Whole Foods Market hopes to wrap up work on its new downtown Denver store in time for customers to shop for Thanksgiving dinner.
Workers were busy Tuesday transforming the 50,000-square-foot space near 17th and Wewatta streets from a construction site to a supermarket. A spokeswoman for Whole Foods wouldn’t budge on releasing the exact opening date, only going so far as to say the store was on track to open on a Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23.
“It’s a huge project, and we accelerated the opening date. But we’ll open on time,” said Heather Larrabee, Rocky Mountain region spokeswoman for Whole Foods.
The Whole Foods anchoring the Union Denver apartment project is expected to be the second-largest store the Austin, Texas-based grocer operates in Colorado behind the Pearl Street store in Boulder.
The Union Station Whole Foods is set to include outdoor seating, a juice bar, Allegro coffee station and space for Nebraska-based Pacha Soap Co. to mix specialty soaps.
“One of the things that will be new in the seafood department that we don’t have anywhere else is a poke and ceviche bar,” Larrabee said.
Whole Foods is betting that customers downtown will be looking for grab-and-go meal options. The supermarket plans to carve out 200 to 300 more square feet than average for its 2,600-square-foot prepared foods department. There’s also another 930 square feet being set aside for the Denver-based restaurant Birdcall to sell chicken sandwiches.
In June, Whole Foods Market was scooped up by the e-commerce behemoth Amazon. The presence of the grocery chain’s new owner will be visible via a row of Amazon Lockers at the site. Under the new ownership, Whole Foods shoppers should also see more affordable prices than in previous years.
“No Whole Foods Market is the same as any other,” Larrabee said. “Our design team works to source things as locally as possible. If they can use reclaimed wood or things like that, that will be in here.”
The team hit up the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall in Wheat Ridge for luggage that’s expected to be installed as decor later in the month. Stocking of household and dry good items will start about four weeks before the opening.
“A lot of it, honestly, happens in the last three to four days before opening,” Larrabee said. “They won’t cut the meat until opening morning, so they come in at like 3 a.m. and start that shift. If you were to come in Tuesday night before the Wednesday opening, probably half of produce will be stocked. But they’ll still do the second half in the morning of the opening.”
Whole Foods’ spot downtown is surrounded by residential construction and the heavily trafficked Denver Union Station. A CVS pharmacy is also underway nearby at the corner of 18th and Wewatta streets.
The supermarket has 165 spots in an underground garage to help accommodate customers. Whole Foods is expected to provide up to two hours of free parking for shoppers.
Whole Foods is moving about 75 employees from the store it’s closing in Capitol Hill and has started hiring for the other 135 positions it’s looking to fill, Larrabee said.
“We’ll do 50 percent off everything in the (Cap Hill) store that closing weekend,” she said. “So we’ll close it on that Sunday before the Wednesday opening.”
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