2005 meeting on Esplanade WFM future

This meeting and many others like it were undertaken because of Whole Foods Market’s decision in 2005 to close the 3135 Esplanade Avenue location. The neighborhood was very concerned, especially with the announcement that the sale of the building would include a non-compete clause so that other grocery stores could not operate there for some years, even though the building had contained a grocery since around the turn of the century.




Meeting to Discuss the Future of the Whole Foods Site Attracts 140 Neighbors

A neighborhood town meeting took place on February 19 at the Holy Rosary cafeteria to discuss the future of the Whole Foods site. Over 140 individuals attended the meeting, an overflow crowd that exhausted all available chairs. The Austin-based company announced in January that the Esplanade store would be closing in April. According to those involved in the organization of the meeting, Whole Foods Market’s CEO John Mackey has offered to allow neighbors some involvement with the review of bids for the property, which is supposed to be listed for sale in the next few weeks.

The meeting was chaired by Robert Thompson, co-owner of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, who gave some background history of the closing of the store. Next, Darlene Wonik discussed a survey that she had taken regarding what grocery items neighbors want in a store. The first guest speaker was Mike Zarou, owner of All Natural food store. Mr. Zarou said that in order for him to open a business at the present Whole Foods site he would need to own the building. He said that if he had not owned the building on Magazine Street, where his previous store was located, which was directly across the street from the Uptown Whole Foods, he would have had nothing to show after 19 years in business. French Quarter grocer Cosimo Matassa addressed this sentiment, saying that the expected high sale price would make it very difficult for most businesses to make a profit at that location. Two other grocers, Lakeview Fine Foods and Canal Blvd. Super Market, who were invited to the meeting did not attend. Larry Schmidt, a representative of the Trust for Public Lands, discussed the possibility of having Whole Foods donate the property to the Trust. The property would then be transferred to a non-profit entity that would operate a community business. Many in the audience reacted positively to this possibility. John Calhoun of the New Orleans Food Co-Op said, “The only way the community can get what it wants is to own the shelves.” Many approved of this message, and one individual in the audience urged Mr. Calhoun and his organization to purchase the Whole Foods site. However, Mr. Calhoun stated that the Food Co-Op had but a few thousand dollars it its account. Tommy Usdin, President of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, offered his organizations resources to help determine what the neighborhood wants at the Esplanade site. A second meeting will be held sometime in March.

History: Whole Food Company

I will be posting a series of notes for each major entry for the timeline. If you have info to share, please let me know.

1975: Opening of Whole Food Company at Adams @ Cohn

From Robert Thompson, longtime activist:
We belonged to the Robert Street Coop 1972. Liz and I worked cash register each week. The residents of the house included our friend Steve Samuels and Rick Moss (Tulane students). A buyer went to French Market and bought seasonal stuff. Food was arranged like a store. Buyers circulated around and bought what they wanted. Afterwards a guy from the Marengo St commune would come and buy up all the remaining food. This coop functioned during school year. Summertime the student members left, and those of us who lived here would combine efforts at coop on Cohn Street. The serious player there was an acquaintance named Armand Jonte. He was later a chef at Gautreaux’s I think. Seems like there were a couple of roommates with him on Cohn, I’ll try to figure who. But Armond was in my mind the soul of the Cohn St Coop. There was always talk of a storefront and I think by the second summer they made the move from Cohn Street to the Coop store building by the cemetery. –

October 1974:  Whole Food Company (WFC) opened its doors in New Orleans in Its mission was to be a grocery store featuring good, wholesome food. Sales doubled each year for the first four years. By 1978, the store (only 1100 square feet) was doing more than $1 million per year. (From WFM corporate history)

1981: Opening of Whole Food Company, Esplanade Avenue.
In 1981, WFC opened a larger store on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. WFC became the largest outside customer of Texas Health Distributors, the wholesale division of Whole Foods Market. (From WFM corporate history)

From Linda Van Aman, founder of Eve’s Market who (along with Claudia Dumestre took over the original WFC location before moving to Freret):

I worked at Whole Foods Company from 1981-1987, mostly at the Esplanade store, first as a grocery stocker, then as department manager, then in upper management.  Somewhere in there, WFC opened a deli & grocery outlet in the Riverwalk mall, which was unsuccessful and closed fairly quickly (not sure about the timeline on that). In early 1987,Whole Foods Market was positioning itself to expand into Louisiana (their first foray outside of TX), and Peter Roy was going to sell them the Esplanade store and close the one on Cohn St.

1988: Purchase of Whole Food Company by Whole Foods Market.
(From WFM corporate history) In May of 1988, the Esplanade store became the sixth Whole Foods Market.

(From Charleston Magazine, SEPTEMBER 2006) Peter Roy, who grew up with four sisters in a fifth-generation New Orleans family. In 1975, Roy began working at his sister’s new natural food store, Whole Food Company becoming its president in 1978. In 1988, Roy merged it with Whole Foods Market and moved to the West Coast to become president of the new California region for Whole Foods Market. In 1993, was promoted to president of the Company. “Basically, I bought my sister out and woke up 25 years later.”


2002: Whole Foods Market opens Arabella Station location.