When failing book behemoth Borders closed last year, there was a large empty space in downtown Davis where something should really go. Now finally something is in there: Whole Foods Market, a chain of grocers that specializes in fresh organic food. The grand opening and bread-baking ceremony was today, but on Sunday they held a ‘Harvest Hullabaloo’ over at Davis Commons, with stalls and tents offering free samples of their organic foods and drinks. I tried some very nice chocolate, followed by some air-cooled roast chicken, which I must say was quite lovely. There were other stalls with other predictably ‘Davis’ oriented stuff (such as ‘decorate your vegan bike with corn-fed soy glow-sticks’ or something) but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. It was the end of our monthly sketchcrawl, so I preferred to sit down and draw. Interestingly enough the first time I ever sketched in Davis I drew this view, back when it was Borders.
I’m sure Whole Foods will be a hit, at first, though I know it can be quite expensive. It will be competing with our much beloved Davis Co-Op (to which Davisites are very loyal) and the very popular local chain Nugget (my personal local favourite, though Nugget too can be not so cheap). Another issue is that it’s not an obvious location for a grocery store – finding a spot in the small parking lot at the back is already a challenge, though of course you don’t always need a car to shop (hello, public transport / baskets on your bike / spare the air, like?). (in fact they are offering free 24-hour bike trailer rentals… really trying hard to get the Davis vote!) Still, I hope it doesn’t hurt the Co-Op. I always worry about national chains moving into towns and driving custom away from locally owned business (eg, a branch of national sandwich/bread chain Panera just opened right opposite local independent deli Zia’s), and then after closing the small local store the chain potentially decides further down the road to close thus leaving a gap… but I don’t know if I should be too worried for Davis. Borders came and went and the local bookstore Avid Reader lived through it, same as record store Armadillo Music outlived Tower Records right across the street. Whole Foods will probably be a success, and appears to be interested in the community, and I don’t think Davis is going to lose sleep about having yet another place to buy fresh healthy organic food. I’m looking forward to checking it out.