Whole Foods: The World's Leader in Natural and Organic Foods
Whole Foods is a nominee for a Luxist Award in the Best Gourmet Grocery/Food Hall category.
In 1978, a 25 year-old college dropout named John Mackey and his 21 year-old Rene Lawson Hardy started Whole Foods in Austin, Texas with $45,000 borrowed from family and friends. Backs then, there were only a handful of natural food grocers in the country, and the store wasn't quite the glitzy organic palace of modern times; it wasn't even known as Whole Foods yet. Mackey and Hardy called their natural foods store "SaferWay," a spoof of the supermarket Safeway.
When the couple got kicked out of their apartment for storing large quantities of food there, they decided to live at the store. Lacking a shower stall, they bathed in the shop's dishwasher using its attached water hose. This bohemian lifestyle wouldn't be necessary for long. In 1980, SaferWay merged with Clarksville Natural Grocery to form Whole Foods.
Less than a year after the grand opening, an epic flood rolled through Austin, wiping out $400,000 worth of Whole Foods' inventory and equipment. Customers and neighbors volunteered to help put the store back on its feet, and Whole Foods was able to re-open a month after the flood.
Three years later, Whole Foods began to expand, starting with locations in Houston and Dallas. In 1989, the company expanded to California and began scooping up other natural foods chains around the country. In 2001 the company opened its first Manhattan location and expanded to the U.K. in 2004.
Today, the company boasts 275 stores through out the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Each location is packed with an astounding array of natural foods from gourmet cheese to fresh fish. For the unlucky few who live far from a bricks-and-mortar Whole Foods, the company ships non-perishables through its website.
Vote now for what you believe is the best of breed in Gourmet Foods. Readers' Choice Awards for Food will be announced on November 30th.
Gallery: More from Whole Foods