During the July 23 media tour of Whole Foods Market’s new store in Santa Clara Square, a store employee cut part of an enormous slab of cheese into savory bite-sized morsels for the visitors to enjoy. Visitors enjoyed the treats as department employees explained the store’s quality standards: The food here does not have artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, the produce is farmed with consideration to human health, and the meat comes from animals that haven’t been given antibiotics or growth hormones. One of the many local brands carried here is Chromatic Coffee from Santa Clara.
“When you come in, you’ll be excited about the size of our 50,000 square feet store,” says Eddie Ceballos, store team leader of the new Whole Foods Market. “Our store is giving back to the community. Our first five percent Day will be on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Five percent of our store profits from that day will go to the Santa Clara City Library Foundation & Friends. In addition, [customers can donate] to our first Nickels for Nonprofits charity, the JW House. We’re also working with the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League to be their official nutrition partner.”
The tour ended with a reception in the store’s Tap Room, a gathering space. Whole Foods Market regional president Rob Twyman introduced Tracy Wingrove, executive director of the Santa Clara City Library Foundation & Friends, and Gabe Foo, board member from the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League, both of whom graciously thanked the store for its support.
In the Tap Room, visitors sipped on beverages and snacked on raw oysters, strawberry mochi and more cheeses. Genji Sushi, managing one of the store’s prepared foods stations, offered flavorful samples of bao (Asian buns) with shrimp tempura and chicken, avocado cucumber sushi with black rice, and warm vegetable and pork ramen.
The Tap Room offers wine and 16 beers on tap that can be paired with items on a signature menu designed by Melissa King, finalist on Top Chef Season 12 and food consultant. When asked to recommend a must-try item on her menu, King suggested the Tokyo burger, accompanied by shitake mushrooms marinated in a ginger soy sauce, caramelized onions and a citrus miso aioli.
“These small items are considered izakaya small plates (tapa-style Japanese cuisine) or yakitori, which is anything that is skewered or grilled; that usually refers to chicken; but for our menu we are introducing a lot of seasonable vegetables,” King says. “This is not a 100% Japanese menu. You’d also find kimchi or lemongrass meatballs on the menu.”
In the early evening, the store opened its doors to the public for a preview party, with ticket proceeds benefiting the Santa Clara Vanguard. School board member Jodi Muirhead sampled a cupcake from the baked foods area. Santa Clara Sister Cities Association president Raj Chahal and his wife Daljit explored the aisles. Also attending the party were City Council Members Debi Davis and Kathy Watanabe.
“My favorite aisle here is the ice-cream aisle,” says Davis, eying the gelato flavors with coconut. “Santa Clara has been retail-starved so now we have a Whole Foods here that people can go to so they don’t have to drive out to Cupertino.”
“There’s a nice variety of organic fresh fruit here. I sampled the plums and watermelon,” Watanabe says. “It’s important to have a Whole Foods here because it gives residents a new place to shop and the store provides a lot of healthy varieties of food.”
About 650 people attended the tour and preview party. On July 26, the store held its official grand opening, attended by Mayor Lisa Gillmor.