Whole Foods is looking to put its conscious capitalism to the test with the opening of stores in underserved areas of Chicago and New Orleans. But nowhere has more attention been paid to Whole Foods' social/commercial experiment than in Detroit where local officials are holding up the chain as a symbol of the city's comeback.
Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, has made a point of telling anyone who will listen that opening stores in places such as Midtown Detroit are part of the company's plan to serve all types of communities.
"People perceive Whole Foods as only receiving a particular community and I don't like that," Mr. Robb told Marketplace.
"We try to be competitive with our prices. I made a personal commitment on behalf of the company for us to be affordable," he added. "This market has some special pricing because this is a different market than we usually serve."
Whole Foods has been adamant about its commitment to making it in Motown. The company has signed a long-term lease (at $6 a square foot) and two-thirds of the store's employees are Detroit residents.
The new store features a distinctive Detroit feel, including the use of Motown records at the registers, tables made from the hoods of old cars and more.
"This store celebrates this city, its rich history and its talented, community-minded residents," said Larry Austin, the store team leader, in a statement. "We've incorporated reclaimed wood and signs into the design and invited local artists to contribute murals. We want all our shoppers to feel at home — welcome 100 percent of the time — and we want them to understand how much it means to us to serve them with a store in Motown."
How successful will Whole Foods be in Midtown Detroit?