Project Spotlight: Whole Foods Market

BRR has a long history working with Whole Foods Market on countless projects across the nation. Our team has formed great working relationships with the client team over the years which has led to some new work with unique challenges to overcome.

We recently completed a Whole Foods Market takeover project in South Boulder, CO. The existing store was a former Lucky’s Supermarket which had been sitting vacant for several years. Based on our trusted partnership with the brand, BRR was tasked with the initial scope trip to assess the store’s condition and determine the key issues that would need to be addressed to transform the space into a new Whole Foods Market store. There were several concerns discovered on the trip, but three main challenges emerged for the project: renovating the existing space with a limited budget, outdated mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment and the permitting process, which would be turned on its head due to the nationwide shutdown.

Existing Building Challenges

The existing building was a former grocery store, but it had been sitting vacant for three years before being purchased by Whole Foods Market. The former tenant cleared out much of their product but the store was left as-is for that period. The team discovered much of the mechanical equipment was outdated and would need to be replaced; the refrigeration units were not up to new store standards, inoperable, and the electrical system needed to be upgraded. These updates would be costly and very involved, but they were necessary for the store to be able to operate by Whole Foods Market’s standards.

Design on a Budget

The Whole Foods Market brand is well-known for beautifully design stores which are unique to the local community. With this reputation and the fact there were two other Whole Foods Market stores in the area, the client wanted to ensure this takeover would live up to the high-design standards for the brand. This would need to be achieved on a limited budget due to the big spends needed on updating MEP equipment.

The design team focused on minimal changes that would make a large impact. Much of the existing layout of the store was able to remain intact which allowed the budget to be focused on updating the look to match Whole Foods Market brand standards. New paint in crisp, bright colors was implemented throughout the sales floor and a few choice soffits were updated to define the Specialty, Bakery and Seating departments. Designers were sensitive to the materials selected and found a budget-friendly tile that lived up to the quality and aesthetic of the client’s expectations.

One key change to the layout, definitive of Whole Foods Market stores, was the relocation of the seating area. By moving this area to the front of the store the team capitalized on the view of the Rocky Mountains, which can be seen through the front windows of the store. This created a beautiful setting for customers to sit back and relax inside the store

Permitting in a Pandemic

The permitting process was a major hurdle due to the pandemic. This project went into permit two months after the nationwide shutdown began. This would be a challenge anywhere, but Boulder is known as a walk-in jurisdiction, meaning they require the architect to bring the full set of drawings in-person to the jurisdiction office for approval. With the stay-at-home order and travel restrictions, the City of Boulder was forced to quickly revise their face-to-face review process to an online submittal.

This meant schedule was key and our team needed to stay on top of the permitting process daily. The online approval process took much longer than a typical review but the team was diligent about communication and the permit was granted just in time. It was successful for all parties involved and BRR was thrilled to bring the good news back to our client.

After an exciting and fast-paced journey, this store celebrated its grand opening on February 24, 2021. There were several key learnings our team compiled from this project which BRR, with the Whole Foods Market team, will now utilize as a template for future takeover projects. We were pleased to bring this knowledge back to our client and continue to foster this strong working relationship through many more projects in the future.

About the author:

Rachel Pierce, NCIDQ, graduated from the University of Central Missouri with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design. Since joining BRR in 2015, Rachel has worked on a variety of retail and grocery projects, focusing the majority of her time working with one of the firm’s largest grocery clients, Whole Foods Market. Over the years, she has become a trusted advisor to the team at Whole Foods Market and has collaborated with their team on countless projects throughout the country. Email her.