RIVERDALE PARK – The excitement for the new and first-ever Whole Foods Market in Prince George’s County was palpable Sunday as hundreds of county residents trekked to the grocery store for preview tours. The new store put an Eventbrite sign up into the public and filled up the more than 800 slots for the Sunday […]
RIVERDALE PARK – The excitement for the new and first-ever Whole Foods Market in Prince George’s County was palpable Sunday as hundreds of county residents trekked to the grocery store for preview tours.
The new store put an Eventbrite sign up into the public and filled up the more than 800 slots for the Sunday preview in less than three days, said Rachael Wilson, a spokesperson for Whole Foods.
“This is the first store in Prince George’s County, so that makes it pretty unique and cool,” she said.
The store officially opens April 12 with an 8:45 a.m. bread breaking ceremony and dozens of special door buster deals that will last throughout the stores opening week. And they are expecting a crowd.
“We’ll have a team onsite to make sure we can let folks in,” said Richard Walsh, the regional marketing program manager for Whole Foods. “Customer service team members are actually training right now, ringing people up in other stores, so when they come here they’re ready for a crowd.”
And the store’s opening is not only exciting for the hundreds of residents who came out for the preview, but also for a number of employees who have found new jobs with Whole Foods or have transferred from another store to this one closer to home.
Pia daSilva, the store’s manager, or team leader, said the store finally opening is a big sigh of relief for both her and many people around Prince George’s County. The opening has been a long time coming, she said.
“I’m from Upper Marlboro, but I purchased a home in this area after Whole Foods Market signed the lease for this property and that was almost six years ago,” daSilva said. “So I’ve been eyeing this store for going on six years. It’s a sigh of relief for a lot of people.”
She has worked for Whole Foods Market for 12 years, has worked her way up through the ranks and said its feels “very special” to be leading a brand new store as it opens. DaSilva said she takes the success of the store seriously because she thinks if the first-ever Whole Foods in the county is successful, it could open more doors for Prince George’s.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I almost feel like we have to succeed because I want the company to feel comfortable opening more locations in Prince George’s County. Not just here, I think there are other places that could support a Whole Foods and I feel that the success of this store is going to lead to that.”
In addition, daSilva said the vast majority of her staff is from Prince George’s County, which adds another level of pride taken in the store.
“There is a lot of people that live in this area and commute pretty far to other Whole Foods. So I know for us, it’s amazing to be able to work closer to home and strike a better work-life balance,” daSilva said.
Local pride will also make it into the aisles at the new store. Shoppers will be able to purchase local goods, some from even as close as College Park. Honey Glow, a natural skin and personal care product company out of College Park, will have several products for sale at the store. Wilson said there are approximately eight locally-sourced products available for purchase. That total does not include the numerous cheeses and produce, which are sourced from local dairies and farms, including one in Upper Marlboro.
“Right now I have a list of eight, but there are more than eight and we’re still working on getting more in here,” Wilson said.
Maryland pride also burns true throughout the store as a “deconstructed” Maryland flag theme is used on the walls, aisle markers and displays, all of which were created using reclaimed wood. In addition, the knobs and handles were purchased from the Community Forklift in Hyattsville.
Johanna DeGuzman, the Riverdale Park store’s marketing and community relations liaison, said the store is also partnering with local organizations to make a wider impact on the community.
In fact, the community outreach was already underway during the preview day as the Whole Foods store teamed up with Art Works Now, a local art non-profit that is in the process of moving to Hyattsville. The store asked for a $5 donation to the organization, which was onsite, for the tours of the new facility.
The store is also planning a number of fundraising days and programs for other organizations across the area.
“Our first 5 percent day is going to go to CASA of Prince George’s County and that’s on April 19,” Wilson said, explaining that 5 percent of the profit from that day will go toward the county court appointed special advocates.
Whole Foods also has a “nickels for nonprofits” program where the typical discount of five cents for using a reusable bag can be instead donated to a local cause. The Riverdale Park store has selected the Alice Ferguson Foundation out of Accokeek to partner with on that program.
“They work sustainability issues and connecting people to the natural,” Wilson said.
DeGuzman said choosing the non-profits and community partners is based heavily on the impact the organizations have on the community and its mission. She said she will do her initial research before bringing the options before the store’s employees, who will give their input before one is selected.
She will continue to look for partnerships throughout the year for the grocery store’s other quarterly 5 percent days.
The store officially opens on Wednesday April 12. Store hours are 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily with only Christmas listed as a closed day.
Check out a gallery of photos from the store’s preview here: https://thesentinel.smugmug.com/PG/PG-Countys-first-ever-Whole-Foods/