Naked City

Whole Foods Avoids the Mud

Citing last week's abundant rainfall, Whole Foods Market canceled the official groundbreaking ceremony for its new headquarters and flagship store just south of its current location at Sixth and Lamar. Inquiring minds wanted to know: Why not simply rent a tent and some AstroTurf to protect the coifs and couture of attending dignitaries and company representatives? Whole Foods spokeswoman Alison Croyle says event planners did reserve a tent, but abandoned the idea of using it after noticing that the construction site was "completely muddy." The company has tentatively rescheduled the ceremony for July 10 -- a date that Croyle says has no special significance other than that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will have by then returned from his national tour of his organic-foods empire.

The cancellation didn't stop the Austin American-Statesman from running "Another Milestone for Whole Foods," which highlighted the new development's impressive numbers (80,000-square-foot market, 200,000-square-foot office tower, 25,000-square-foot roof garden/plaza, 1,500 employees, 900 parking spaces) and Mackey's casual interview attire (Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts) while downplaying his vehement hostility toward labor unions. Last year, workers at Whole Foods' store in Madison, Wis., successfully organized under the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and workers in Tysons Corner, Va., are trying to follow suit; employees at the Sixth and Lamar location have also met with UFCW organizers to discuss organizing. Mackey's tour is an effort to meet with some of his company's 25,000 employees and address the concerns underlying the unionization effort.

On June 8, The New York Times published its own take on the nation's largest natural-foods retailer, consulting with analysts uninfluenced by hometown rah-rah. In order to achieve Mackey's goal of $10 billion in sales and 300 stores by 2010, "the company needs to add at least 20 stores a year," reported the Times, quoting a rep for stockbroker T. Rowe Price. "Their store-opening program has been below expectations for the last year and a half or so." Twenty-seven stores are in various planning stages, with nine new stores opening in both 2001 and 2002.

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