Shoppers unite! Brooklyn’s first Whole Foods opens in Gowanus

Local Vendors, Rooftop Greenhouse and Bar Featured

December 17, 2013 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here's the new Whole Foods in Gowanus. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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Welcome to Brooklyn’s coolest Superfund site.

Brooklyn’s first Whole Foods Market finally opened in Gowanus on Tuesday morning with Borough President Marty Markowitz on hand, along with other elected officials and hundreds of local residents, as the “foodie-in-chief” broke bread to commemorate the new store.

“Finally, after all of these years, they have gotten the store open, and another one in Williamsburg is right behind,” Markowitz boasted. “They kept my promise of opening the store before my term is over, but, with only 15 days left, they cut it pretty close.”

The Whole Foods Northeast Regional President Christina Minardi credited Markowitz for helping to open the new grocery store, unveiling a plaque in his honor.

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“This is 10 years in the making,” Minardi said. “It’s been a labor of love and none of this would be possible without our borough president Marty Markowitz. Every time we’ve needed help, he’s been there and I truly believe that we would not be standing here today if not for his efforts.”

Whole Foods initially began its search for a location in Brooklyn back in 2003. There was some controversy surrounding the site they chose, as it’s located on 3rd St. at 3rd Ave, right along the heavily-polluted Gowanus Canal, which is a Superfund site.

But Whole Foods, working with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, plans on contributing to the cleanup of the canal. The two groups will host an event next year during which five percent of the store’s proceeds on that particular day will be donated to the GCC. In addition, all of the advertising sold on the new promenade that connects the 3rd Avenue Bridge to the 3rd Street Bridge will be donated.

“As resident believers in a bright and green future for the Gowanus Canal, the arrival of Whole Foods means a lot to the Gowanus Canal Conservancy,” said Hans Heffelein, executive director of the GCC. “To us, this is a turning point to what could be described as a challenged body of water.”

The store, which they are calling Third and 3rd, is over 56,000 square-feet with 32 registers, 240 parking spaces, cafeteria seating for 250 and rooftop seating for 100. If you can’t make it to the store, they will deliver to neighborhoods spanning from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge. 

Brooklynites from all around are ecstatic that Whole Foods has finally arrived. “So far, I absolutely love it,” said Dave Carcache, who lives just three blocks away and came out for the opening. “I love that they have kimchi by the ounce. The variety is amazing. I belong to the local food co-op, and I’m probably still going to shop there, but every once and a while I’ll be stopping in here just because of the variety.” 

This particular Whole Foods will be very Brooklyn-centric, with more than 100 local vendors selling over 200 different products grown or manufactured locally. The store also includes a bike repair station, bike parking, a knife sharpening booth, a juice bar, a vinyl records section and a rooftop greenhouse. 

The rooftop greenhouse – which is a 20,000 square-foot urban garden that will grow leafy greens, tomatoes and herbs – will open in February. This feature is fitting with the organization’s efforts to be “green,” and Gotham Greens, the local company that has partnered with Whole Foods to run the greenhouse, estimates that they will harvest 150 tons of produce per year. This produce will not only serve all of the Gowanus customers, but the customers of other local Whole Foods stores as well.

Other “green” features at the Gowanus location include six solar canopies that cover the parking lot, producing shade for the cars as well as an estimated 25 percent of the grocery store’s energy, as well as wind turbines. The store has a grey/storm water reuse system, a CO2 refrigeration system, and the building itself was built using reclaimed and repurposed materials, including wood from the Coney Island boardwalk that was damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

Of course, there are the traditional grocery store sections, including meat and seafood departments, a bakery, a produce section and a counter for specialty items. On top of that, there is a floral section, a beer section, a dairy department, a coffee bar and even a station that roasts and grinds coffee beans while the customer waits.

And this new location is a haven for beer lovers:  the store has not only a traditional beer section, but also a rooftop bar that offers 15 different types of beer on tap with 25 more varieties in bottles, while downstairs there is a growler station that has 10 varieties of beer and 64-ounce jugs designed to store draught beer.

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