Step aside, asparagus water: in Williamsburg, the mecca of organic, sort-of-unnecessary, and often prohibitively expensive foodstuffs is planning to do things a little differently. The supermarket giant, which will open its newest Brooklyn location on Tuesday, July 26, will include a food hall packed with local flavor: OddFellows Ice Cream (which will have a stand outside), an outpost of No. 7 Restaurant, Luke’s Lobster’s grilled tail cart, Roberta’s pastries, and East Coast Poke will all be represented at the store, as well as a “traditional Jewish delicatessen” dubbed N4, which is Whole Food’s way of “paying homage to Williamsburg’s storied roots.”
In fact, local ingredients and vendors are given prime priority in the shop, with a fully stocked cheesemonger, butcher, and fishmonger offering all kinds of local goodies in the basement. Michael Sinatra, a Whole Foods spokesperson, told us that the chain’s newest store will be working with 160 local vendors. Baby-blue stickers across the store proudly proclaim the local origins of many of the products on the shelves, including in the health and beauty aisles. Companies like Transmitter Brewing have even created products exclusively for the Williamsburg store.
In anticipation of tomorrow’s grand opening, Bedford + Bowery was invited around to have a look at the chain’s newest outpost.
Instead of having a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony tomorrow, there’ll be a “bread-breaking ceremony” instead, which starts at 8:45am before the store officially opens at 9am. It will pay to get there early, he said, since there will be plenty of freebies for the first 250 customers, including free Roberta’s pastries, a giant challah loaf made by Hot Bread Kitchen for the occasion, and hand-dyed tote bags made by Brooklyn artist Audrey Louise Reynolds, whose natural organic dyes will also be available at the store. The first 100 customers will also get reusable coffee cups from the coffee shop at the front of the store, and everyone will have the opportunity to participate in more giveaway activities on social media.
Although some may question the necessity of a Whole Foods in an already overtly gentrified Williamsburg, Sinatra explained that “there are not many options for fresh produce in the neighborhood,” and pointed out the fact that people were excited about now having a fishmonger with local options close by. Furthermore, five percent of the opening-day sales will go to the Brooklyn Public Library, Sinatra said, emphasizing that this Whole Foods store was eager to be considered a contributing member of the neighborhood and Brooklyn’s community in general.
While staff members were still rushing around to complete last-minute stocking and decoration tasks, the store’s general appearance can already be discerned, and it’s decidedly Brooklyn (or what certain interior designers imagine Brooklyn to be): reclaimed wooden paneling mixed with exposed pipes and brick. Oh, and don’t forget the low-energy lighting. “We always pay attention to sustainability,” Sinatra said.
An original addition is N4, the delicatessen in the basement of the store that carries five wines on tap, plenty of craft beers, and slings all the local favorites: reubens, latkes, matzoh ball soup. Massive porcine corpses chill from hooks in the butcher’s room next door, which is conveniently outfitted with windows all around so you can get a good look as to where your sausage is coming from. There’s even a little window so you can chat with the butcher as he cuts your chops to size. The butchers look like they mean business; in addition to the pigs on display, they have a whole dry-age cabinet, with massive chunks of beef visible from behind the glass vitrine.
On the ground floor, where most of the food vendors are, there’s a dining and seating area past the checkout registers, although the tables were mostly occupied by staff members engaging in last-minute preparations for tomorrow. Who knows, with the L train shutdown due to happen in 2019, this might be the only Whole Foods discerning bougie Williamsburgers might have access to for a while.