Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

30 Years Fresh

By Paige Brady, January 30, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady
30thAnniv_Logo 2010 is an exciting year for many reasons. It's the beginning of a new decade, the end of 2009 (thank goodness!) and it is the year Whole Foods Market celebrates our 30th birthday! In September of 1980, John Mackey and Renee Lawson opened Whole Foods Market on Lamar Street in Austin, Texas with a staff of 19. We asked some of our team members who have been with us from the beginning, or practically the beginning, to share their favorite stories about those early days. original-store_460px Peggy Hayes, now a Team Member at our Southwest Distribution Center, started working at the original Whole Foods Market in 1981, right before the flood that almost ended the whole business. She remembers that day:
On my fourth day of work, I got on my bicycle and headed to Whole Foods Market. The closer I got to the store, the more devastating the landscape looked. The flood had come through overnight and had risen as high as the street lights. Homes and businesses were ruined, all up Lamar Street. The inside of the store had turned into one big whirlpool. I was told employees would not be able to continue to work or be paid, that the store may not survive. I decided to stay and I found the best group of people and the most considerate group of leaders I had ever worked for. The kindness, trust and equality shown to all made a tremendous impression on me. We faced hard work and those who choose to stay were paid and as you know the store not only survived but thrived. It was great fun working in the original Whole Foods Market.
While Team Member Nathan Perry didn't start working for Whole Foods Market until 1996, he has memories from when his mother became a team member in 1981. (See if you can spot Nathan in the photo. Hint: he was 8 years old!) This is what he remembers about growing up with Whole Foods Market:
In 1981, my mom and I moved to Austin and she started working at the original Whole Foods on Lamar Street. I was eight years old. My favorite childhood memories of the store are the simple ones. I remember being excited about going to the store for an after-school snack at Martin Brothers Café (café inside the store); usually I'd have either a Strawberry Blonde smoothie or a turkey sandwich that came topped with bean sprouts and served with chips and salsa. I can picture myself sitting in the front of the store in the booths that lined the cafe, wearing socks to my knees, and watching customers and employees pass by the front end. One person I remember seeing move through the front end of the store was Jimmie Turner. A smiling, dreadlocked man on roller skates in a grocery store communicating entirely in sign language can leave an impression on a young boy. Seeing Jimmie on skates interacting with others left me with a beautiful impression. This lovely man exuded an aura of love and happiness as he gracefully danced across the room engaging customers and Team Members alike. When Jimmie approached someone, he always looked them in the eye and greeted the person with a great big smile and a long hug. His spirit seemed to make the room shine.
Dave Hemphill, now a Team Leader on the Global Payroll Team, recalls his first meeting as a new team member when he joined the company in 1984.
Since I was a new employee, I decided to sit in the back where I could observe. There was one agenda item: a new policy that required store employees to wear a button with their name on it. One of the beautiful cashiers opened by saying, "I do not want everyone to know my name." The discussion grew very heated and no one believed there could be a positive outcome if Whole Foods adopted this "big brother" policy and if it did, it would surely be "the end." Then I remember that a whisper started traveling through the crowd. It went "Renee is about to speak" or "Renee has something to say." Wondering who Renee was, I asked someone sitting next to me. "She is the Lamar store leader," they replied. The room grew quiet as people leaned forward to hear what Renee was going to say. I prepared myself for something profound. Renee began to speak in a very quiet and faltering (and I mean really l-o-o-o-n-g pauses between certain words). As we all leaned forward and listened carefully Renee said "All this talk... ... ...(long pause)... ... ... makes me think... ... ... (long pause)... ... ... button... ... ... (long pause)... ... ... button... ... ... (long pause)... ... ... who's got the... ... ...button." In a very extraordinary way, the button issue seemed totally diffused (or upstaged) and everyone in the room began laughing. The meeting was over. Going forward everyone at the store wore name buttons.
We'll be sharing more stories as we celebrate our 30th year. Thanks for being here with us! What are your favorite memories?
Category: Trends & New Stuff

 

24 Comments

Comments

Matt says ...
My favorite memories are about Brodie Oaks and the original Lamar store. It was an exciting time for everyone, a moment when working meant being with friends and family. That was 20 years ago and while I've moved on I will never forget my time spent with WFM. Congrats on 30 years of business!
01/30/2010 9:02:01 AM CST
Zenny Kicko says ...
In 2007, I visited London, UK and many times visited the local Whole Foods Store on Kensington High Street. The premises used to be an old fashioned department store and I simply could not believe the transformation into the Whole Foods store! Every imaginable fresh, organic produce could be found, great breads and cheeses, a wonderful restaurant with great fresh foods and for the vegetarian. I was impressed!!! I am really hoping that I can get a local job with Whole Foods in Encintas, CA and introduce people to the wonderful line of foods, caring team workers and great enthusiasm for Whole Foods itself!
01/30/2010 12:40:55 PM CST
Cathy says ...
I remember going to the Whole Foods at Brodie Oaks all the time when I was a kid. There are many memories but my favorite was one of the times the artwork/signage was being changed out. A local Austin artist had done these huge models (for lack of a better word) of fish, veggies, animals, etc. to distinguish the various departments in the store and they were hanging them through the store. I had to go to each department to look in awe of these gorgeous representations of the yummies you find in WF. And it made an impression that WF used local artists to do their signage. Those were the days.... ~C
01/30/2010 3:06:56 PM CST
denise petersen says ...
I will never forget my first Whole Foods Market-I was not a TM, but when I walked into the Mill Valley store, I knew I had found home! I later worked for a short stint in the San Rafael store, and now lovelovelove my job as the Demo Specialist in Naples Florida. Opening this store was extraordinary-we did in 14 days what in normally takes 28 to do!
01/31/2010 11:51:35 AM CST
Erin says ...
When I was a little girl (I'm about to be two years older than Whole Foods is), we shopped at the store at the Crossroads on Burnet, which used to be quite the active shopping strip - Chez Fred, Bookstop, Whole Foods, Lone Star Cafe - ah, the glorious early 80s in Austin, before the real estate bust....I went trick or treating there on Hallowe'en, but in those days, the treats were nothing like you'll find at a modern Whole Foods. In my bag: soy milk samples (in vacuum packaging), whole grain cookies, molasses-sweetened candies; none of your organic sugar-sweetened jelly beans in bright, all-natural colors for us! It was great. I loved the bulk foods department, but not for the right reasons, I'm afraid. When my mom wasn't looking, I would sneak salted, in-shell peanuts out of their barrel and suck all the salt off. Then I would return them to the barrel. Yes, I feel shame for this - thank God I was completely up-to-date on all my immunizations! May I just say this: Whole Foods, I'm sorry. Really sorry. It took me 20 years to confess this to my mom. :oP
01/31/2010 2:03:46 PM CST
Jim Purdy says ...
I'm a customer, and I love my local Tulsa Whole Foods store. I went there a few days ago to stock up on food before a predicted severe ice and snow storm, and it seemed like half of Tulsa had the same idea. A question: Did you recently discontinue some of the yogurt brands that had the most varieties of healthful gut bacteria? <a href="http://the50besthealthblogs.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow">The 50 Best Health Blogs</a>
02/01/2010 1:17:56 AM CST
Sally Williams says ...
Congratulations on your 30 year anniversary! For the past 10 years I have been driving in the traffic which is now really terrible since they have a new football stadium near it. Could you please put a store near my house? I live in Arlington TX. I've been begging for a long time.
02/02/2010 6:38:05 AM CST
Paulina Witkowska says ...
My group and I decided to do a project on Whole Foods for our Business Policy class. Testing you commitment to customer responsiveness we tweeted you to shout out our professor to give us an A. You did, and we got an A. =)
02/02/2010 6:42:35 AM CST
Ariana Vincent says ...
I worked at the original Whole Foods Market in Austin when I was a university student. I always think of that experience as the time my true education began. New paradigms of consciousness arose as a result of my contact with my team members and with the wonderful customers who would come to Whole Foods to enjoy the delicious, healthy food and other products that were available. It was the dawning of a new age and a new perspective. I will be forever grateful to Whole Foods for helping me along the path of the wellness model, natural healing, and self care. Bravo Whole Foods!
02/02/2010 6:58:26 AM CST
Kat Hearty says ...
I remember the first time I heard about Whole Foods. I was living in TX and the woman I was a Nanny for brought home this AMAZING bread called pretzel bread. I was hooked. I needed to know where this place was and been going weekly since. Now living in Boulder, I am even more excited the store is so popular. The love for Boulder with all that WF does for the community. I am also thrilled that when I go to a different city like Chicago, there is my fav store just down the street from my hotel.
02/02/2010 7:01:18 AM CST
Leanne says ...
The first time I walked into a Whole Foods was the old Esplanade store in New Orleans. It had more character and personality than any store I'd ever been in, and I was intrigued. All of the customers knew each other and all the Team Members, the guys in the produce department were singing while they filled the shelves, and I didn't recognize a single brand that I saw! I never stopped shopping there after that, and now I've worked for WFM since 2002.
02/02/2010 9:00:26 AM CST
Calamity Annie says ...
Fav memories are Friday night wine tastings and dinners w/my daughter. Visiting Whole Foods is not grocery shopping but an entire social experience - love it!
02/02/2010 12:07:32 PM CST
Teresa says ...
The first time I walked into a Whole Foods was about 7 years ago, in Sacramento, CA. I was in complete awe of what the store had to offer - so many options and alternatives for healthier living. I remember wandering up and down each aisle, all the while feeling the positive and welcoming energy of the whole store. My first trip lasted two hours. My second lasted three hours. Eventually, I had to move to SE Michigan, and one of my requirements was that there had to be a Whole Foods within driving distance! Thank you, Whole Foods, for all that you stand for and all that you offer. You've played a huge part in helping me live a healthier, happier life!
02/02/2010 12:24:40 PM CST
Dawn says ...
I absolutely love going into the Whole Foods in Columbus, OH. It is so beautiful. I live in Grand Rapids, MI and I am so surprised that we don't have a Whole Foods in our area. I believe we could support one wholeheartedly. Please, Please, if possible, would you consider opening one in Grand Rapids, MI? Thank you so much
02/05/2010 9:01:32 AM CST
Rock says ...
I grew up in Austin working for my dad who was a produce wholesaler. My first time visits delivering produce to the old Saferway, Clarksville Coop and the Hobbit Hole left me thoroughly unimpressed. It wasn't until after the Memorial Day floods and how this small group of employees (and customers) worked so hard to get this first store reopened that I changed my mind about it. WFM is only my fourth job in 34 years, now working in the Global Produce &amp; Floral Procurement Office.
02/06/2010 8:11:59 PM CST
Sonya says ...
I enjoyed reading these stories and love to experience that old-time homey market shopping. We have only one store in Little Rock, AR (45 miles away) and would LOVE for Whole Foods to open up in the old homey part of town of Benton, AR at the former Harvest Food building near Market Street or even the former Harvest Foods/Big Lots building on Military Rd (nice and big with a brand new parking lot). Been trying to lose weigh and get healthy and this is where I would love to shop. I seriously and truly believe it will go over very well here. Thank you and in the meantime, I will make that special trip to the Little Rock store because it's worth it. All the best for another 30 years, Whole Foods!!!
02/08/2010 12:31:40 AM CST
Alix K says ...
I started in 1990 at the Shepherd Store in Houston, I believe at the time it was only the 5th or 6th store, but I can remember starting in the deli, and when I wanted to move up, they put an order board in my hand and said"you are the buyer now"!! I learned pretty quickly and moved into a Team Leader position soon after.
02/08/2010 10:11:04 AM CST
William Webb says ...
Happy 30th Anniversary! Actually, 2010 is not the beginning of a new decade. It is the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. There was no year 0 CE (or AD 0 if you prefer). CE began with year 1, so the first decade of CE was 1 CE through 10 CE, the first century was 1 CE through 100 CE, the second century was 101 CE through 200 CE, so forth and so on until the 20th century CE, which was 1901 through 2000. 2001 CE began the 21st century, and 2010 is the end of the first decade of that new century. Whew! Hope you got all that!
02/08/2010 4:16:14 PM CST
Cathy says ...
I am a Canadian and I lived in Austin TX for 6 months in 1989. I shopped at a great food store which offered bulk, organics and cutting edge "whole foods". Please help me to remember the store - I am sure it was the original Austin Whole Foods Market on Lamar. Today I am back in Canada and in Toronto and fondly remember my younger days and the younger days of the Whole Foods humble Austin beginnings. Sometimes I hear people comment " if you can afford to shop at Whole Foods......" but I always comment back "Can you afford not to? They were one of the first food stores to focus on wholesome, organic, good stuff! And how can you not afford to give your body the best foods, the best chance?" Thanks for the fond memories Whole Foods - I'm glad you survived the floods and the many years to follow......
03/06/2010 9:00:00 PM CST
Cathy says ...
I am a Canadian and I lived in Austin TX for 6 months in 1989. I shopped at a great food store which offered bulk, organics and cutting edge "whole foods". Please help me to remember the store - I am sure it was the original Austin Whole Foods Market on Lamar. Today I am back in Canada and in Toronto and fondly remember my younger days and the younger days of the Whole Foods humble Austin beginnings. I shop at our local Whole Foods and sometimes I hear people comment " if you can afford to shop at Whole Foods......" but I always comment back "Can you afford not to? They were one of the first food stores to focus on wholesome, organic, good stuff! And how can you not afford to give your body the best foods, the best chance?" Thanks for the fond memories Whole Foods - I'm glad you survived the flood and the many years to follow......
03/06/2010 9:13:53 PM CST
Steve says ...
I loved working in produce at the original store (Paul E., hace mi día!!) and then at the Xroads store. I wish there was an "alumni" page out there (Facebook?) where I could find my old pals. Definitely a golden box experience!
03/22/2010 3:10:16 PM CDT
Kim says ...
I grew up in Austin, and remember fondly the Lamar Blvd store. It still represents, along with Barton Springs, Armadillo WHQ, and the 1st Street El Rancho, my favorite parts of the Austin that formed me. When I came back to Austin after schooling, my (then) husband worked for the developer of Brodie Oaks, so we were there for the beginning of that store. Next I lived for a while in Los Angeles and made regular trips to the Beverly Hills store with my young daughters. For the last 20 years, I lived in Darien, CT, and really struggled to find the quality food I was used to witha nearby Whole Foods. Now a brand new store is now about to open in Darien. I was so thrilled, at a zoning hearing, to be able to speak to the long and special history of Whole Foods, describe the amazing original store, the incredible and vibrant flagship HQ store now in Austin, and the integrity and quality I knew WF would bring to the Darien site. I can't wait til it opens!
03/31/2010 3:44:25 PM CDT
Debra bachtel says ...
I am moving to Grand Rapids Michigan due to job transfer... I'm moving from Dublin Ohio where I have been spoiled. With a lovely Whole Foods store... In fact we have two within ten miles of each other. As an individual that suffers from Celiac your store is my only store. I don't know what I will do without a WF. Where is the closest one to Grand Rapids.. Thank you, Debra Bachtel
02/15/2011 1:35:39 PM CST
patti bentley says ...
just wanted to know why hasn't grand rapids have a whole foods store yet. i drove to ann arbor,mi a two hour drive, and the prices were reasonable and the products outstanding, just wondered why such a progressive area doesn't have one? thanks patti
02/21/2011 12:50:35 PM CST