Shoppers entering the new Whole Foods Market in Park Ridge will have plenty of reminders as to which community they are spending their dollars in.
There’s the marquee-style delicatessen sign that shouts “Pickwick Theatre” and the reusable shopping bags depicting the historic theater’s facade. There’s the menu board with freshly-prepared sandwiches bearing names like “Touhy Turkey,” “Pennyville” and an homage to local native Harrison Ford, “Temple of Doom.” And, of course, there’s the huge “Park Ridge” sign displayed above a row of coolers near the meat counter, right next to a timeline board that declares 1853 as the year George Penny started his brickyard here.
In choosing the store’s decor, designers “took a lot of inspiration” from the Park Ridge community, said Jason Aragon, the store’s manager.
“Early in its infancy, when they started looking at different decor, it had a very ‘Park Ridge feel’ and they wanted to make sure they emulated that in the store,” Aragon said. “I can tell you, they knocked it out of the park.”
Nearly two years after the Park Ridge Appearance Commission saw preliminary plans for a Whole Foods Market at Touhy and Washington Avenues, the retail chain is ready to roll out its unique brand of grocery store on Wednesday, Nov. 6 with an official bread-breaking using a nearly 5-foot-long braided challah.
The store will employ more than 200 workers, Aragon said. Many were busy unpacking boxes and making the sales floor actually look like a grocery store during a special preview Monday open to members of the local media.
Apart from the decor and the sandwich names, shoppers will find a few other new additions exclusive to the Park Ridge location. A fresh juice bar near the entrance offers six distinct concoctions, like the BEETternal (carrots, apple, beets and kale), the Lemon Zip (a mixture of grape, lemon jalapeño and water), and the Belly Rub (comprised of cabbage, pineapple, pear, parsley, mint and ginger). For the less adventurous, freshly-squeezed orange juice is also on the menu.
Also unique to the Park Ridge store is the Gaslight wine bar, open from 5 to 9:30 p.m. each day. The bar will host wine tastings and classes, including a Dec. 10 course on “how to create your own cheese board,” said Nancy LaBreacht, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods.
Surrounding the bar, shoppers can choose from more than 800 different types of wine, 250 craft beers (many locally produced), and some 100 different spirits. There are also more than 450 cheese styles and flavors available.
In the southeast corner of the store is a small coffee shop that doubles as a lounge after 5 p.m. with about 20 different beers on tap. Coffees include light roast, dark roast and decaf, in addition to a variety of teas. There is also wall-mounted TV to check out a game.
“It’s going to have that coffee bar feel [during the day] and then a lounge feel in the evening,” Aragon said.
Nearby is a calendar of everything happening at Whole Foods over the next month, like Veteran’s Day breakfast on Nov. 11 and the weekly “Wine Flight Wednesdays” at the Gaslight Bar.
“We definitely have events going on all the time,” LaBreacht said. “It’s a way to educate and get people to come in and have fun.”
Park Ridge shoppers will also find one more exclusive: 15 varieties of donuts made freshly inside the store, from vanilla bean glazed to pumpkin and key lime coconut.
As part of a mission to give back to the communities in which it is located, Whole Foods will hold one “5 percent day” each month, with 5 percent of the day’s proceeds going to a specific charitable organization. For November, Park Ridge’s Center of Concern will benefit. The One Dime at a Time program will help the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra when shoppers who bring in their own reusable bags have the option of donating the dime they would have gotten back from the store.
Recently, the Park Ridge Whole Foods raised over $3,000 for Wright-Way Rescue when a special pre-opening benefit was held in the parking lot, LaBreacht said.
Whole Foods was suggested as an addition to Park Ridge’s retail landscape as far back as 2004 when prospective Uptown developers were bringing proposals before the city.