No rush to change

No rush to change

June 15th, 2010 by Ellis Smith in Health

Greenlife Grocery's transition under new owner Whole Foods Market isn't raising a lot of eyebrows.

In fact, Whole Foods says it doesn't really plan to change a thing.

"If anything, we can learn from the things they're doing well," said Whole Foods spokeswoman Darrah Horgan. "Greenlife already feels like a Whole Foods."

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has purchased Greenlife Grocery LLC, located on Manufacturers Road on the North Shore, from owner Chuck Pruett.Whole Foods' seemingly laissez-faire management strategy in the case of Greenlife isn't unusual, she said.

"Like with Harry's Farmers Market, we haven't changed a thing, and at Wellspring, we didn't even change the name for years and years," Ms. Horgan said.

The only difference between now and before the merger is that Greenlife employees get their checks from a different source, she said.

With 300 stores nationwide and growing, Ms. Horgan said, Whole Foods knows a thing or two about what consumers crave in a grocery store.

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Greenlife Grocery has a roof top garden created and cared for by Earth's Harmony Landscaping. Earth's Harmony Landscaping is a chemical free landscaping company that uses organic fertilizers and as much local plant and other materials as is available. The landscaping company specializes in edible landscaping, native plants, vegetable gardening, and traditional landscaping using sustainable and respectable eco-friendly methods.

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

"Eventually you may see our '365' branded products, which are the Whole Foods brand," she said, but Whole Foods won't be changing Greenlife's focus on locally grown and produced food, she added.

Most Greenlife shoppers weren't too worried about changes to the store.

"I equate Greenlife and Whole Foods. They seem to be essentially the same vendor," said customer Steve Kennedy when he was told of the acquisition.

But some, like shopper Esther Clark, expressed concern about small Chattanooga-based companies getting gobbled up by national brands.

"It will maybe bring in some variety they don't currently have," she said, but added, "It's bittersweet because it was local, and when you get these big names here, it sort of takes away from the small-town flavor."

Workers at the store continued to go about their business and expressed confidence in the store's future.

"I think it's going to do great things, although we're all worried about it being corporate," said Tiffany Warrick, a worker at the cafe. "All in all it's going to be more opportunity, and so far nothing's changed."

One thing that has changed is every Greenlife employee has been enrolled in Whole Foods' Health Discount Incentive Program, Ms. Horgan said.

All employees automatically receive a 20 percent store discount that can be increased to 30 percent if they show measured improvement during voluntary biometric screenings, according to program rules, providing an incentive to make healthy choices.

"We operate with sort of a shared fate philosophy, where if you're good to your people, you're going to have a better outcome," Ms. Horgan said.

* 1980 -- SaferWay Natural Foods and Clarksville Natural Grocery join forces to open Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, with a staff of 19.

* 1988 -- In New Orleans, Whole Foods opens the sixth Whole Foods Market and the first outside Texas.

* 1989 -- The first Whole Foods Market on the West Coast opens in Palo Alto, Calif.

* 1991 -- Whole Foods acquires Wellspring Grocery in Durham and Chapel Hill, N.C.

* 1992 -- Whole Foods acquires Bread & Circus, the largest natural food retailer in the Northeast

* 1997 -- Bread of Life becomes part of Whole Foods Market, giving Whole Foods its first store in Florida.

-- The acquisition of Merchant of Vino in the Detroit area adds six more stores.

-- After years as a supplier, Allegro Coffee Co. becomes part of Whole Foods Market.

-- Whole Foods Market introduces 365 Everyday Value brand products.

* 1999 -- Whole Foods acquires Nature's Heartland.

* 2000 -- Whole Foods acquires Food 4 Thought stores in central California.

* 2001 -- Whole Foods acquires Harry's Farmers Market in the Atlanta area, retaining the Harry's name.

* 2007 -- Wild Oats Markets and Whole Foods Market merge, adding 74 stores in 23 states.

* 2010 -- Whole Foods acquires Greenlife Grocery LLC in Chattanooga.

-- At 30 years, Whole Foods Market now operates almost 300 stores in 37 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and the UK with more than 52,000 employees.

Source: Whole Foods Market