First Look

Whole Foods Goes Super-Size -- Why Would You Ever Leave the Store?

Are you the type of person who likes to drink wine, watch a baseball game and get a facial all while doing your grocery shopping? Then you're in luck, because the new Whole Foods on Park Lane opened this week, and all these amenities and more are available at the chain's largest location in North Texas.

The 64,000-square-foot store is hoping to attract shoppers with its selection of prepared foods and unique specialty items. At the northern entrance, a 20-foot-long chef's case and self-serve buffet areas provide prepared items for hurried shoppers on the go. There are also sushi, pizza, and panini stations, and the coffee bar and taco cart will open at 7 a.m., an hour earlier than regular store hours, for the breakfast crowd. The smoothie and juice bar features local kombucha, a fermented tea that some believe provides energy and healing properties. During our tour this weekend, we sampled the blueberry variety and thought the straight-from-the-tap flavor was similar to beer (there's a small percentage of alcohol in kombucha).

For those with a sweet tooth, there's a self-serve frozen yogurt bar featuring flavors like avocado and acai berry and a bakery with made-to-order cupcake bar. You can choose from a variety of batters, fillings, frosting and toppings to create your very own cupcake masterpiece.

At the southern entrance, there's an outdoor garden center and performance space where local musicians will entertain weekend crowds. Inside, a touch-screen kiosk greets shoppers who need a quick recipe idea, and the Art-O-Mat, a refurbished cigarette machine, allows shoppers to purchase miniature pieces of art, like wood carvings and playing cards, from Texas artists at $5 a pop.

In the center of the store near the produce section, there's an enormous section of beer and wine, complete with a bar where shoppers can order a drink and sit down to watch TV. The bar also serves cheese plates and antipasto selections. Nearby, you'll also find an expanded bath and body department and a Dr. Hauschka cosmetics and skin bar where tired shoppers can get hand massages and facials.

In the bulk foods section, there's the familiar peanut butter station and array of grains and spices, but new features like a salt and pepper bar are sure to attract attention. There are even dozens of infused oils and vinegars on tap.

But this wouldn't be a Whole Foods if not for the, well, whole and nutritious foods, and this location is packed with choices for every type of diet from gluten-free to vegan. If you're more of a carnivore, fear not because there's an extensive selection of meats and seafood, plus a Dixon's BBQ offering up brisket and buffalo short ribs.

The folks at Whole Foods are just as excited about what's outside the store. This grocery store will be the first in Dallas to offer covered parking, and the Cart-o-Lator, a feature borrowed from the Austin flagship store, descends from the store to the underground parking entrance. The Cart-o-Lator is an escalator for shopping carts, so shoppers don't have to worry about maneuvering their groceries downstairs. You simply lock your cart into the Cart-o-Lator, jump on the adjacent escalator, and meet your cart downstairs. Can't imagine there will be any any problems with this setup, especially on busy weekends and holidays. No way.

At least this store has room to accommodate high-volume traffic -- the aisles are wide and there's plenty of checkout lanes, including self-serve and express. Now if only we could get that facial while bagging groceries, life would be complete.

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Elizabeth Bair
Contact: Elizabeth Bair