An air of optimism pervaded the aisles and raw food buffet of the Montrose Whole Foods on its inaugural day. Even before the doors opened at 8 a.m., a crowd of locals waited patiently in the parking lot in the rain to claim their territory among the maze of organic delights, BBQ station, breakfast taco stand, and yes, beer and wine tasting bar.
"You can see people shopping and literally drinking wine," said Whole Foods' Kimberly Crowder as throngs of caffeine-starved Houstonians filed into the queue at the Allegro Espresso Bar.
"Truthfully, we've done this so many times," said Crowder regarding the store's smooth opening — but she was struck by the new community response via social media. "We've seen a lot of online interaction, like posting pictures or saying, 'Wow, I had no idea that this store would have a wine bar or pho noodles.' "
Inevitably, the 45,000-square-foot Montrose store will be compared to the Whole Foods Kirby location: The new digs offer a more dynamic layout and expanded specialty sections. Those familiar bales of kale and stacks of Bulgarian yogurt are in perfect order, but surely that's the result of a freshly unwrapped store.
And then there's the staff, noticeable for their heightened friendliness and responsiveness to guests. Perhaps tides will change, but the mood and presentation of the Montrose employees is more commendable than their dreadlocked Kirby colleagues.
"You can see people shopping and literally drinking wine," said Whole Foods' Kimberly Crowder as throngs of caffeine-starved Houstonians filed into the queue.
Back to that wine bar: The Bayou Bar isn't merely offering sample sips. The sit-down counter includes 12 beverages on tap (Wednesday included four wines and eight beers).
"This morning was mostly moms and folks who had just come home from running, but it will be really interesting to see people come for a drink after work," Crowder said.
And they're going to need that tipple after navigating the parking lot. Albeit larger than Kirby's concrete rug, the Whole Foods Montrose parking lot fills up fast, with nary a side street to hide a vehicle (beware roving policemen). Those office tower parking garages are also a no-no.
Aside from some local artwork, a few electric car charging stations and sandwiches and coffee bean blends dubbed "The Montrose," the store looks yanked from any traffic-plagued Houston strip mall.
Nevertheless, Crowder said that the store's offerings will be tinkered with in the weeks ahead to better suit local customers.
"The biggest focus is to determine what the community wants. If they want more items on the hot bar, or more raw food, we'll work that out," she said. "But for opening day, this is really exciting."