Hundreds on hand for opening of Whole Foods in Lynnwood

LYNNWOOD — Valarie White arrived at 6 a.m. Thursday to be early in line to shop at the first Whole Foods Market to open in Snohomish County.

White waited for more than three hours for the doors to open. She recently graduated from Edmonds Community College’s culinary arts program and loves the store’s offering of natural foods.

“I’ve been doing knitting and visiting on the phone,” White said of her wait. “I’m very excited to have a Whole Foods in Snohomish County. … Whole Foods encourages sustainability, natural foods and good use of resources. I like that.”

She was one of 300 people to gather outside the store at 2800 196th St. SW, in a building formerly occupied by a Circuit City. And there was an air of excitement for people devoted to Whole Foods.

Ray Olitt, of Lynnwood and his wife have patronized the Seattle Whole Foods Market. “We like the fresh items and the variety,” Olitt said. “This store is much more convenient.”

Whole Foods has a special meaning for Bethany Stedman.

Her husband proposed to her at the Bellevue store. She and her husband and her husband’s parents often double date by going to cooking classes at Whole Foods.

“This store is going to be great,” said Lisa Stedman, who was shopping with daughter-in-law Bethany. “Bellevue is just too far.”

The store aims to cater to the needs and wants of families and residents in the community, said Joe Rogoff, regional president based in Seattle.

“Like communities, no two of our stores are alike,” Rogoff said. “We looked at the aspirations of Lynnwood, which we found to be families and healthful living and applied them to this store.”

The new location has a back-to-basics focus. The store has the Northwest region’s first cooking department at the center of the bulk department. Demonstrations, online recipe resources and basic culinary advice is available there. The store also has the first children’s area in the Northwest region.

Whole Foods Market demonstrated a community commitment even before the Lynnwood location opened, said Mayor Don Gough.

“They are working with the Lynnwood Food Bank, have planned days of giving to benefit local nonprofits and have some extraordinary design features in the store that speaks to sustainability,” he said.

Marsha Larrabee of Monroe, who was shopping with her daughter and three grandchildren, came to the opening Thursday morning seeking bargains. She found them in the meat department with ground beef at $1.99 per pound.

Katherine D’Orazio of Shoreline brought her two toddlers to hunt for bargains. She found bags of white cheddar popcorn for half price. She usually shops at Fred Meyer but went to Whole Foods because one of her children has a sensitivity to artificial food colorings.

The store has a strong emphasis on local foods from farmers, fishermen and artisans.

One of those suppliers is Mount Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend.

The cheese-making operation is one of the recipients in Whole Foods Market’s local producer loan program. Mount Townsend received an $80,000 loan to purchase additional equipment. The chain’s loan fund is $10 million annually. Willy Green’s Organic Farm of Monroe also received a loan to build five greenhouses.

“For a company as small as ours, the program enabled us to buy needed equipment,” said Matt Day, co-owner of the five-year-old creamery. “That would have been very hard to do otherwise. The loan enabled us to take the business to the next level, increasing product capacity, consistency and quality. It was a big step for us.”

The new store will regularly be open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The coffee bar opens at 7 a.m. daily.

Founded in 1980, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market operates more than 310 stores in 38 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Reporter Mina Williams: 425-339-3453; mwilliams@weeklyherald.com.

Free opening festivities

• Friday: Amy Pennington, “Urban Pantry” cookbook author, 5:30 p.m., cooking department.

• Saturday: Whole Family Celebration, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with face painting, a treasure hunt and other kid activities.

• March 28: 5 Percent Day to benefit Comfort the Children. (Four times a year, 5 percent of the day’s net sales is contributed to a local charity.)

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