Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Whole Foods Gowanus

The Whole Foods recently built on the toxic waste dump that is Gowanus has been cited a second time, reports Brooklyn Paper, for not fulfilling their promise to fix up the lovely landmarked Coignet Building they abut. The Coignet stands crumbling in Whole Foods' grip, a remnant of the past and maybe a thorn in the corporate grocer's side.



I went out to visit this Whole Foods after it opened, knowing well that the chain is a catalyst for change, a tool for spurring on hyper-gentrification, and that the Gowanus landscape surrounding it will soon be dramatically altered.





The mega-chain is trying very hard to look local, with sections hawking "Brooklyn Flavor," bike repair services, and a mini shop selling vinyl, both records and objects made from recycled records, by "a Brooklyn-based design and lifestyle brand."

There's even a mustachioed artisanal knife sharpener who cobbles together hand-made knives from reclaimed materials. And the "Stroller Parking" section speaks to the Brooklynite baby boom. (However, they don't call this store Whole Foods Gowanus, but Third and 3rd. What, is "Gowanus" too evocative of fecal stink?)

Still, all the signs screaming the word LOCAL can't take away the undeniable fact that Whole Foods Gowanus is utterly suburban.





Their parking lot is huge. It sprawls across what had once been a vast and wild vacant lot, apologizing for its existence by sitting under a roof of giant solar panels.



Outside, beyond the parked cars, Whole Foods has landscaped their bank of the Gowanus canal with a path. You can sit on a bench and watch the junkyard across the way, or wait for human bodies and dead dogs to go floating by.

Couples meander, hand in hand, breathing in the stink of raw sewage, a special Gowanus odor that all the fresh mulch in the world can't cover up.



On one of the garden walls--made from scruffy, graffiti-buffed stone--stands a piece of fresh graffiti, surely commissioned by the supermarket. Its hunter green color matches the branded shade of the Whole Foods logo banners just above it. With awkward diction, the "local" graffiti admonishes passersby to EAT MORE OF YOUR VEGETABLES.













21 comments:

Mathew Katz said...

Aside from what's going on in the Coignet Building, I'm a big fan of the Whole Foods. I live around the corner and it's in a land that's otherwise dominated by empty industrial buildings or storage facilities, so a place to get fresh, healthy food is welcome, even if the price makes it a sometimes place. Plus that hot food bar is hard to beat for a quick lunch. Compared to the awful Associated on 5th Ave, it's a breath of fresh air. All we need now is a Gowanus Trader Joe's.

Brendan said...

Fresh, healthy food, yes.

Too bad about the union-busting.

Anonymous said...

Haha, are you kidding? "All we need now is a Trader Joes". Are you like a robot preprogrammed to shop at these places? Yea, throw in a Starbucks so you can say "thank god, we can finally get a decent cup of coffee" and then an American Apparel while we are at it too. Drone.

Gojira said...

And let's not forget that a Civil War-era graving dock in Red Hook was paved over and is now a parking lot for Ikea...

11:20 am said...

Yes, fresh, healthy food that only the well-off can afford on a regular basis.

John Charles said...

It's so complex, convenience, & community and the choices individuals make & how we integrate
our actions to creating the community we want. For myself I am constantly having to explain why I don't shop at Dwayne Reade, CVS or Rite Aide or Trader Joes and then see how packed they are how people go to CVS to buy milk, and what is the result to the community and what I want from it.
Don't think most people really care & and those that do usually have no vote or are less represented because they are poor or working class, while the folks that rule and dictate the growth are those with the buying power.

Stan said...

Instead of calling itself Whole Foods it should be aptly named "WHOLE PAYCHECK!"

Anonymous said...

"What, is "Gowanus" too evocative of fecal stink"

I dunno, you just said it was a "toxic waste dump". I guess they should name it "Wholefoods-TWD"

Dave - everywhere said...

Is there any grocery store chain that would fulfill everyone's requirements? I agree that WF tends to be more expensive for certain items but I'd rather pay up for the better quality vegetables and fish and I'll buy my Cheerios where they are cheaper.

And Jeremiah, what's with the carping about the location? Yes, the Gowanus canal is a massive cluster disaster but doesn't WF get at least a few props for being willing to take on the challenge? Otherwise, where would the nearest decent grocery store be? As far as the Coignet Building, they need to live up to their promises but let's try to be a little more even-handed, as you usually are.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Ugh. High end supermarkets have become destinations in themselves, and real-estate selling points. This kind of food shopping becomes a strange self-conscious status symbol/act of virtue, the same way bike riding become transformed from something ordinary & necessary to something "special" & morally superior. And a huge place like this is just some temple to gluttony. Too much of everything, including the prices.

Anonymous said...

Whole Foods does have better quality thus are pricier, and great that Dave some of you love and can afford it. However, there are those that are on a fixed income and a budget and most of the neighborhoods where Whole Foods set up are in the working class and middle class that can't afford this healthy and trendy luxury. So, they are push out by the wealthy. See hypergentrification and what Spike Lee is talking about. And what Onemorefoldedsunset said.

laura r. said...

i used to go "whole foods" several times a week in boston. they were very accomodating. i would call the deli counter, he would save me a piece of plain steamed salmon which they served cold. i would come in @my regular time 4 pm. he would heat it up i would add sauteed brocolli rabe, & cous cous. they had tables & chairs. the price around 13 yrs ago was around $5.00 or $6.00. sometimes would also pick up some vegtables/fruits & bread. i liked the store. i did do most of my shopping @ star market which is a normal supermarket, & better prices. i dont need natural papertowels, green enviremental detergent, over priced cheese. about 6 yrs ago i tried the whole foods on west 14st in NYC. ran out shaking, a nightmare. so huge- you couldnt just run in & buy something. it was on 2 levels w/escalators like a dept store, loud microphones, freezing bitter cold airconditioning in march! not civilized @all. personally i find normal supermarkets have all the same products like tofu, rice milk, brownrice, olive oil, good produce. also the frozen fruits are like 1/3 the price. i can not imagine what whole foods would charge for fish or meat, never occurred to me to ask! interesting to note: the poor asians get great prices for produce, fish, tofu, miso, noodles. go to any chinatown if you live near by.

maximum bob said...

...artisanal knife sharpener....LOL !
http://diehipster.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

Matthew, what is so "awful" about Associated on 5th Avenue? So pretentious.

Anonymous said...

I puked in my mouth when I saw the stroller parking sign.

laura r. said...

anon 10:39 there are hetrosexuals & famlies in NY. do your vomiting back in your home town, we dont need you in brooklyn.

randall said...

@ Stan

"WHOLE PAYCHECK" that is awesome!!! and so true. It can be so expensive to shop there.

Anonymous said...

This 'Hole Foods has learned nothing about urban planning; it is the worst of 1950s-era Kings Highway car lot tear-down dressed up in fancy clothes and frequented by people who talk a great Progressive blather, but come and go in 4,000lb carbon spewing machinery (some, in their electric carbon spewers, even foist their pollution to the coal-fired plants of the hinterland - ecological!) Walk along the truck-loading 3rd avenue facade, replete with vintage building relegated to indifferent scenery, to see the real depravity of this urban blight, the cynical disgust of plopping this thing that belongs in Scottsdale in the middle of what used to be (long ago), and could be again, part of a dense walkable community but is shaping up to be a literal strip mall - eat your vegetables indeed...

Anonymous said...

anon 9:55, it does look "suburban".

Justin Samuels said...

I love Whole Foods and I'm happy that they've opened up in locations outside of Manhattan!

Mainstream American chains like CVS and Walgreens are now opening up in even the poorest urban neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

You people have to realize that a lower-middle class does not exist in these neighborhoods anymore.

It only makes sense that rich yuppies and their hipster brethren will move in and turn them into little suburbias which they grew up with.

Neighborhoods were for families who immigrated from poor european countries - now they come from Mexico, Caribbean, Middle East, etc.

The mom & pop shops served the immigrants in those areas. Now nothing exist there so why would they still exist?

New York City with Manhattan/Brooklyn in particular is officially no longer a place to immigrate to, it's a hotel/resort.