LFM: Whole Foods Market opening – is Ukrops ready?

Last night, the "Hungry" Hubby and I marveled at the sprawling development that is West Broad Village in the Short Pump area. The bustling construction activity belies the nation's economic slowdown and high-gas price pinch. I did feel a twinge of guilt for being so excited regarding the Whole Food's Market Sept 3 grand opening. A local supermarket chain, Ukrops was bound to be adversely affected by this new competition.

The HH and I always get a degree of frustration shopping at Ukrops specially for produce, the pickings  seemed always slim. Just last week after sending HH off for some grocery shopping, he brought me back some raspberries that were barely usable. I also remember the times I would spend five minutes searching for decent looking onions… and heaven forbid if you needed more than 3 shallots.

And now Whole Foods is opening, just a mere 2 miles from the house. Who could blame me for feeling all giddy? And I do not have to cross the dreaded gridlock that is the Pump Road/Broad street intersection that reminded me of Tyson's Corner.

I was prepping for a weekend of baking when I realized I was out of organic eggs. I was all set to go to Fresh Market when the HH said he wanted some peaches and I will admit that despite its lamentable produce , Ukrops does have the best peaches in town.  

Digressing a bit, about two weeks ago HH brought home the following from Costco : a box of peaches, a box of apricots, a box of nectarines and two trays of figs (yes he could finish them all in a week). They looked perfect from the outside but they tasted like water and some were even mealy. All ended up in the garbage bin – such a waste! The next day he went to get peaches from the Fresh Market and had the same experience. This made me think that all these places share the same suppliers for some stuff. For example Driscoll berries seem to be everywhere.

Anyway, back to Ukrops. So I step inside Ukrops-Short Pump  and was surprised to see a dramatic face lift. The fruits were now neatly arranged in individual pedestal crates and looked better than before. Their raspberries! Their raspberries were unblemished by mold or moisture. They've totally rearranged their produce section and as I flitted from fruits to veggies I noticed a vast improvement in their freshness. Endives did not have brown fringes, enoki mushrooms look freshly picked and for the first time in months, I did not have trouble getting smooth-skinned limes. The only item I still found an issue with was their shallots- still very few firm ones.

Their organic display case has been expanded three-fold. No longer tucked in an out-of-the-way corner, it now proudly sits about a third into the store in a very conspicuous area. I also noticed a frenzy of activity with the store managers specially around the organic section discussing product placement.

I don't think Whole Foods Market will affect Ukrop's overall business in Richmond although I'm sure their Short Pump location will be impacted the most; also I think Fresh Market might take hit. I don't think Ellwood Thompson sales will suffer much because they have a pretty loyal client base and is more like a neighborhood-type supermarket.

So is Ukrops ready? I surely hope so… because Trader Joe's is opening a few weeks after Whole Foods…

9 thoughts on “LFM: Whole Foods Market opening – is Ukrops ready?

  1. Must you always talk about all things Virginia?(kidding, I enjoy it) You are making me homesick! Not to mention the way I hear this once tiny city has grown.

    I think Ukrop's will be okay they have a pretty loyal following. My brother has worked for them for 10+ years and just recently moved out of state. Despite their higher(at the time) prices, my family always shopped with them. They have changed quite a bit as well from what my brother has told me(for the better).

    Do they still sell those rainbow colored cookies and seven layer fudge cakes? I have fond memories of those from childhood birthdays.

  2. The produce prices at Whole Foods (excluding any sales) are much higher than standard prices. But its house brand items are also much cheaper– look for the 365 labels in the dairy section, olive oil, pet food, chips, etc. Enjoy!

  3. One of my customers works on the higher end of the food chain at Ukrops. Seems the new gas rebate program is not about getting new customers but rather retaining old ones as the competition goes up a notch in RVA…

  4. Our Ukrops did not get a facelift, and still has the produce products. Is it sad to say that I am excited for Whole Foods opening, and I'm all the way across town!

    I think it will do more to dampen the Fresh Market business then the Ukrops business.

  5. Veronica, what would I do without your update on new food places in a quick drive- it was through you I found out that La Tienda was just down the road, and that Penzeys had opened in Carytown. I have been waiting forever for the Whole Foods to open. You know I will be making a trip in the very near future!

  6. Veronica,

    My name is Wade Carmichael, and I’m the Senior Category Manager of Produce for Ukrop’s Super Markets. Thanks for your comments on our Short Pump store; I’m really glad you’ve noticed improvements there, and I can’t wait until you see what else we have in store! We are working with a new supplier for our organic produce and I’m confident you’ll enjoy the expanded and improved offerings. Every Ukrop’s is served by the same suppliers, and when the offerings are separated at the warehouse the “pickers” are not aware of which store the produce is going to, so the selection should be fresh and delicious at every Ukrop’s. Feel free to contact our helpline through emailing helpline@ukrops.com or by calling 804.340.3004 if you have any further concerns. We enjoy hearing from our customers and are grateful for the feedback you provide.

    Sincerely,
    Wade Carmichael

    P.S. Please tell your friend Carla that although the Seven-Layer Fudge Cakes do not mail well, we have sent many packages of Rainbow Cookies through the mail. She can contact our helpline to arrange shipment.

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