mix of “delicious and healthy options” that meet “rigorous quality standards” and are “free of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives and hydrogenated fats.” The meat and seafood counter is expansive, the vegan refrigerated section, impressively stocked. It’s the kind of store where you can choose your egg ethics — “mobile houses on pasture” anyone?
There is beer — a wall of it — on the first level and wine on level two.
There’s no hard booze, however, so the neighborhood’s QFCs will have at least one competitive advantage. UPDATE: Oops. We must have missed it on the tour but we’re told, yup, there is hard liquor for sale at the new Whole Foods. E Madison’s Central Co-op — celebrating 40 years this month — may face larger challenges from the new competitor.
Inside the new Whole Foods, the first floor leads to a single queue in the southwest corner of the store where an array of checkers will await. There is no self checkout and nothing approaching parent company Amazon’s level of grocery automation. Amazon will, however, have a presence in the store with the standard Whole Foods specials for Amazon Prime customers, Amazon electronics for sale in the store, and a stack of Amazon lockers for product pick-up. Even with the Whole Foods opening up the street on Broadway, we still don’t know more about a back-burnered Amazon project reportedly still underway on E Pike.
Alkon said, despite the acquisition, Whole Foods remains focused on its “culinary” roots — “and we’re not changing that,” she said.
Speaking of “culinary” experiences, the store’s second level is nearly equally large and is devoted to the complex’s food court-like mix of salad and prepared food bars, the wine racks, a pizza kitchen, a coffee shop (of course), the bakery, and even the “Stella Cafe,” an 80-seat, “fast-casual gathering space” will 12 taps of beer and cider, wines by the glass, and a food menu with “savory Buffalo Wings, Tempura Cauliflower, Crispy Tofu Bites, Chile Relleno, Sausage Sandwiches and Loaded Tater Tots.” You can also enjoy your by-the-pound salad bar creations here. There is some Amazon presence on the second level — ordering chow in the food court part of the store is accomplished with touch screens.
And here’s an insider tip — the second level also has its own set of checkout stands. Savvy shoppers might want to load their cart into the elevator and head upstairs to avoid the main line on level one.
In addition to providing a new grocery option to the more than 250 apartment units above, the new Whole Foods will undoubtedly be a shopping destination for households around Central Seattle. Two levels of underground parking for customers are buried beneath the new store. Compared to other grocery parking facilities in the neighborhood, the levels below The Danforth are large, roomy, and appear mostly easy to navigate. Plenty will walk to the store, of course, and buses (eventually RapidRide) and the streetcar pass outside. We found at least one bike facility in the city right of way on Harvard near where it meets Broadway.
For the Pacific Northwest, Whole Foods Broadway Madison represents the final new opening of 2018. In 2019, a new West Seattle store is set to follow. Starting November 1st, the more than 90,000 Whole Foods full and part-time workers will be part of Amazon’s countrywide adoption of the $15 minimum wage. The Broadway store will employ “approximately 175 full and part time team members,” the company says.
Whole Foods Madison Broadway is set to open at 9 AM Tuesday, October 30th at 1001 Broadway. Hours are 7 AM to 10 PM daily. You can learn more at wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/madisonbroadway.