NEW YORK -- Whole Foods Market hit the Big Apple for the second time last week when it opened its second Manhattan store in one of the city's most hyped locations: the 80-story Time Warner Center overlooking the southern tip of Central Park on Columbus Circle.
The store's first weekend drew shoppers waiting in line to enter a capacity-filled store.
The Austin, Texas-based chain's first New York store opened three years ago in Chelsea, about 35 blocks south of the new unit in one of the city's trendiest, most population-dense sections, and has proven to be among the company's highest-volume locations. A third Whole Foods store is slated to open later this year in a former Bradlees' location in Union Square at 14th Street.
The Columbus Circle store is located in more of an in-between area -- between the Broadway district to the south and the Upper West Side to the north -- whose resident population has historically not generated much foot traffic, local observers said.
The store is located one story below street level, accessible from an escalator at one of the center's entrances that puts the consumer right down in front of the floral section. Just behind the floral section, arranged in a circle around the perimeter, are the store's perishables departments: a sushi bar; a pizza bar selling 10 varieties of pizza by the pound; a charcuterie, offering deli sandwiches; a bakery, including a "chocolate enrobing station" that enables clerks to dip any products customers choose into chocolate; and a cheese counter.
The floor space in front of the service counters features hot and cold entree bars, where foods are priced at $6.99 a pound; a coffee and tea bar featuring varieties of coffee beans and tea leaves; and a round, self-service bakery fixture featuring bagels, rolls and muffins.
A cafe with 248 seats is located on either side of and behind the escalator. To the left of the escalator is the store's signature produce section, and tucked beyond that are the grocery aisles.
The Time Warner Center, which will house Time Warner's headquarters, has 191 luxury condominiums and a five-star hotel, along with approximately 40 other retail stores and restaurants to drive traffic. Questions have been raised locally whether consumers are interested in shopping in a vertical, rather than ground-level, environment.
On the other hand, at 59,000 square feet, the store is the largest supermarket in Manhattan -- 20,000 square feet larger than its Chelsea location -- and is expected to be a major attraction in itself.
The store, which employs 390 people, features 42 checkout stations, with two or three registers at each one. The store's other amenities include the following:
Jamba Juice, a smoothie retailer in its first New York City location.
A full-service sushi bar by Genji Express.
A walk-in greenhouse merchandising fresh-cut and exotic flowers.
A wine shop that's open seven days a week, with more than 700 varieties.
In addition, the store's Whole Body section will feature the city's largest selection of natural and organic body care items and cosmetics, plus nutritional supplements and vitamins, the company said. Added features will include: