Santa Barbara will soon welcome a new grocery store, with the opening of a Whole Foods Market on Oct. 7.
The 25,000 square-foot store on upper State Street will offer organic foods and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Staffed by nearly 150 employees, the market will open for business at a ceremony Wednesday morning attended by Mayor Marty Blum and others.
Whole Foods Marketing Supervisor Rae Van Seenus said the market has already received a warm welcome from Santa Barbara residents.
“We did an event out at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History,” Van Seenus said. “We had 400 people come by our booth. The question of the day was, ‘When are you opening?'”
The addition of a Whole Foods Market to downtown will be a significant change for a city with few major chain stores. While the store might become a big competitor for local markets, area health food vendors say they are unconcerned.
“I don’t think it will kill business in the long run,” Molly Holyeck, the general manager at Natural Cafe, said. “It’s not the same, since they can’t offer the restaurant experience.”
The new Whole Foods Market will also sell local products. Tim Tyler with Tutti Frutti Farms — an organic produce farm in Lompoc — said he has done business with Whole Foods in the past and will also sell produce in the new store.
“This summer, we shipped our Tutti Frutti heirloom tomatoes to Whole Foods,” Tyler said. “It is well- known Whole Foods stores prefer to buy local.”
However, Tyler also said he expects the new market to provide competition for local markets.
“Whole Foods Santa Barbara will no doubt have some impact on our local Farmers Market,” Tyler said. “However, no store will replace the experience of outdoor Farmers marketing.”
While Whole Foods will not be within walking distance of Isla Vista, the market is taking steps to appeal to students shopping on a budget.
“A lot of times people will assume Whole Foods is the higher end in terms of cost, but we’re trying to show college students that you can shop here on any budget,” Van Seenus said.