After Whole Foods Market abruptly closed its Glover Park store for renovations last month, the biggest question has been the reopening date.
But much to the disappointment of attendees at last Thursday’s meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B (Glover Park, Cathedral Heights), Whole Foods officials haven’t even finalized their plans for the remodel and declined to offer any hints on how long the process could take.
“We wish we had a number we could put on it, but we don’t want to make any guesses,” said Todd Schrecengost, the company’s regional marketing team leader. “There’s a lot that goes into the remodeling process. We don’t want to estimate and then get anybody’s hopes up.”
The trouble began March 13, when a D.C. Department of Health inspector found “rodent gnawed/damaged packaged bags of pretzels and puffed cheese” in the chips aisle, along with rodent droppings on the shelves, according to the agency’s report. Whole Foods voluntarily closed the 2323 Wisconsin Ave. NW store upon seeing the rodent evidence, which had also been found in previous Health Department inspections. Two days later, a follow-up inspection found no rodent evidence while noting that the agency intended to ensure “continued compliance.”
But Whole Foods never reopened, opting instead to pursue a broader renovation even after the immediate rodent problem was resolved. Demolition is already underway to accommodate the changes, Schrecengost said.
“We were cleared to reopen, we wanted to, but just looking at it in totality, it made the most sense to revamp, refresh,” he said. “It was a fast decision, but there was a lot that went into it. We’ve been hoping to remodel this store for a long time now — it’s over 20 years old, and this seemed like the right opportunity, especially with summer coming up, people going on vacations.”
ANC 3B chair Jackie Blumenthal, a regular customer at the Glover Park Whole Foods, chastised the process. “You’re not concerned that you’re going to lose the support of the community with all this behavior that didn’t take us into account in the first place?” she asked. “You just shut the door without any notice to anybody, and then you won’t tell us how long, even at the outset, that you will be closed.”
Schrecengost said his primary goal in coming to the ANC 3B meeting was to gather feedback about possible improvements to include in the remodeling effort. But residents mainly wanted to ask about the timing.
“As a real estate agent, I know it’s sad and pathetic, but I — and my clients — have made decisions about where to live based on your store,” one resident said. She said some of her clients who recently moved to the area have expressed frustration, while her own plans to rent out her house this summer fell through after a potential tenant learned about the closure.
Schrecengost encouraged customers to visit nearby Whole Foods locations or order delivered groceries using instacart.com or delivery.wfm.com. “That requires planning, though,” the resident replied, to laughter from those in attendance. “Why we pay ‘whole paycheck’ for you is that we can go down there and pay too much money for you, and get it.”
Blumenthal said Schrecengost lacked key information.
“I thank you for standing up here, even though you don’t know very much,” she told him. “And it doesn’t give us a whole lot of reassurance, which is what we’re looking for. …. We are all developing new patterns of food-buying, and too bad for Whole Foods during that time. And when you come back, you’re going to have to win us over again.”
“We look forward to it,” Schrecengost replied. “We look forward to opening a new store for you all.”
And regarding the community’s desire for more details, he said he would see if the company’s management had anything more to share. “I will let them know there’s interest,” he said.
ANC 3B is seeking input on the Whole Foods via the Glover Park listserv and firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You want a juice bar, we’ll look into a juice bar,” he said. “You want a coffee bar, we’re going to take that into consideration and pass that along to our leadership.” Schrecengost said the store has always tried to make ongoing adjustments based on customer feedback, “but now that we’re closed and we’re able to remodel and make some huge changes, we’d love to hear the things you want.”