A couple of months ago I learned about a new Whole Foods that was being built in Carrollwood, one of the neighborhoods in north Tampa (about a 40 minute drive from my house).
One of our Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers, Anna who blogs at Marry Me Tampa Bay, is the marketing and community outreach contact for the new Carrollwood Whole Foods, and she has kept our Facebook group in the loop on happenings with the new store. I started following their Facebook page and when I saw that they were offering preview tours, I RSVP’d as soon as possible to get a spot and check it out.
I was able to reserve a spot for a +1, so I dragged the other Caroline with me.
They asked for a $5 donation to benefit the Bob Sierra YMCA Scholarship Fund, and we were happy to help support such a good cause. Besides, we got a shopping bag with a bottle of water when we arrived and it ended up being full of goodies by the time we left, so the $5 donation was easily offset.
The store was still being set up and some things were under construction and everything was so bright and shiny and new.
The grand opening is November 1st and they will be having all kinds of specials, which will also be honored at the south Tampa location.
At the entrance we were welcomed by Jonny from the Coral Springs Whole Foods and he gave us lots of information about Whole Foods and this new location.
This location is 36,000 square feet and is larger than the south Tampa store. It is the eighteenth Whole Foods in Florida and the second one in Tampa.
The tour proceeded by going from one department to another where we met team leaders and experts for each department. First up was the produce department where we met Steve who was very passionate about local and organic produce.
He explained Whole Food’s farm to plate philosophy and that all produce items in the store are labeled to indicate whether they are organic and whether they are local, indicating that they came from either within Florida or a fifty mile radius beyond Florida. He also spoke about the Whole Planet Foundation which provides $200 micro loans to farmers and artisans to help give them a leg up. That may not sound like much but the program has been extremely successful and Whole Foods has provided almost $4,000,00.00 in these micro loans. Steve said that most of the farmers and artisans repay the loans early.
When a certain item is not available locally, Whole Foods has a Whole Trade program that ensures that their partners meet four criteria: quality, premium price to the producer, better wages and working conditions, and environmental consciousness. In each department we got a little goody and in produce we got to try some of their Whole Trade pineapple.
Next up on the tour was the Whole Body department.
Here we met Ted who has been with Whole Foods for over 20 years and his passion for the brand might have exceeded Steve’s, if that were possible.
Next was an introduction to the store’s Health Starts Here initiative.
Each store has a healthy eating specialist and we met Gretchen who is one of the healthy eating specialists for the Carrollwood store.
She passed out peanut butter and chocolate brownie bites for us to try.
We also met Karen Doyle who is the healthy eating mission specialist for the region.
She spoke about Whole Foods’ four pillars of healthy eating:
- eat whole, unprocessed foods
- eat a colorful variety of plants
- get healthy fats from sources like nuts, seeds, and avocados
- choose nutrient-dense foods
She also spoke about the store’s green mission, including all of the recycling efforts undertaken by the store like chairs made from recycled materials and reclaimed glass in the windows. The store also has a cistern which provides all the water for their landscaping. The insulation in the store is made from recycled blue jeans! If you have an electric car you can charge it up here for free.
The next stop on the tour was the seafood department.
We met Bill who explained the sourcing and labeling used for all of Whole Foods seafood.
We got to try some local Key West pink shrimp that had been prepared using a “Floridian” brand key lime oil (available in the store of course), cilantro and garlic. It was really delicious. We were not able to shop yesterday since the store is not yet open, but I want to go back and buy this oil!
The next stop was the meat department where we met Jay.
He spoke more about the farm to table philosophy and how involved the store is with the farmers that they help support.
He also spoke about Whole Food’s 5-step animal welfare rating program.
We got to try some of the Thompson Farm smoked pork sausage.
It was spicy and delicious.
The next stop was the grocery department where we met Chris from the Wellington Whole Foods.
He spoke more about the 365 brand and the quality standards used by the company. He also spoke about how Whole Foods has partnered with brands such as Arrowhead Mills to develop exclusive Whole Foods product lines.
Here we received a tin of mints, some chocolates, and a fruit strip for our goody bags.
Next up was the specialties department, introduced by pyramids of local beer and aisles of wine.
Yay for Cigar City Brewing! They are opening a brewpub right across the street from Whole Food Carrollwood.
In the specialty department we met Kelly and Kari who spoke about all the good stuff…cheese, chocolate, gourmet olives, coffee.
Kelly is one of only 121 certified cheese professionals in the world.
We got a delicious bite of the parmigiano-reggiano, as well as more chocolate and coffee samples for our goody bags.
I wanted to hang out by the chocolate mountain for a while longer…
but the tour moved on to the prepared foods department.
Here we met Brian who is the regional prepared foods coordinator for Whole Foods.
I’m not sure which I would choose as my favorite department, the specialty foods or the prepared foods. In prepared foods you can pretty much get whatever your heart desires.
The hot foods and salad bars were all set up and ready to receive their delicious goodness on opening day.
We got to sample some pumpkin tortelloni which was awesome.
Next up was the bakery and coffee/juice bar.
Here we met Bill…
but I have to admit that I was focusing on my coffee and pastry at this point and kind of zoned out on what he told us.
If you bring your own reusable mug you can get a coffee here for only $1.00!
They will also have a full juice bar and a cookie bar!
The store is beautiful and almost ready for the soon-to-come holiday crowds.
The last stop was the café, where you can enjoy your hot bar lunch or your coffee and pastry and take advantage of the free wi-fi.
I loved this store and just wish it was opening in St. Pete! Please come to St. Petersburg Whole Foods! We need you! Thanks for the fun tour, and thanks to the other Caroline for coming with me. Check out the Whole Foods Carrollwood’s events calendar for fun things coming up at the store, or check your local Whole Foods website for events in your area.