Whole Foods welcomed to Buffalo by organic enthusiasts

New upscale grocery store draws large crowds


More than 400 people lined up hours before the Whole Foods grand opening on Friday at 8 a.m. to see the grocer’s first location of the Buffalo Niagara region.

Janet Austin and Erin O’Brien, senior exercise science majors, were among the hundreds who waited in line for the store to open in the Northtown Plaza on Sheridan Drive.

“It's always exciting to see new healthy options available in the western New York area,” Austin said. “We have been waiting forever for Whole Foods to come to Buffalo and were so excited when we found out it was finally happening.”

Austin and O’Brian got in line at 7:20 a.m. to wait for the opening. Free prizes and first-day sales were a major draw-in for the two to wait in line.

“Waiting in line was definitely worth it. They had a lot of great sales and giveaways, like reusable bags and water bottles,” O’Brien said. “We bought fresh pasta, specialty yogurts, granola from their bulk section, unique frozen products, plus lots more. We were able to have a lot of samples from great local places too.”

Mark Wilkins, Store Team Leader for the Buffalo Whole Foods branch, said he has welcomed the flood of shoppers at the new store and is happy to see UB students frequenting as well.

“We have had a wonderful opening response on our opening day in Buffalo,” Wilkins said. “Students have especially been frequenting our coffee and juice bar, and our hot food and salad bars. We love having the college students in our store.”

Whole Foods is known for being more expensive than other more traditional grocery stores. Amazon recently purchased the company lowering the price of staple food items, making it a more budget-friendly environment for college shoppers. As a result of their recent partnership, Wilkins said roughly 75 staple grocery items have been discounted, making it more affordable for people to eat healthy.

“[These items] are staple items that are often sought after healthy items,” Wilkins said.

Inside the store, Buffalonians appreciated the grocer’s efforts at making the store not only visually enjoyable, but a positive and welcoming experience.

Lindsay Lassetter, a freshman biomedical sciences major, was instantly taken by the store’s assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers.

“This is amazing and really big. They have everything that I look for when I go shopping,” Lassetter said. “I like that they have a wide assortment of bulk foods, too. They have the granola and snacks that I eat here, so I can tell I’ll be shopping here a lot.”

Lassetter said the store’s design matched the fall season perfectly and was impressed with every aspect of her shopping experience.

“Even the pumpkins and flowers outside the store are aesthetically pleasing. Everything here looks clean and organized,” Lassetter said.

Many UB students haven’t made it to Whole Foods yet, but are eager to explore the store’s healthy and organic options. Of roughly 50 students interviewed, only three had been to the new store.

Lindsay Corbett, a sophomore psychology major, said she can’t wait to shop at Whole Foods because their wide selection of fresh produce appeals to her taste.

“I’m really excited to try to eat healthier, and I know that Whole Foods is going to make that easier,” Corbett said. “Their prices are a little bit high for college students, but I think that it’s worth it because before they came there wasn’t a store close enough to campus that has organic food like they do.”

Corbett said she plans on doing all her shopping at Whole Foods instead of other local options including Wegmans or Tops.

Mike Rogeo, a shopper from the area, said the new store’s modern look wasn’t something he’s used to seeing in Buffalo.

Within the first few minutes of his grocery run, Rogeo was mesmerized by the cleanliness of the building. Its stainless steel and porcelain tile accents and bright lighting give the building an open feeling, making it seem bigger than it actually is.

“This doesn’t feel like Buffalo,” Rogeo said. “I’m used to Wegmans and Tops, this is completely new for me. The store looks like something that you’d see in New York City, but not in Buffalo.”

Max Kalnitz is the senior features editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com