Greenlife Grocery Customers Wary of Whole Foods

May 11, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Some of the locals are up in arms that Greenlife Grocery, with
two stores in Chattanooga, TN, and Asheville, NC, announced plans last week
to be acquired by a national chain. But it’s not Kroger, Supervalu or Safeway;
it’s Whole Foods.

Following the May 7 news, the grocer’s Chattanooga and Asheville
Facebook pages were full of regrets and concerns. Several directly mentioned Greenlife
founder Chuck Pruett’s commitment to the community in their responses. Among
the comments:

  • “This makes me sad to see a gem like GL be turned into some big chain
  • “I really like the fact that GL is clearly a local establishment,
    and it feels like it … I fear that we will lose much of that with this
  • “What about the partnerships with local farms? Will that continue?”
  • “I know I will continue to support because there is no other better alternative,
    however, I won’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling of supporting a local business
    that I used to get.”
  • “I have shopped at Greenlife with my family since I was a kid and
    the fact that it was so community-oriented was awesome. I don’t preferably
    want to work for a big corporation and feel as if my GL family has vanished.”

 But a few positive ones emerged:

  • “They’re keeping the name; the store’s not moving. With any luck the
    employees will be paid more and some efficiencies will come into play that
    allows more people to eat healthier foods at good prices.”
  • “If WF keeps to what their prices are in other locations, we will
    see price drops in most products and that excites me because eating and feeding
    your family with healthy foods for a reasonable price in Chattanooga is a
    daunting task.”
  • “I hope this gives Greenlife the opportunity to spread local food,
    and their atmosphere nationally.”
  • “Freakin awesome!”

The founder, Mr. Pruett, also attempted to reassure customers in a Facebook
message: “Everything
is going to be ok. I am confident WF will keep their word and make an effort
to grow the local movement. As with Greenlife, Whole Foods empowers the team
member with the ability to choose what local items are carried in a store.
The consumer demand dictates what gets put on the shelf. It will be the same
great staff and spirit that has brought us this far! It does not matter who
owns Greenlife. The staff makes Greenlife great and Whole Foods understands

Chattanooga store opened in 1999 and Ashville in 2005.

Discussion Questions: What concerns should fans of Greenlife Grocery’s
Chattanooga and Asheville stores have about being acquired by Whole Foods? How
can Whole Foods best address these concerns?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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12 Comments on "Greenlife Grocery Customers Wary of Whole Foods"

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Bob Phibbs
11 years 1 day ago

Change is scary. The owner is living his dream of selling his company. It’s not like he sold it to Dollar Stores–it’s WF–get a grip, shoppers!

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
11 years 1 day ago

This article is similar to yesterday’s discussing Ahold’s purchase of Ukrop’s with intentions of changing the banner’s name to Martin’s Food Markets. In this case, Whole Foods market positioning is probably closer to that of Greenlife Grocery’s than Martin’s is to Ukrop’s. Nonetheless, Greenlife customers feel threatened and the key to a successful transition is to mitigate their concerns.

Keeping the Greenlife name (unlike Ahold’s decision with Ukrop’s) and making a pledge to continue to support local farmers (an issue of importance to many shoppers) will go a long way toward having Greenlife loyalists realize that the potential economic benefits of a Whole Foods relationship outweigh any downside perceptions.

Paula Rosenblum
11 years 1 day ago

Whole Foods has really made most of its acquisitions better, not worse. It’s true that until now, the company’s commitment to sourcing produce locally hasn’t been strong, but I suspect that is changing with the “push to green.”

Having said that, would you really NOT want to see avocados (for example) in any stores outside of Florida and California? Would you want to live on root vegetables in New England all winter long?

Whole Foods is not a low cost provider, but in general, the company is a good local citizen.

Marge Laney
11 years 1 day ago

I think their worries are unfounded as Whole Foods has proven themselves able to acquire and not destroy, which is more than can be said of some other grocers. If they keep it local they’ll be fine, and so far that is their modus operandi. Their ability to volume buy for the center aisles will also be a plus and help keep the Greenlife stores in the black.

Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 1 day ago

This article is similar to yesterday’s concerns about Ukrop’s selling to Martin’s and losing their brand identity. The difference is Whole Foods, while national, still gives the local feel to their brand. The name change is going to come with some concerns. I think the shopper’s concerns can be alleviated by Whole Foods management stepping up and letting the local shoppers know of their plans to keep everything at least close to the way they were before the sale. My guess is Whole Foods will have an easier road to succeeding than Martin’s.

Robert Straub
Robert Straub
11 years 1 day ago

It may seem like much ado about nothing to the casual observer, but here in Portland I shop at both Whole Foods and their local competitor, New Seasons. There is definitely a difference between the two retailers, and I would be saddened to see Whole Foods acquire New Seasons. A national chain is not local no matter how good their intentions.

David Biernbaum
11 years 1 day ago

I definitely can understand why Greenlife consumers would be concerned about an acquisition by Whole Foods. I’m a fan of what Whole Foods is doing, however, it’s not the same model as what Greenlife is doing.

Ben Ball
11 years 1 day ago

Greenlife has done a better than average job of living the “buy local” mantra and their clientele, while eclectic, is very loyal and supportive of that “it’s our store” feeling. If Whole Foods messes with that they will have wasted their money.

Gene Detroyer
11 years 1 day ago

Why would WF keep the Greenlife banner unless they were going to operate it independently? Assuming they are going to operate it independently, the Greenlife banner makes no sense. These two stores will be Whole Foods in every way but the name on the stores. As soon as someone realizes how much cheaper Whole Foods grocery sacks are, the name will change.

No matter “Whole Foods” or “Greenlife,” customers will gain by all the positives noted in the article. On the negative side, customers might not get that “warm fuzzy feeling.”

David Livingston
11 years 1 day ago

I agree with Paula; Whole Foods makes things better. Don’t lose any sleep.

Kai Clarke
11 years 21 hours ago

This is part of business, and frankly a good part. A successful local business is being acquired by a similar successful national one. They both embrace the same concepts, culture and customer appeal. There are advantages to the largess that WF offers, and this appears to be a win/win for everyone.

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
11 years 2 hours ago

I think it’s wonderful that the ownership of Greenlife has been able to reap the rewards of years of honest work by selling their creation. The fact that WF is the buyer is a bonus. Let’s all remember we live in America. For the time being it is still possible to build a business and sell it for a profit. I hope the owners of Greenlife never have to worry about working again. For all the whiners, I say to you that if things aren’t the way you want them to be then you start a business that delivers products and service the way you think it should be done. But, don’t ever begrudge a man his rewards for HIS hard work. No one ever opened a store with the objective of pleasing you–only you can do that!


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