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Broad Street corridor welcomes grocery store

10th February 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Parker
Contributing Writer

The resurgence of grocery shopping in some of our most celebrated neighborhoods may be a continuing trend. On the heels of the historic Circle Food Store returning to the Claiborne Ave. corridor, Mid-City shoppers can now make groceries Whole Foods-style.

On February 4, the Whole Foods Market celebrated its grand opening at the corner of North Broad and Bienville streets. The site at 300 N. Broad holds many memories for locals who patronized the popular Schwegmann’s supermarket for decades. Robert Fresh Market occupied the location, but did not reopen after Hurricane Katrina.Whole-Foods-on-Broad

Many of the city’s elected leaders were on hand, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and several members of the city council.

“Nothing is happening in New Orleans, that is not a partnership,” Landrieu told the crowd. “Every­body working hard, everybody’s coming together, so we can all benefit from it.”

“This is a great day for our communities, not just Mid-City; as this is also benefiting our surrounding communities,” LaToya Cantrell, Council member District B, told those in attendance. “Whole Foods has come home to Mid-City where it started.

The retail and organic food store first set up shop locally, on Esplanade Avenue, back in the 1980s.

The 25,000-square-foot store opened its doors offering a full range of high-quality natural and organic foods including a vast assortment of more than 330 locally-sourced offerings from some of Louisiana’s most highly-regarded community producers, more than 100 organic produce items and hundreds of products exclusive to Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods Market’s Broad Street store, will anchor the ReFresh Project, a 60,000-square-foot development that aims to stimulate growth in New Orleans’ Broad Street commercial corridor and to improve access to fresh, high-quality food and health-related programs in the community.

The supermarket was developed by Broad Community Connections (BCC), a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the Broad Street corridor, along with L+M Development Partners, a New York-based firm that specializes in affordable and market-rate housing.

“Broad Street is a corridor that runs through the backstreet neighborhoods of the city that are an epicenter for the culture of the city,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, BCC’s executive director.

Schwartz says that the project was primarily motivated by the community and that the goal is to support community health and economic development in neighborhoods, as is evident by the roster of current and future tenants.

Soon to come on board as ReFresh Project tenants include Liberty’s Kitchen and Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, one of the country’s first teaching kitchens associated with a medical school. Goldring will teach residents, students and doctors how to use healthy cooking to avoid food-related diseases. Crescent City Community Land Trust, whose mission is to provide permanent affordable housing and commercial space in the city, will be sharing an office with BCC. FirstLine Schools’ central offices will be occupants as well.

“This is a sign that we hold dear to our hearts; the people of our city and communities, providing you with fresh fruit and produce, quality retail — we will continue to do this for the Broad St. area,” said Latoya Cantrell, District B councilmember. “This project will serve as a catalyst for continued change in the community and I’m going to be a part of that,” Cantrell added.

The first 500 shoppers (referred to as guests by Whole Foods) received the new line of New Orleans reusable bags with Whole Foods Market product samples. Shoppers also enjoyed special store opening sales and music, as well as tips and tours with the Whole Foods Market healthy eating educators.

As a part of Whole Foods Market’s commitment to the community and in celebration of the store’s opening, all three area stores will host a series of 1% community giving days during the Broad Street location’s opening week. Guests can support a different local non-profit each day simply by shopping at one of the New Orleans Whole Foods.

“Several hundred attended the opening with easily 1,000 (plus) throughout the day,” Kristina Bradford, Whole Foods Market Community Relations Coordinator said. “It was like magic! The feeling from the community was special and we are so happy to be open! The response was so wonderful, that effective February 6th; store hours will now be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

The store, like the atmosphere, with a brass band welcoming in guests, was vibrant with fruits, veggies, meats and seafood; surrounded by local art and bits of nostalgia, including the original terrazzo floor.

Many guests of the opening were pleased to have a Whole Foods store a little closer to their residence.

“I live not far from Jesuit High school, so (coming here is closer) than going to the Metairie location,” Bridgette Medley said. “I’m spending my money in my own community, so I had to come out and support it. I like what I see, so I will definitely be back.”

“I live in New Orleans east, so I was driving to the uptown store, “says Linda Landry. “I am so excited that a store is on this side of Canal Street. I’ve been going to whole foods since 1988 when it was a tiny store on Esplanade Ave. This is so convenient, and the store looks wonderful.”

The Mayor also stressed the importance of New Orleanians rebuilding New Orleans. “75 percent of the individuals working in the building are from this city,” he said.

New Orleans’s Office of Workforce Development, JOB1 Mobile Unit, NOLA For Life job fair and community presentations assisted with team member recruitment, according to Kristina Brad­ford. “The Whole Foods Market store leadership team was surprised and delighted by the response of more than 1,400 applicants for positions and the attendance of more than 800 candidates at a job fair last month.”

“What I love is the community involvement,” Linda Landry added. “I’m hoping that everyone has access to Whole Foods; it was said that this location was going to have things that people from various income brackets can afford, and I’m excited about that, because this should be assessable to everybody. “

“We will be competitively priced and offer great value throughout the store, especially with our 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic Everyday Value line in addition to the bulk department, case discounts, bundle deals and special sales,” Bradford says. “We’ve hired two healthy eating educators who will offer tours to show how to shop on a budget and eat healthy, on top of the classes they will do on-site and in the community. One of the main things they focus on is budget and price-conscious portions per person. The program’s chef is in the process of pricing out their recipes using Whole Foods Market products featuring the 365 lines.” Store Team Leader Ernest Roy was overwhelmed by the happy patrons and customers grateful to see the project come to fruition.

“Seeing all of these smiling faces, and having people come up to me and say ‘Thank you for opening this store,’ that’s what this project is all about,” the Westbank native told The Louisiana Weekly.

As lagniappe, this Whole Foods location will offer Broad St. Happenings — everything from weekly store tours on how to shop, save and eat the foods you love and A Saturday Yoga series, to Wine Down Wednesdays and healthy eating tips, and activities and tasty treats for Kids called Kids’ Club @ Broad St.

“This wouldn’t have happened if we wouldn’t have come together as one team,” Mayor Landrieu stated. “This is the new way; making sure we take responsibility for the future and investing in very important neighborhoods in the city of New Orleans; and there could be no more important one, than the one that we’re in.”

As for the future of the project and the organization that helped bring to fruition, Schwartz says that he and the organization are committed to continuing to work to ensure that New Orleans communities thrive.

“This is a big first step, but our mission really is around supporting small business owners,” Schwartz said. Regarding future projects, he continued to say, “It may not look like ReFresh, but we will continue to play a role in supporting small business owners and supporting high quality investment in the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city.”

This article originally published in the February 10, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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