Friday, 23 February 2024

Foodie Freak: An open letter to Whole Foods Market

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I want a Whole Foods Market in Clearlake.


Those people who regularly read my column know that I have always supported local businesses and patronize the mom ‘n’ pop stores whenever possible.


So it may seem odd that I am calling for another franchise chain to take up residence here, but I have several reasons why I think a Whole Foods Market would be a benefit to our community.


For those who may be unfamiliar with the model of Whole Foods, they are a grocery store that offers mostly organic food, homeopathic remedies, and unique house wares. They are not a discount grocery store, but what they offer is high quality produce and products that promote a healthful lifestyle.


I have a recurring list of things to pick up from Whole Foods Market whenever we are near one, unfortunately that ends up being twice a year.


The paradigm of Lake County is changing. The population is growing, wineries are popping up like dandelions and upscale homes and family neighborhoods are becoming more common. We have a growing interest in farmers markets, community supported agriculture, and in locally produced foods.


Lake County has a very organic, vegetarian, health conscious population yet there are only a couple of health food stores, and for the most part they are no larger than the size of my living room. I try to visit all of these stores but since the nearest one to me is 20 miles away I don’t visit any of them as regularly as I would like. These factors suggest that a Whole Foods Market would be a good fit for our expanding and evolving community.


I even have the perfect location for a Whole Foods Market. The Lakeport Safeway has recently been remodeled to look like a foodie’s tourist destination, and now the Clearlake Safeway is slated to get a similar upgrade in the near future.


Unfortunately this will consist not of a remodel of the current location, but will actually be a complete move to a brand new location. The plan is to build an entirely new Safeway where the defunct water park currently is, and while this is good news for Safeway, I call it unfortunate for a couple of reasons.


Being a resident of Clearlake Oaks, my twice monthly major grocery runs consist of a 14-mile round trip. When Safeway moves to the water park location, it will add a few more miles onto the trip. People in the towns of Glenhaven and Spring Valley who have to drive a good distance anyway will then have even longer trips to make. And the people of Clearlake will no longer have a grocery store in the center of town.


Almost all of the major grocery stores will be crowded on the southeastern side of the city – Safeway, Ray’s and Walmart, with its expanded grocery section, all will be within sight of each other, and Foods Etc. not very far away from them.


With the recent move of the Rite Aid drugstore out of the Burns Valley Center, when Safeway leaves too there will be no major anchor store to draw customers to the smaller businesses in the center and they will suffer.


Launching a Whole Foods Market in the current Safeway location would be a good draw to help support the smaller businesses, while keeping a grocery store in a location easily accessible to the population of Clearlake. In addition, another large grocery store like Whole Foods would offer dozens of employment opportunities and revitalize the center of the community.


I’m sure that just like I have to drive to the other side of the lake for sashimi grade tuna at Bruno’s market and people from Lakeport drive across the lake to get the amazing steaks at the Lakeside Market, other people also would be interested in the products and goods that Whole Foods can provide and would commute to acquire these goods. So not only would Whole Foods profit from the city of Clearlake and all of the towns that surround it but from people from the other side of the lake that don’t have access to Whole Foods diversity.


Whole foods has a list of stores in development but the problem is that most of them are many times in a reasonable driving distance of Whole foods markets already in existence. Here in Lake County we would have to drive over an hour and over at least one mountain to get to a Whole Foods Market. If they were to open a Whole Foods Market in Clearlake they would be opening their doors in truly virgin territory not just expanding by inching through the cityscape.


Here's the bribe.


So, regional president of Whole Foods, I’m calling upon you to get a couple of friends and associates together contact me and I will give you all a personal tour of our county. We’ll look at the local communities that you would serve, I’ll give you a personal wine tasting tour, and show you how you could be on the ground floor of this evolving community.


We’ll call it a working vacation, market research, or just a chance to get away from the wife and kids, but I think you would really love it here.


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

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