Whole Foods Market – Avalon

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature an article from Mike Christensen.

WF Avalon now openThe Avalon doesn’t officially open for two weeks, but one small section is open now, Whole Foods.  It opened this week to replace Harry’s Farmers Market.  Me and 184,000 of my closest friends checked out Alpharetta’s newest organic grocer this week.  It was good to be able to be on Avalon’s property for the first time, well not counting the other times one snuck in and wandered around.  (editor’s note: This is a joke.  Mike did not trespass on Avalon’s property).

The majority are concerned about parking.  They are right to be worried.  The lot isn’t as big and it is tight maneuvering.  I have had to seek spaces across the street and had to hike in.  Good thing I was able to grab some trail mix inside to sustain me for the journey back to the truck.  If you have an electric vehicle you’re in luck.  Whole Foods has a few EV spaces with charging stations right near the front.  I didn’t see any of those expectant mother spaces, but I wasn’t really searching.

Entering the store, my first impression was “man this place is huge, bright and green.”  Farm inspired artwork adorns the walls and bright lights make everything easy to see.  Sometimes that’s a bad thing. It can also expose flaws.  It seemed that the produce section was a little small and the spaces around the displays were cozy.  I imagine if you get a few carts roaming around in there then traffic jams would be inevitable.

The seafood and meat counters are right next to each other.  Both are well lit, pleasingly arranged and well staffed.  The meat counter isn’t as long as the one at Harry’s so the meat is more condensed on display.  It’s not a bad thing.  The dry aging meat hanging behind a window was a neat touch.

The wine selection looks smaller than before, and the local options have diminished greatly. That’s disappointing considering the substantial North Georgia wine production.  I did enjoy the sign on the wall that marked the wine section that read, “Put a cork in it”.

One thing that’s made Whole Foods at Avalon stand out is the sale and consumption of alcohol on site.  There is a wine bar/cafe/cooking school located upstairs that overlooks the store.  Guzzle some vino while learning to cook?  Count me in.  It sure would make first dates there go much better.

WF Avalon GrowlersWhole Foods does sell growlers to-go as well.  From what I could tell, they have only the 64 oz size growler wrapped in a “Whole Foods Avalon” growler-cozy.  There are only four options to choose from, all local.  Current selections include beers from Orpheus Brewing, Monday Night, Second Self Beer Company and Eventide Brewing.  It seems that what Whole Foods lacks in local wine, they are making up in local beers.  I saw an end cap display for Jekyll and there is a very large cooler fully stocked with all the Georgia breweries represented.  Single bottles are also available.

Then you get to the eating food section.  Several serve-yourself bars are available. One bar was marked “Paleo choices”.  Dinosaur food?  I moved on.  This Whole Foods has more choices than most mall food courts.  It was dazzling.  A sushi bar, olive bar, make your own Wok place, pizza, sandwiches, it goes on and on.  If that wasn’t enough, there is a counter in the front of the store where you can order a beer or a coffee and pick out one of the several pre-made sandwiches from the display.  It had a very European feel to it. It makes for a very fast turnaround.

Once you’ve stuffed your face and drank your beer/wine, don’t forget dessert.  I always laughed at all the healthy choices, gluten free, organic, etc, and then the most popular spot was the bakery.  Tons of cakes, tarts and cookies are on display.  And do not miss the (echo voice) Wheel of Gelato!  My son was fascinated with the rotating tubs that resemble a spaceship from the planet ice cream.  Samples are readily given.

Let’s not forget, Whole Foods is after all a grocery store.  While the aisles themselves were narrow, there were a lot of them.  It seemed that the packaged food aisles at Harry’s seemed like an afterthought or an addition.  These at Whole Foods were designed to go here.  The sheer volume of products is gluten free, organic and other styles is staggering.

Yes, prices are high.  Whole Foods doesn’t have the nickname “Whole Paycheck” for nothing.  While the selection is great, the lights bright, and the food options are overwhelming, it just doesn’t have that neighborhood feel that Harry’s had.  Being the only organic grocer on the block will make Whole Foods a hipster, vegan, paleo paradise. But for me, it’s no replacement for Harry’s.

24 Responses to “Whole Foods Market – Avalon”

  1. Cool Papa Bell October 17, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    They have a shopping cart station on either the first or second row to the left if you are coming out. It is on a hill heading downwards. There is no stopper. Shock, the carts are rolling out and flying everywhere. This was not well thought out. Mala’s car is going to get scratched and dented.

  2. Lionel T October 17, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    I’m glad I’m not alone. I went and fought the parking on Tuesday noticing that the parking deck conveniently located nearby is for future residents only (and strictly enforced!).

    So it’s opening day, you have every level of management there congratulating themselves on the new store and nearby in their horribly located ‘candy bar’ at the front, two kids are helping themselves to bits of candy from it. Stealing is wrong, but you don’t put open candy right by the front door and not expect it to happen! The idea that someone would load a bag of this stuff when god knows how many fingers have all been in it is disturbing, not to mention the ugly pile that had all fallen to the floor around it.

    I wander over to the produce section as I search for the international foods and it seems smaller, so much smaller than Harry’s used to be. My friend said it was the same size, but it just seems to lack the variety and breadth of the old Harry’s, maybe I’m just spoiled by Super H in John’s Creek. Oh, and they have cut pineapple for samples, and there’s a woman with a toothpick trying to skewer four pieces onto it, eat it, and then skewer again, like some kind of twisted Hungry Hungry Hippo game.

    Still looking for international foods, I head to the meat and fish, they have a giant fish out that they are cutting up. There’s a near riot for people wanting to sample the meatballs being cut, but I’m impressed by the meat and fish selection, it’s always been a high point and they did a great job, again with seemingly less space.

    What was not as impressive is the floor space wasted with their ‘make your own peanut butter’ area and the area with the flat screen tv that allows people to stand around and gawk at for whatever recipe was being shown or product hawked.

    Still cannot find international foods so break down and ask someone. “We don’t have a separate section anymore, the foods are just blended in with their domestic counterparts”, sigh. This is one thing even Publix gets right and not sure what their logic is except again a lack of space.

    Speaking of ‘others getting it right’, I’m glad that they can serve alcohol here, because the only thing better than millenials crowding around for upscale organic goods are DRUNK millenials crowding around for upscale organic goods. With that said, a whole booth for growlers? Didn’t most of these places go out of business with the froyo and cupcake fads? I know I can get a growler at the gas station a mile from my house, was this really necessary?

    Still, I loved the bakery, my sole purchase were a pair of cream horns for said friend and myself. I’d been longing for them since they seem so hard to find in the area, and I may be back for the Whoopie Pies (I’m a long removed Yankee after all), and their other prepared foods, did not get a chance to explore, so I will be back, but knowing their immediate future, I will be back on a random Tuesday at 7:55pm, during a snow storm, because otherwise it’s just too many people in too small an area and it will not be getting any better.

  3. claudia castro October 17, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    OMG Lionel, I chuckled all the way through your review! I haven’t been there and won’t be going as I’m a Publix fan and if I’m looking for the exotic, I head down to Super H on 141. That said, however, have told a friend who wanted to go there this week for lunch that we were going to have wait some months for the novelty to wear off. Last thing I need on a 1 hour lunch break is to run into “DRUNK millenials” :) . Have a great weekend all!

  4. Travis Allen October 17, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    I’m just not interested. We used to like Harry’s, but just have no desire to really even visit Avalon except maybe for dining.

    Sounds like parking is similar to parking at Fry’s and then walking down to Walmart, so forget it.

  5. Jen October 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    It sounds like WF is targeting the business lunch crowd and pushing the prepped foods. I don’t blame them. I’m sure with all the shopping around, and the outdoor concept, cube dwellers will head over to eat and maybe pick up some groceries. I work near the forum and enjoy walking around there during lunch and picking up specialty items at trader joes. I live west of 400, so our side was spoiled with Harry’s (as the windarward people probably didn’t venture to Harry’s hidden location). It was nice for us though as we could get in and out in 10 minutes. The new location is great for WF, but not fun for those of us that were spoiled west of 400.

  6. Jen October 17, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    “A vegan paleo hipster paradise”…Funny. I do wonder if hipsters/millenials really think WF is “cool” anymore? The younger people I work with kind of make fun of it. I think WF has become too corporate to be a hipster hangout (and too expensive). I also laugh at what people buy at whole foods. Just because it’s a whole foods cake or organic chips, wine; or soda, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy (mysf included. I like their. 365 sodas, but they are still loaded with sugar and 150 calories)

  7. Jen October 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    What is the “super H”?

  8. Lionel Thompson October 17, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    Super H/H Mart is a supermarket chain that is mostly Asian the creepiness of live turtles sold as meat. They have an amazing variety of fruits and veggies, as well as meats at reasonable prices, and more squid flavored snack foods than you know existed.

    In addition they have some really yummy prepared foods (I’m a sucker for the Korean booth and their ‘bento’ box with spicy pork). I wouldn’t necessarily go there for my milk and soda (nothing wrong with them, just overpriced), but for my staples and a nice lunch in between, it can’t be beat – note I do not work at or have any investment in Super H other than it’s like Whole Foods, but reasonable and useful.

    http://hmart.com/

  9. S Lee Guy October 17, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    Super H Mart is a sight to behold. If you’ve never been, go and just look around. I take the kids there to look at the critters. It’s like the zoo, except it’s free and people eat the stuff. And if you ever get down that way, the location in Doraville is better than Johns Creek.

  10. Mark Toro October 18, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    Even though we opened in a monsoon, I’m delighted that so many of our guests visited Whole Foods at Avalon. It is truly something to behold and we hope that Alpharettans will embrace it and make it their own.

    See you at Opening Ceremonies at 9am on 10/30!

    Mark Toro
    Managing Partner
    North American Properties

  11. Jen October 18, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    Thanks for the info on hmart.

  12. Cool Papa Bell October 18, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    I believe Johns Creek is just an H-Mart. Duluth is Super H.

  13. Jen October 18, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    We were curious about whole foods so went this sat morning (around 10am). Surprisingly, there were quite a few parking spaces near the front. Once you drive into Avalon, it does hit you that it’s “apartment-ville”, but hope the “high end” feel of Avalon keeps surrounding property values stable. It was also interesting to see that the tech college is breaking ground across the street as well.

    The store is nice and new. Our toddler liked the sunny play area. For kicks we ordered from the spinning gelato wheel. Not sure it needs to spin, but it did get our attention, so it works from a marketing stanpoint. My son misses the fish tank from hembree (hope someone adopted them). We loved the cashiers at hembree and were happy to see a lot of familiar faces still working there. I usually just go to whole foods for their 365 dressings, cherry balsamic vinegar, and baby shampoo, but whole foods really does make their stores appealing and welcoming and it’s hard to leave.

  14. JAS October 19, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    As we walked through the door we were hit with the stink, and there is no other way of putting it, of fish. I was ready to leave.

    The main reason we went was to buy the coffee beans that we have purchased for years at Harry’s. Guess what, there was a reduced selection at a higher price. Our choice, that due to its popularity, merited two barrels at Harry’s, was not there. Also, no evidence of roasting onsite. The display looked like it was stuck on the end of the aisle as an afterthought. A couple of years ago I met an executive from a major coffee company. He told me that if I couldn’t get their brand, go to Whole Foods because they know how to roast coffee beans. The reason we bought coffee there was the on site roasting. Now we have no idea if they roast on site any more.

    In general the layout was confusing and we did not find some of the other items we were looking for. We also had trouble navigating because of narrow aisles.

    I can’t say we will never be back but it is no longer our our first stop for groceries. Certainly no local feel, just another chain.

  15. A commuter October 22, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    I am over Avalon before it even gets going. I am over the hype, I am over the construction, I am over it all. I looked at the website and couldn’t find one local business to the greater Alpharetta area. Everything connected with it appears to be a national chain or another outpost of an existing business. It reminds me an awful lot of Atlantic Station when it started and now look where that’s at ten years later.

  16. Joe D. Whiner October 23, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    If you ever need to find people to complain about stuff that doesn’t need to be complained about… Just come to this site. It never ends, and is quite amusing. I imagine you all sit on your HOA boards and really nail those jerks who dare to have an out of compliance mailbox!

  17. laurel October 27, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    This is a terrible store. Harry’s had plenty of room to accomodate the new shoppers at Avalon. It had more food selection choices. It had better parking which could accomodate more people. The greed of Whole Foods is unbelievable. To think that Avalon gives it more cache while they rip off the consumer makes me yearn for any organic produce store other than Whole Fodds to open up in Alpharetta. This store is small with less food choices. The parking lot is always crowded. The store is always crowded and I can only hope that as this store quickly becomes oversaturated so that they are forced to spend more money to put in a new store. I try to shop elsewhere now since the only way to hurt Whole Foods is through their pocket book. And bye the way, this store has minimal commitment to organic produce since Monsanto(GMO foods) now sits on the board of Whole Foods

  18. laurel October 27, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    There is no international food section anymore another reason I won’t be going to Whole Foods very often. Now I go to India Mart on Windward behind SunTrust Bank. If the Windward people think this is a plus for them it’s not and as I have to spend plenty of gas to get to Costco and Walmart on Windward I feel they were better off driving down to Harrys for more food choices.

  19. Kim October 28, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    First visit yesterday and was disappointed. Went around 2:30 which is normally a good time to shop since many moms are waiting at the bus stop for kiddos. The parking was crazy. The aisles were narrow making navigation difficult. They were low on stock having only one can of what I was looking for. Customer service was… not!

    Their fish counter looked better than their old place which they’ve let go downhill over the years, IMO. I’ll still drive the extra distance to Kathleen’s Catch to avoid that chaotic scene. And while I’m over there I can swing by the free-standing Johns Creek Whole Foods or the Super H people have mentioned.

  20. Kim October 28, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    My husband, who has been twice before, says the key is to sit out in the parking lot and psyche yourself up for the inside experience or to decide if you really need to go in there. Ha ha.

  21. B October 29, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    So I went Sunday and filled my cart with the usual weekly groceries. Didn’t really notice a lot of difference. I didn’t care for the fish smell – it was very strong in the produce section. I did like the larger selection of bulk foods. Seems there may be a few things at this store that weren’t at either of the other local WF’s. Fishy smell aside, we finished shopping and went to check out. Apparently the registers crashed. After about half an hour we were asked to leave. There were a handful of people who paid cash for labeled items like meat. Some folks with hot food were allowed to take it without paying. All of my groceries were put back into the cart and I left. I can’t imagine how many groceries were left out by the registers. Am sure I’ll go back again, but the first impression was not so hot. If parking is an issue I’ll keep going to the Johns Creek location.

  22. JP October 29, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    I’ve been to Whole Foods at Avalon twice in the past few days – Friday evening and last evening (Tuesday). Both times the store was virtually empty and the parking ample. Not a fan of Whole Foods and don’t see myself going there to shop – basically I went both times with my girlfriend who wanted to pick up some specialty items. Personally, I’ll stick to Kroger and Publix.

  23. Jone Angell-Manley November 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Last week was my first visit to the new Avalon location. I must agree with so many others, I already miss the old location. BUT,one thing that really bothered me was the video of the cute pigs and cows playing on the screen in front of me, while I am preparing to purchase meat. Now this may not bother some and I understand you want us to know about the grass feeding, etc., but do you really have to have this display right in front you?
    I almost walked away…sorry, but this was disturbing to me.

  24. New reality show in the future??? November 29, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Lost my car at Avalon…Stranded in the rain at Avalon…I have been ..it is off my to do list. I will not be going back but I am glad there are people that can afford to go there.. that means someone is still working and paying into social security!

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