Will a splashy new Whole Foods on the Bowery leave a trail of wilted organic markets in its wake? The vegetarian, all-organic, and entirely volunteer-run 4th Street Food Co-op and a handful of other nearby stores now have to compete with the city’s biggest location: The Bowery outpost, which opened last week, clocks in at 71,000 square feet. The Union Square emporium? 51,000. With stores set to open in Brooklyn, Tribeca, and Harlem in the next two years, the Whole Foods backlash is in full swing.
“They’re devouring the real-estate market,” says Jason Trachtenburg, a musician and 4th Street Co-op member. “They’ve completely oversaturated the organic market, and they’re not even all organic! We’re not worried about losing our core clientele; it’s the people on the fence.” The Co-op doesn’t carry brands owned or backed by major corporations (think Toms of Maine, bought by Colgate, and Hain Celestial Group, which trades on the NASDAQ and owns about 30 organic brands). The Co-op occupies its indie niche, but Trachtenburg says that some of the other nearby shops are doomed — “lucky if they last a week.” Whole Foods claims the Bowery store will benefit the little guys. “When we came to Union Square, people were concerned about the Greenmarket, but it has grown since we’ve opened,” spokesman Fred Shank tells us. “We created footfall. We see people shopping our store with Greenmarket bags and vice versa.” Which has us wondering: Does anyone use the word “synergy” anymore? — Rachel Wolff
The Co-op is hosting its first annual “Renegade Benefit Show” this Friday at the Bowery Poetry Club.
Related: Whole Foods, Halfheartedly [NYM]