Veni Vidi Vici: Whole Foods takes Gowanus

Eye On Real Estate: More than 700 Customers in an Hour - We Counted

January 22, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Going. Like. Gangbusters.

Business is booming at Brooklyn’s first Whole Foods Market, which has had a month to settle in on the shores of that oddly alluring Superfund site, the Gowanus Canal.

We know. We checked for ourselves.

We spent Saturday, Jan. 18, at Third and 3rd, as the upscale publicly-held grocer’s new location on Third Avenue and 3rd Street is called – uninvited and unaccompanied by anyone from Whole Foods.

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The statistic that best sums up the day is the number of shoppers who arrived in a single hour, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: A whopping 714 adults, teens and children. We counted all comers because even the small fry have an influence on what goes into shopping carts.

* In that busy hour, we counted 448 people coming from cars in Whole Food’s parking lot.  A very few vehicles were livery cabs that swung into the 240-space lot and dropped off shoppers. The rest were driven and parked by customers.

* A goodly number – 261 people – arrived on foot from 3rd Street during that hour.

Customers we chatted with said the walkers mostly hoofed it from home or took the subway to the 4th Avenue and 9th Street Station or the Carroll Street Station. One shopper rode a bus part of the way from his Fort Greene home and walked the rest of the way.

* Four hardy souls showed up on bicycles that hour – including an adult and child on a tandem bike.

* One young woman rode in on a skateboard.

There was so much to see – from $1.99 pots of primroses at one end of the store to a baker frosting cupcakes in a glassed-in workspace at the other end, with endless stacks of gleaming organic fruits and vegetables in between.

“It’s definitely food porn,” said David Ly, who rode the subway from his Brooklyn Heights home to shop. “We definitely spent too much money.”

And upstairs on the porch outside the rooftop restaurant/bar,  there were stunning Manhattan skyscraper views. We took it all in but did some other counting, too:

* It was a cold, unpleasant day with drizzle and sleet in the morning. But there were 43 cars in the parking lot before 9 a.m., less than an hour after the store opened.

One was a Zipcar – somebody decided it was worth renting a car by the hour to get groceries in Gowanus.

There was one bicycle in the parking lot at that early hour.

* At noon, there were nine people in line to order food at The Roof, that restaurant/bar on the floor above the supermarket.

* At 12:45 p.m., there were 180 cars in the parking lot. Nearly all the spaces sheltered by solar energy-panel-covered roofs were occupied.

* The biggest, buzziest crowd of the day was packed in around 2:30 p.m. It was like Macy’s Herald Square on Christmas Eve, back in the old days when Macy’s was a really busy place.  

Even when things got a shade less frenzied, at 3:30 p.m., there were 15 people in the cereal and chips aisle and 12 people lined up at the butcher’s counter.

* One elected official was spotted among the crowd of afternoon shoppers, buying food like everybody else: City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Boerum Hill).

* There were zero pizzas from Roberta’s in the freezer case. Maybe they sold out because people read about them in a posting about Third and 3rd’s Brooklyn-esque products on website Thrillist.com.

Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra was unable to share any company stats about the new store – but said shoppers have shown a lot of interest in the 200-plus exclusive items created for it.

“Response to the store has been fantastic and our customers really seem to be enjoying our new store’s offerings,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing on the success from our first month and further cementing ourselves in this fantastic neighborhood,” he added.

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