Whole Foods in Champions Photo Album & Giveaway!
This post goes out to the Northwest Houstoners of the world, but anyone is welcome to read it, of course. No Blog Reading Police are out and about tonight.
This post is sponsored by Whole Foods in that they are providing a $30 gift card to their Champions store to one of you lovely readers. (I am adding $20 so that it is actually a $50 gift card that I am giving away.) It should be available to be picked up the first day they are opened, which is Wednesday, June 25th. My thoughts and opinions are my own, of course. Details about getting your hands on that gift card are at the end of the post.
I am supporting Whole Foods in this post because a) YUM and b) they are giving back to the community their opening week in many different ways, which I have outlined below.
How have I already had the chance to peek inside the much-anticipated Whole Foods? Well, the short answer is...I'm not sure. (Actually, this would have been shorter: not sure.) Jeanette Webster is involved with Whole Foods' Houston Media and Community Relations and she connected with me thanks to my two friends, Google and Twitter. (You may remember my recent post where I professed my love for Twitter here.) This Whole Foods in the Champions area is definitely highly anticipated. I remember when I first saw the sign that a Whole Foods was coming soon. I thought I was seeing a mirage. I had to call my sister to confirm that she saw the sign, as well. I may have confirmed it with at least 50 others within those first few days.
I'm definitely not the only one excited. (My cousin, Rick, doesn't seem so excited, though, but I'm not sure why. Rick, look into my eyes. You are getting sleepy. You are getting verrrrrrrrrrry sleepy. You love Whole Foods. Say it. SAY IT. You looooove Whole Foods.)
People in this area are so pumped that when Jeanette told me to ask a certain number of people along, it took me less than 5 minutes to get that lined up. I started talking about it with a friend and before 5 minutes passed, there were 5 people. It happened that fast. Done deal.
(I wish I could've asked everyone I knew and we could've eaten everything in the whole store and polished it off with their large selection of things to drink.)
Whole Foods began in Austin. I went to The University of Texas at Austin and remember seeing the original store and going to it a few times. I believe it was at 5th or 6th street and Lamar. When I imagine it like I did back then, I imagine fresh fruits, tattoos and patchouli. I know there was more to it than those things, but that is what I think of first. I remember thinking, "Wow, people with nose piercings really know their organic vegetables."
Whole Foods is now all over the United States, in Canada and also the UK.
And now in the Champions area.
We took a few pictures that I thought I'd share with you. I took a few before my phone was all, "I AIN'T TAKIN' ANYMORE, SISTER! I'VE HAD IT! YOU FILL ME UP WITH PICTURES AND VIDEOS NON-STOP AND THINK I'LL JUST SIT HERE AND KEEP TAKIN' IT. WELL, I WON'T! I'M DONE WITH YOU AND I DON'T CARE IF WE'RE AT WHOLE FOODS OR NOT."
(My phone and I had a long talk on the way home about how you don't treat people that way, especially in front of Whole Foods' leaders and such. And nice neighbors and friends.)
Thankfully, my friends had better behaved cameras, so I was able to use theirs.
Let's get started on our tour.
This is a rain water collector. The cool people at Whole Foods will use water from that to quench their plants' thirst. I do believe they said this feature was unique to the Champions store, but I could have heard that wrong. (I have had quite a lot of embarrassing stories due to my wretched hearing loss that you can read about here and here.)
This is my friend Lori, though you might have mistaken her for one of those Price is Right girls. She is showing all of you the vast area of empty cases that will soon hold lots of organic produce and juices and deliciousness. When we walked in, I think we were all expecting everything to be finished. That is sort of crazy of us, though. Whole Foods would never put apples and tomatoes and yogurt and artichokes and fresh squeezed orange juice on the shelves and have them sit there for 6 days! This is the area of the store that you will likely walk into first.
Before you get to those vast array of cases, however, you will pass this mega juicer on your left. This mega juicer is unique to the Whole Foods store. It is my understanding that you will be able to juice things yourself and take them home. I seriously, seriously love fresh squeezed orange juice. Unless you are allergic to citrus and/or deliciousness, I'm sure you love it, too.
Also delicious? Freshly churned peanut butter, hazelnut butter, walnut butter (do they do that?) or Nutter Butter butter (or that?). My friend, Germaine, was super excited about trying that out. We all got to take a little taste of it. I would've washed it straight down with a gallon of organic milk, but you know that wasn't on the shelves yet either. (Germaine really acted like she knew what she was doing. If she didn't have so many responsibilities already, I would encourage her to get a job at Whole Foods doing that all day.)
I show you these packets of spices more as a word of caution than to brag on Whole Foods' collection of really awesome spices. I started getting all enamored with their tarragon, cinnamon and paprika in those cute little bags so much that I made a bunch fall on the floor. Those little bags like to lean on each other and then slide out like they're at Wet 'n Wild. Beware.
Although this picture doesn't show it, you can really appreciate the color scheme of the store in the bakery section. They have a turquoise theme throughout the store. In the bakery area, they have these pretty white, turquoise and yellow (possibly?) tiles that were especially made for that the Champions location. As for the food in the bakery, they aren't planning on selling these cakes. No one wants to eat six-day-old cakes. The bakers are getting some decorating practice until the store opens. (I should've asked if they needed anyone to taste those cakes to make sure they passed consumer inspection.) The lead baker came out to talk to us while we congregated in front of those luscious layers of chocolate, vanilla and frosting. Germaine asked if they used an ingredient found in some health products, but also found in yoga mats. Her question prompted me to get smarter about azodicarbonamide. (She pronounced it right on the first try!)
Azodicarbonamide recently made headlines after an online campaign prompted Subway to announce it was removing the additive — used as a bleaching and dough agent in bread products, as well as a foaming agent in the plastics and rubber industry — from its bread. A new report reveals the extent to which it is found on grocery store shelves. (March 2014 article in the New York Daily News)
That article was an eye opener. Apparently, this is a chemical found in many, many products, many of which you might consider "healthy". We just ate an Uncrustable today at a baseball game and that product contains azodicarbonamide. *grabs throat and falls over*
The head baker at Whole Foods was not familiar with the chemical and the controversy, but she said that everything that is placed in their baked goods can easily be pronounced.
Let's move on with some more snapshots of the store. Here are bins and bins of healthy things. When I was a little girl, you could've left them there for hours just to dip the scoop full and then pour it out. Dip the scoop full and then pour it out. Dip the scoop full and then pour it out. I feel so relaxed just thinking about it. I think they should have a special room at every spa filled with barrels of pinto beans where you can just dip and pour to your heart's content. (If you try that at the grocery store, the manager will chase you out with a broom.)
This "Bearitos" brand is exclusive to Whole Foods. Why the name was given to pita chips and not burritos filled with bear meat is beyond me.
I can't wait to buy this box of chicken. I've had a few recent bad run-ins con el pollo. I'm not going to tell you where I bought the chicken that quickly stunk up the house once I defrosted it, but it rhymes with Schmal-wart. I'm sure they mostly put out fresh things and I probably caught them on a bad day. I had to buy ink and paper at the store and was in need of a few groceries while I was there. Hoooooooooooo-buddy, I'm not doing that again.
They didn't take this picture because I'm obsessed with beer. I'm not sure why they took it. Maybe it's because I was waving and doing that funny thing with my head. In any case, it was an ironic time to take my picture by beer since just last week I broke a bottle of beer right in front of a church. That was an embarrassing story. Goodness gracious. (If you are obsessed with beer, you will love that area. Tons of beer. TONS. Just tons of the stuff.)
My lovely and fun Whole Foods touring buddies and friends (left to right: Lynsey, Jennifer, me, Germaine and Lori) in front of a BAR. (It looks like we coordinated our colors, right? We should have left there and gone straight to an Olan Mills!) There is a BAR at this Whole Foods. A BAR. Not just a wine tasting area, but a straight up BAR. The nice people at Whole Foods would like you to come to Whole Foods and stay awhile.
Did you know you can get someone at Whole Foods to do your shopping for you? The first time is free. The times after that, you can get personal shopping done for you at an average of $7 per shopping trip. They even have a reserved spot so that you can pull up and get your groceries brought up to you. Isn't that something else?
So, it's conceivable that you can get your shopping done for you while you belly up to the bar.
Try not to do this while your kids are with you.
For goodness sakes.
This is the sushi area. (I know I've been long-winded so far. I'm going to try to speed things along here.) Go get sushi. Sushi is good.
(Okay, I have to mention this part. You can get fresh fish seasoned and steamed for you while you shop by the fishmongers. The fishmongers. That is a word.)
These are not small tires. Please do not mistake these for small tires. I know, I know. They look exactly like small yellow tires, so it's an easy mistake. This is cheese. If you ask if they are tires, the nice people at Whole Foods may not offer you samples of the parmesan that we got and I don't want you to miss out on that. THAT IS CHEESE. THAT IS A HUGE BLOCK OF CHEESE.
Future Whole Foods employees getting schooled on pizza. I think. They were in front of the pizza area. There are a lot of toppings that you can get on your pizza, so there was a lot of information to cover. By the way, you can get your pizza made like you like it and go to the balcony area to eat it. You can also get your sushi or your sandwich or your cheese samples and go out to the balcony to eat it. You can even get a small chocolate bar and eat it out on the patio. YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING ON THE PATIO. The nice people at Whole Foods want you to stay a while, remember?
The turquoise! See it? That's the Champions color. I love it. If they would've asked me, "Hey, Kelley, what color do you think our scheme should be at the Whole Foods Champions store?" I definitely would've said, "Turquoise. Make it turquoise." They didn't ask, but I'm thinking they assumed that is what I would've said and went with it. (This, by the way, is the coffee area where they are making coffee with this super fancy expensive coffee maker from Italy. If you love coffee, you better get yourself over there and try it.)
The soups, the soups, the soups. There will be tons of soup. What flavor soup do you like? It'll be there. And you? They'll have it. Guess where you can eat it? THE DADGUM PATIO. You can eat anything out there! Even that soup! It's like the Bubba Gump of shrimp over there, but for soup.
Okay, our tour is winding down now. You guys have been a great audience. These beautiful terrariums are made by Slavonk & Hortus Terraria. We just happened to be there when Keri Anderson, the owner of the company and designer of these beautiful little ecosystems, was dropping them off. I hate that her eyes were closed! She was really sweet to tell us all about them. Some of them can live for 6 months without any human intervention. I think I could manage that! Keri lives in Austin, where she began her business. I'm not sure how many Whole Foods she delivers her plants to right now, but I know it isn't to all of them. I think it's pretty awesome that they are at the Champions store. You can go here to find out more about Keri and her business.
On the far right is Jeanette Webster, who I mentioned earlier as the Houston media and community relations person for Whole Foods. She was an excellent tour guide. She was super patient with all of our questions and was very thorough in her description of all of the different areas of the store. I only touched on the things that she shared.
Oh! One thing she shared that I almost forgot to tell you! You are allowed to ask for a sample of ANYTHING in the store. If you aren't sure you are going to like that African horned cucumber, you can totally ask to sample it first. (I don't know if they carry that. They probably do.) It doesn't only apply to produce. I'm pretty sure you could ask to sample some vanilla wafers and they'd allow you to do it. I think you might need to ask, though. Don't go squattin' in the corner with your bag of organic potato chips and try to pass that off as permissible samplin'. Don't go and do that.
If you are near this Whole Foods and would like the chance to win a $30 gift card (make that $50!) to it, just leave a comment on this post or go to this Facebook post below and leave a comment:
I will pick the winner Tuesday night so that the lucky winner can use the gift card on the grand opening day, if he or she wanted.
That's it! Thanks for reading!