DETROIT – When Whole Foods Market opens in the Midtown Detroit area June 5, the team intends to put the community first. They’ve asked a lot of questions through social media outlets like Facebook and did a lot of listening to what people in the city want from their new grocery store.
In response, “We’ve created a space that’s welcoming to anyone that walks through the door. We’ll maintain a clean store, one that has healthy foods, and one that is really serving our community by offering the amazing customer service that we’re known for,” said Tiana Oldford, Associate Store Team Leader for the Detroit location since January 2013.
Oldford began her career with Whole Foods Market in 2006 as a cashier at the first Ann Arbor location. “I was an education student at Eastern Michigan University. I was going to quit Whole Foods to start student teaching and an opportunity presented itself. I kind of quit school and took a risk and really went for it,” she said about helping to open a second Ann Arbor location in 2008. By 2010, Oldford became a Customer Service Team Leader. Then in 2012, she became the Associate Team Leader at Whole Foods in Rochester Hills.
“I’m really excited to be a part of the Detroit store opening. There’s a lot of passion and pride in the people that live here. It’s been a really great experience for me as far as learning how to open a store and challenging my thoughts on what community means,” she said.
Oldford resides in Royal Oak with her partner, Melissa, and their son, Henry. “As a lesbian at Whole Foods, I have been just another team member. My family has afforded the same rights that any other team member has. My partner has health insurance here as well as my son. My partner receives the 20 percent discount that Whole Foods offers. Whole Foods is our family,” she said.
Whole Foods as a company is welcoming to the LGBT community. “Whole Foods people are Whole Foods people no matter where you are. There are lots of LGBT people working for Whole Foods just because it feels like home. Part of what we really love about our community is that we accept you for who you are no matter what,” said Oldford, who is in a great position to lead by example. “I think it’s the best thing I can do to live every day with integrity.”
In an effort to do this, one of the goals she has is to offer job opportunities to people within the community. “We made a commitment to hiring Detroit residents. We have 91 team members here. We’ve created 61 new jobs. In a city with an 18 percent unemployment rate, that means a lot. It’s really important,” said Oldford. “We are looking for someone who is passionate, preferably passionate about food, but any passion can be translated into what we’re looking for. Someone who is a hard worker, a team player, believes in the language of ‘we,’ and our core values…community, environment and healthy food.”
As an active sponsor of Motor City Pride since 2005, Oldford said she is excited to kick things off a few days before the festival. “We’ll have several activities in the parking lot including lots and lots of samples, which is kind of what we’re known for,” she said. “There’s a lot of amazing things going on in the city…the growth of urban agriculture and passionate food culture. We’re just really excited to be a tiny part of it.”
In collaboration with the City of Detroit, the DEGC, Midtown Detroit, Inc., the MEDC, Detroit Eastern Market, and many others, the new location on John R and Mack will feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats. Emphasizing their quality standards, Whole Foods offers organically grown foods that are fresh, wholesome and safe to eat.
The team, according to the Whole Foods website, looks forward to offering a wide range of local products ranging from Avalon baked goods, McClure’s pickles, Good People Popcorn, Garden Fresh salsa and chips, Drought raw juices, and Ellis Island Tropical Tea, along with a great selection of seasonal Michigan produce.
Each Whole Foods Market is uniquely designed for the community. A decor and construction team put their special touch on the 21,000-square-foot location complete with muriels and photos showcasing local farms and community gardens in Detroit. To honor the unions in Detroit, character is given to the bakery with a sign made out of conduit from the IBEW Local 58. The dairy section proudly displays a timeline of Detroit events. Motown Records light up the cash registers and old car hoods make up tabletops for cozy booths where customers may enjoy prepared foods or soups of the day in the cafe.
Detroit is not the first to face the issue of gentrification as residents of lower-income neighborhoods have protested the arrival of Whole Foods. With more than 340 successful stores in the U.S., the UK, and Canada, Whole Foods is overcoming the nickname “Whole Paycheck.”
“We are aware of our nickname and our price image. Whole Foods began talks three and a half years ago about the Detroit location. We’ve put a lot of time and energy into shopping six to seven different local grocery stores. We will be very competitive and are close in price to other sellers,” said Amanda Musilli, Whole Foods Community Liaison since 2005. “All healthy cities have lots of options and Detroiters deserve to have those options.”
The company has famously said that shoppers can eat well by spending just $5 per day, and Oldford is committed to making consumers and potential customers feel comfortable shopping at Whole Foods.
Whole Foods Market
115 Mack Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202
Grand opening is Wednesday, June 5 at 9 a.m.