Mobile — Locals came out in droves to experience the new Whole Foods Market on Airport Boulevard Tuesday, which kicked off with comments from Mayor Sandy Stimpson and company leaders, in addition to numerous sales.

Since it was announced last year, Whole Foods has been anticipated throughout the Port City, and more than 1,300 Mobilians even took advantage of tours that were held last weekend ahead of the store’s grand opening.

The company that prides itself on “selling the highest quality natural and organic products available” has rolled out a few unique features for its newest location, including a parilla-style grilling station called “The Char,” which features wood-fired rotisserie meats and vegetables.

A companion bar will feature 12 beers on draft and a unique southern menu with purported coastal influences. Other features include a growler station for beer enthusiasts, an espresso and smoothie bar and a bulk section featuring 150 varieties of grains, beans, spices and salts sold in large quantities.

According to Lauren Bernath, a public relations specialist with Whole Foods, the beer varieties will be rotated seasonally and as new products become available. There will also be an emphasis on “local” beers, which Bernath said would include Alabama brews as well as ones made in neighboring states, within 150 miles of Mobile.

The store also utilizes the TapHunter phone app to keep customers up to date with what beers are available both at the Char Bar and at the growler station.
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“Our customers using the TapHunter App are notified every single time something new gets tapped,” Bernath said. “If there’s a big event or if we’re serving a festive brew or something seasonal, you can come in and take advantage of those products.”

In addition to those unique features, Whole Foods will also feature other stations common in modern grocery layouts such as a seafood area, meat carving station and a fromagerie, or cheese station.

Part of the store’s “specialty” designation, the fromagerie features a knowledgeable staff that will often hand select cheeses and distributors whose products will be used in the store. Bernath said they are also trained to advise customers on tasty wine, beer and cheese pairing combinations.

At full capacity, the 35,000 square foot store expects to employ upwards of 150 people from the area. However, the Whole Foods Mobile location is only a mid mid-sized store for a grocer that has floor plans ranging from 15,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet in different markets.

There’s a community room and dining area that seats up to 30. The store also plans to utilize that area to set up for yoga classes, cooking classes and wine tasting among other things as scheduled by local Whole Foods management.

Also, for those going green, the store will feature two electric car charging stations. The currently makes Whole Foods the only retailer in town with that availability for local residents.

Aside from hiring locally, Whole Foods also works utilize and support local suppliers and growers. According to its website, the company does that by “providing a marketplace for local goods” and doing what it can to contribute to the success of local growers and the local economy.

Bernath said the Mobile store has already been working to establish relationships with farmers and producers in the area.

“We’ll have a specific team leader in each department, and it’s their job to work with our local suppliers, research new products and to form a partnership with the community,” she said. “A lot of times, if we have enough customer interest in a product that’s local, and it meets our quality standards, we’re very open to bringing it into the store.”

Now that it’s open, the new Whole Foods Market, located in the Pinebrook Shopping Center, will keep regular hours of 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week.

Ron Sivak contributed photographs and content to this report.