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An early peek at Whole Foods Market

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Stockers are busy putting merchandise on shelves as others wrap bars of aged cheeses.  Nearby, a team member fills bags of crisps as fishmongers wrap the first of many fresh seafood selections. A group learns about food preparation in Charcuterie, tucked next to a sushi counter and pizza area complete with a wood-burning oven.

It’s almost time for the first Whole Foods Market in Denton County to open in The Shops of Highland Village at FM 2499 and FM 407 as team members work steadfastly to prepare the market’s many areas for the official opening at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Residents are invited to stop by at 7:30 a.m. for the official breaking of bread where they will also hear tunes from a Marcus High School band, a welcome by State Rep. Ron Simmons and more, says Karen Lukin, who handles Dallas area media and communications for Whole Foods Market.

The Highland Village location features quite a few firsts for the company, including a cornbread bar offering salted caramel, bacon, blueberry and chili flavorings, the largest clothing area in the Dallas-Fort Worth market and a 12-foot counter where 20 different kinds of sausages will be made in-house.

To the newcomer not familiar to Whole Foods Market, it offers a smorgasbord of organic and fresh products from food to clothing to cleaning products, pet food and much more. The market also creates an atmosphere inviting visitors to stop by for breakfast, lunch and dinner or grab a meal to go from the pre-prepared section. For those needing a break from work or looking to work while waiting for others to shop, an upstairs outdoor balcony comes complete with a fireplace and even an electric outlet to plug in a laptop or other device.

There’s the candy island beckoning young and old alike with yogurt covered pretzels, citrus gum and more. Tables are set up near the Allegra coffee and juice bar for those arriving for a quick breakfast. If any children come along, a ladybug table and seats are set up for them as well.

The list of available selections runs the gamut though a few unique items not offered in other similar stores include the fresh-as-you-wait almond and peanut butter grinder, an expanded rotisserie offering everything from duck to lamb to pork and more and an artisan bakery with more than 50 artisan, hearth-baked breads, cakes and pastry selections.

But wait, there’s more.

An estimated 300 suppliers local to Texas will offer more than 1,500 unique items in the Highland Village store, including 100 from the Dallas region. Among  local vendors are Rabbit Hole Brewing Co. out of Justin, RoRo’s Baking Co. offering frozen cinnamon and dinner rolls, Empire Baking Co., Vim & Vigor with organic juices, Four Corners Brewing Co. supplying beer, Cultivar Coffee, Holy Kombucha, Dude Sweet Chocolate and more.

An outdoor market will feature rain barrels, plants and local herbs while inside will be floral displays on wheels and cable spool tables with newspaper floral wrapping available. Terrarium and air plants will be available as will a mobile floral cart.

In the produce aisle, guests will find 20 varieties of fresh juices squeezed daily, more than 135 organic items and 75 varieties of cut fruits and vegetables including bananas hung to ripen evenly. Bananas, coffee and more are part of the Earth University program where people in other countries are shown how to grow produce and given business to help them earn sustainable wages.

Next to the bins of bulk items is a spice rack featuring a multitude of flavorings where people can get exactly what they need. “We’re big on getting as little or as much as you need,” Lukin said, recalling one guest who needed a half teaspoon of curry at another location.

For parents on the go, Whole Foods Market officials decided to group everything a new parent might need — diapers, care products, food, clothing, gift items and more — in one area to help them rush in and rush out as needed.

For those who bike along the trails and nearby roads, bike racks allow them to stop by to pick up a few items, grab a meal or coffee to go. Nearby, a water fountain sits ready to refill sports bottles with an automated counter showing the number of disposable plastic water bottles they just saved from the landfill.

A wine nook with bottles arranged by region sits near the bar where at least 12 beers will be on tap including one kombucha or beerbucha.  Not too far away, 40 feet of beer showcases a wide selection. Nearby, a 12-foot olive bar will feature a variety of imported olives and antipasti.

In the back, trained butchers can cut, marinate or prepare meats made to order. Whole Foods Market uses a 5-point scale to rank meats, letting consumers know what they are buying.

The five-step meat program reads as follows:
1. Animals were not kept in cages or crates
2. Animals lived in an enriched environment
3. Animals had enhanced outdoor access
4. Animals were pasture centered
5. Animals did not have physical enhancements
5 (plus). Animals lived their entire lives on the same farm.

The guide lets guests know exactly what they are consuming and how the animal was treated, Lukin said. In addition, they will carry a large selection of Texas and Oklahoma-raised, grass-fed beef; Arkansas pasture-raised chickens and Colorado buffalo. The meat market will also include a barbecue bar and dozens of store-made, oven-ready items such as gourmet burgers and more.

An area near the bulk bins will offer guests guidance on how to cook healthy meals and offer recipes for those who would like to try it themselves at home. Concierge services will be available to either get the items from a grocery list ready for pickup or, with arrangements, make the delivery to the front door.

For the coffee lovers who like to brew their own cups, about 12 feet of bulk coffee will be available. For take-out java, a Strada espresso machine featuring La Marzocco Strada machines built in Italy, will stir up high-end craft coffee.

Sushi lovers will have a fresh selection from which to choose or can order what they prefer and wait as it is made fresh for them. Nearby, the pizza oven can cook a 12-inch pie in 800 degrees in just a couple of minutes.

All 42,000 square feet of the Whole Foods Market, which will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., was built with reclaimed materials including wood, historical brick, reclaimed oak and pine throughout. Skylights allow natural light to filter in, reducing electricity needs at the store. Whole Foods Market just earned a silver level “GreenChill” award from the Environmental Protection Agency for their refrigeration system.

It’s a lot to take in and the descriptions barely scratch the surface, but the tour offers a glimpse of what will be available beginning Wednesday.

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