Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Whole Foods Doing Whole Lot of Prep; the Store in Mandarin Is Bustling with Activity as Its Opening Day Approaches

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Whole Foods Doing Whole Lot of Prep; the Store in Mandarin Is Bustling with Activity as Its Opening Day Approaches

Article excerpt

Byline: LARRY HANNAN

To the layman, a new Whole Foods store on San Jose Boulevard looks like mass chaos days before it is scheduled to open.

Employees stock the shelves, men with walkie-talkies move around trying to figure out what needs to be done, and about 20 new employees stand around a cash register getting a demonstration on how it works.

But Russ Benblatt, regional marketing director for Whole Foods, observes the commotion with a slight smile and calm expression.

"We've opened so many of these stores that it's really been boiled down to a science," Benblatt said. "But every store we open is unique; these aren't cookie cutter stores we're opening."

The new 50,000-square-foot store will open in the Mandarin Landing Shopping Center, one block north of Interstate 95, at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

This will be the first Whole Foods store in the Jacksonville area. The Austin, Texas-based company has about 275 stores nationwide, including in Orlando, Palm Beach County and Winter Park.

Benblatt, who has overseen about a dozen store openings, expects hundreds of people to show up Wednesday morning.

About 700 people were waiting outside Nov. 5 when the Palm Beach County store opened, and that store received almost no publicity because the presidential election had just happened, he said.

Whole Foods corporate officials have been getting calls from Jacksonville residents for the past year wanting to know when this store will open, and they believe the San Jose location will be ideal because of the large number of people in the area, Benblatt said.

Whole Foods offers no artificial flavors or coloring. The food offered is fresh, with cheese that is hand cut, coffee that is freshly roasted and many items made from scratch right in the store.

While giving a tour this week, Benblatt pointed to a sign that will list the amount of local produce being sold. It will be updated each day.

Right now, Whole Foods considers anything in Florida to be produced locally. …

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