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Would a Third Whole Foods Be Good or Bad for Evanston?

Rumor has it that Whole Foods could be purchasing the empty Dominick's store at Green Bay Road. Columnist Christine Wolf says three Whole Foods just might be a good thing.

It’s not quite Groundhog Day but I’m already feeling déjà vu: Not only are my three kids home from their three Evanston schools for the 3rd time this winter, but there’s talk that a third Whole Foods might be coming to town.

I fully support and appreciate the school closings. Yes, it’s an inconvenience in every conceivable way: students lose classroom time and daily physical education and parents tear their hair out finding ways to adjust their schedules and address cabin fever; the school calendar has become a flexible document as teacher inservice days (normally half-days for students) become full-days and the last-day-of-school becomes an ever elusive target. Still, there’s no way a child (or a crossing guard) should be outside for more than one minute in these temperatures. I know my high schooler isn’t the only one who refuses to wear gloves or a hat or several thermal layers…I exchange knowing glances with parents and bus drivers dropping kids at ETHS and we all seem to say, “What are you gonna do? They’re kids.” It’s the right call to cancel school on days like this, and I’m trying to make the most of it. I just hope they get out in time to see the 4th of July parade…

Now, whether I support a 3rd Whole Foods in Evanston is still up for grabs. Let me just say for the record: I am a fan of Whole Foods. It’s not my primary shopping destination, but I like to go there when I can. We’re lucky that we're able, at times, to afford it. In my heart, however, I’m a grocery "dabbler". I go to Target for packaged goods and beverages because they tend to be cheaper. I shop at Jewel whenever I’m picking up a prescription at Osco and I go there for most last-minute trips because it’s easy and familiar. I also go there for our junk food (Halloween candy, chips, frozen pizzas, frozen waffles, etc). I go to Trader Joe's for most cheese, milk, lunch meats and frozen items; the produce at the Evanston Trader Joe’s has been inconsistent at best. I try to hit up Whole Foods for produce and (I’m just gonna say it) FFOP.

What’s FFOP? It's what I call Food For Other People. It’s the food I don’t budget for but desire because it’s so good. It’s the food I don’t think I can afford but am willing to shuffle the expenses around for but it’s so consistently convenient and/or high quality that I’m willing to spend the extra money to get it. My examples of FFOP include ready-made guacamole that I can bring to someone’s house, or the fruit tray that costs more than our medical deductible. Why do I even buy FFOP? In the case of the fruit tray, I know that everything on it will be a) ripe b) delicious c) something my family will finish and d) a healthier alternative to six bags of potato chips. FFOP includes crackers that look and taste like someone carved the grains and nuts and berries by hand in such an artisanal manner than they’re almost too pretty to eat. FFOP includes the cheeses and honeys and olives in varieties I never knew existed. My husband and I work hard to afford these items, yet I still feel guilt every time I see the register receipt. The money I spend at Whole Foods could go to so many other more worthy things...

But then I remind myself that ALL food should be this good, this fresh, this healthy and this appealing to the senses that it makes you want to try new things all the time. And, when I consider all the amazing community outreach that our two existing Whole Foods accomplish…or the extended reach that a third one might bring, I think it's great that we may get another one. I think about all the kids I know who have serious food issues and can only find what they need to live healthy lives at Whole Foods.

My husband and two teenagers went vegetarian in the past 30 days (I blame -- er, thank -- Mr. Cohen at Nichols Middle School for kicking off this movement. After he showed his 8th grade English class a movie called Food, Inc., the Wolf meat-boycott was born). I’m now in the position of looking for nutritious, meatless options for meals. Grilled cheese and scrambled eggs and veggie pasta dishes only go over so many times. I walk into Whole Foods and find inspiration and ideas. I can ask anyone there and they offer suggestions and understand the challenge. There’s a price to pay for that level of service. Whole Foods sets a very high bar. They’re often seen as the gold standard in groceries, but will a third Whole Foods help or harm our community's grocery options in Evanston?

Fresh, healthy food shouldn’t be a luxury -- but it still is. Whole Foods is known as the “whole paycheck” grocery store, but I hope that changes. I want see the low supply and high demand for healthy grocery items trade places in Evanston’s grocery matrix. If a third Whole Foods comes to Green Bay, will this happen?

What's your take? What do you think of Whole Foods buying the former Dominick's location on Green Bay Road?

Kathleen Kastilahn January 28, 2014 at 09:09 AM
Kathy Kastilahn Yes. I love my WF-South, for the quality of the fresh fruits and veggies, of course, but also because I can walk there. Folks in North Evanston value this convenience, too. I'm sure the demand would make the store successful. But a word on the "pricey" rap. A shopper doesn't have to indulge every desire just because she can. WF stocks well- priced house brands (365) of staples, many organic, and also has a long row of bulk grains, rice, beans, nuts, etc., making it possible to be thrifty and explore options for healthy eating.
Jordan S. Zoot January 28, 2014 at 09:09 AM
If the market will support another Whole Foods on Green Bay let them bring it. I shop at the one downtown since I live downtown. I don't bother with Jewel much as Peapod is certainly an option that lets me do better things with my time. I wouldn't feed most of what Aldi sells to my dog, but that's my choice. Whatever goes in at Dempster & Dodge just make sure they really arrest and prosecute shoplifters and then they might be able to maintain decent prices.
kmklever January 28, 2014 at 09:20 AM
As a person living on the North side of Evanston, I have attempted to go to Jewel in Wilmette as a replacement store when Dominick's closed. It is a nightmare -- too small and congested. IDEA: Move Jewel to the old Dominick's spot with plenty of room and let Whole Foods into the tiny Jewel space in Wilmette where they are closer to their coveted high-end shoppers. Ta da!
Festus McMoron January 28, 2014 at 09:57 AM
because your kid and others like him are too stupid to wear hat and gloves on extreme cold days, they should close the schiools? it's parenents like you who need a good slap. let your kid learn a good lesson instead of coddling him like an baby. dreaa for the cold. ever since this "wind chill" indicator came into effect, we've turned into a bunch of wimps. as a kid i never remember schools being closed because it was too cold. heck, my mom would have wrapped a scarf around my face and shoved me out the door. christine, go make your little teenage darling a cup of hot coco and make sure he is warmly tucked into his bed. don't let him get too close to the windows today, he might get frostbite!!!
wayne buscombe January 28, 2014 at 10:21 AM
Much rather have another TJ in town than another Whole Paycheck. So glad the TJ opened on Chicago Ave.; hardly go into WF anymore.
Matthew Lachapelle January 28, 2014 at 10:40 AM
I do not support another whole foods because we already have two. Whole foods items are very expensive. Don't you want to save money by shopping at Trader Joe's?
jim January 28, 2014 at 10:45 AM
TJ's Doesn't have the variety that Whole Foods has.
Joanna Spilioti January 28, 2014 at 10:52 AM
If you want to have food budget money left over so you can afford a couple of trips to Whole Foods for special items, try shopping more at Food For Less and Aldi. Food For Less has improved by leaps and bounds in variety of items - I can even get good quality tofu and a choice of almond milks there and put together a very affordable vegan diet as well as buy non-vegan ingredients for the rest of my family that have not made the leap yet. Plus, you can get discounted gas with their frequent shopper card at the gas station they opened next to the store. I find it more economical than Sam's and more suited to households that cannot store bulky purchases. Does not require membership either.
Jordan S. Zoot January 28, 2014 at 11:23 AM
If anyone wants to shop at Aldi or Food For Less go right ahead....everyone has a choice. Neither of them is likely to open another location in Evanston. If Marianos wasn't interested in the Dominicks and Whole Foods is willing good for them. It is certainly better to have a tenant in the space than an empty store....and it provides jobs.
jim January 28, 2014 at 11:29 AM
Someone from Marianos was on WGN about a month ago. They were interested in the Greenbay location but were out bid. They are opening a store in Skokie on Touhy. Think he said next year it is being built now
jim January 28, 2014 at 11:32 AM
Doesn't anyone shop at Gordon Foods?
Joanna Spilioti January 28, 2014 at 11:35 AM
I agree with Jordan S. Zoot, that the market should be allowed to decide weather a certain store is viable. Greater variety of options is better for the consumer. When lower end and higher end options are provided one can make their own combination of purchases. The problem with the over-regulated environment in Evanston - I once operated my own business here and I am weary of the multiple conflicting layers of licensing and operating procedures- is that make-as-you-go rules, taxation zone complications and political correctness etc create a non-transparent climate that blurs the market's signals and does not allow promising businesses to thrive and create real jobs.
E. January 28, 2014 at 12:09 PM
2 Whole Foods in Evanston is more than enough--they're way too expensive for average folks to do the bulk of their shopping. Low end stores like Aldi & Food 4 Less have poor quality. And Trader Joes has practically no produce, focuses mostly on packaged, prepared foods. An affordable place for decent fresh produce is what we really need--like Produce World, or something similar.
carol j dixon January 28, 2014 at 12:10 PM
It would be a good idea. It would get customers from Wilmette and Kenilworth. The east side of those 2 towns don't have choices close by. Whole foods would find a niche.
Jordan S. Zoot January 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM
There is another change that could be made...they need to make some radical restrictions with respect to what Food Stamps [and that includes the new electronic cards] can be used for. One topic I haven't seen broached here is the number of time that food stamps or the equivalent get used at Whole Foods.....if the taxpayers are providing the subsidy for groceries they ought have some assurance about where the funds are being spent. Yes I am saying that if the taxpayers are paying that choices ought be restricted in some ways. There are plenty of choices in terms of stores, and people are welcome to shop where they can afford to. However, the concept does NOT extend to entitlement.
Beth Wyatt January 28, 2014 at 12:52 PM
Jordan, there already are restrictions on what you can use SNAP/food stamps for - do you think they are not restrictive enough? Here's a list of what they can and can't buy: Foods for the household to eat, such as: breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and poultry; and dairy products. Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat. In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals. Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy: Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco Any nonfood items, such as: pet foods soaps, paper products household supplies Vitamins and medicines Food that will be eaten in the store Hot foods (http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items)
Jordan S. Zoot January 28, 2014 at 01:00 PM
I am well aware of what the restrictions are and when I see the program being used for lobsters, steaks, etc YES I do have a problem with it. I am not advocating for bread and water, but I challenge you to stand at the check out at Whole Foods and watch what I have seen that sure looks like abuse of the system to me.
Beth Wyatt January 28, 2014 at 01:09 PM
I'm not against restrictions in theory and the current ones seems sensible. I do wish it was as easy as standing in line to monitor what the military spends taxpayer dollars on, or corporate tax breaks/subsidies, or any number of huge taxpayer-funded programs. I wouldn't be surprised if food stamp wastefulness - to the extent it exists - were small in comparison.
E. January 28, 2014 at 03:55 PM
Food stamp restrictions are off topic to what type of store we want in the old Dominick's location. But since they're being discussed, the only reasonable issue to debate is what types of items can be bought (groceries vs. non-edibles or prepared foods). There's no rationale within a free-market economy for forcing food stamp customers to boycott one or another brand of grocery store. Are we going to restrict food brands as well? Whole Foods is very pricey for meat, fish & produce. But not so for everything, & some items just aren't available elsewhere (eg, lactose free yogurt, bulk grains). Not fair/legal to prevent the poor from accessing dietary options they may need. Also in half a century I've never seen anyone buy lobster with food stamps, that seems like a pretty bogus overgeneralization. However, I HAVE seen people wasting foods stamps on non-nutritive foods like cases of soda pop & big bags of candy. I'd agree that limiting their use to nutritive foods would be beneficial, though I'm sure the junk food industry would find tons of loopholes to get around that.
carol j dixon January 28, 2014 at 03:56 PM
I have never thought about what the next person is buying, it is none of my business. I have never received assistance from anyone or the government. I pay my taxes and if there is someone buying lobster or whatever on food stamps so what. I am more concerned about more important things than being upset because I think what they are eating is only for a certain segment of society. After world war Ii we fed Germany, the country that killed six million Jewish people and I gonna worry about someone eating lobster who is on food stamps? No way.
Patch Reader January 28, 2014 at 04:32 PM
Carol, I absolutely love your post. Well said.
TAKH January 28, 2014 at 04:32 PM
Since we've veered off into the topic. I don't care what folks buy with food stamps as long as it's good food. No chips, pop, cookies, cakes, that sort of thing. They want those it comes out of their funds. But they want to eat good healthy food, excellent! Steak, veggies, fish, formula or baby food for the wee ones et etc cool. You know why? Because everyone deserves the basics of life and because money spent on healthy eating is tens times the money SAVED on medical costs.
jim January 28, 2014 at 04:33 PM
Who ever is taking the Dominick's location on Greenbay is sure keeping it a secret.
Jordan S. Zoot January 28, 2014 at 04:55 PM
I stand by my original point and it isn't to mandate what someone chooses to eat, however, just as with anything else we pay for as taxpayers if it goes beyond the original intention which was for reasonable choices of healthy food items I do have an issue...but, will save it for another forum. It is relevant when the discussion veers into who can afford to shop where and the implication seems to be other than letting the market control.
IllinoisLibertarian January 28, 2014 at 05:24 PM
They could put a Trader Joes or a Whole Foods in the Harley Clarke mansion and cut a few dozen trees down for a parking lot. ; )
el debarge January 28, 2014 at 06:39 PM
Fresh Farms Check them out on Touhy.
Christine Wolf January 31, 2014 at 05:57 PM
Looks like the official announcement came out today: Whole Foods is definitely coming. http://evanston.patch.com/groups/business-news/p/whole-foods-buying-evanston-dominicks-suntimes-reports
jim January 31, 2014 at 06:06 PM
Good to see someone is taking over that store. Won't shop there but would rather Whole Foods took over then have store vacant for years like the store at Oakton / Asbury. This will create some jobs and give Evanston some tax revenue.
Jordan S. Zoot January 31, 2014 at 06:09 PM
Anyone want to guess at the household income demographic difference on a one mile radius of the Oakton/Asbury location and the Green Bay road location. The per household difference is > $50K.....any guesses why they would wind up on Green Bay?
jim January 31, 2014 at 06:13 PM
Zoot if the household income was the same I would think the GreenBay location would be picked. It feeds a lot of other Burbs. Like Dempster/Dodge poor location.

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