The Whole Foods folks invited me for a tour on opening day of the new store at Broadway and Wall yesterday, which was very nice in itself, but there was a bonus: they arranged for their NYC “forager” — the man who selects all their local products — to join us. It was like walking around film school with Martin Scorsese. Not only did John Lawson know everyone there — he’s worked at Whole Foods for 17 years and opened Tribeca, Union Square and Jericho, along with a lot of other OGs in the store — but the dozens of local vendors were practically genuflecting as we passed by. He is, after all, the gatekeeper for what is the most prime product placement in town.
“We really worked hard to get a lot of great new brands that we wanted to launch with,” John said. He worked at the 4th Street Food Co-Op before defecting for WF. They sent him to the Midwest for a time and two years ago made him forager for the Northeast. He does a bit of Instagram searching, but mostly he is just out and about, pounding the pavement for new products. “I’m a brick-and-mortar guy, and I love to meet founders. I am always curious to hear their story.”
Local for WF is tri-state, so we checked out coffee roasters from Williamsburg (Partners); tomato sauce from Jersey (Matriark, which uses three million pounds of surplus tomatoes from a grower in Virginia to cook fresh with NYCHA residents and now make their packaged sauce); Vista Hermosa tortillas (the Tacombi folks) who make all their products in Brooklyn. The store has some stuff I had never seen: frozen Black Seed bagels, Uncle Waithley’s ginger beer from Harlem, packaged Eleni’s cookies, Elmhurst Dairy almond milk.
Like ours, the store has a scratch bakery but they had loaves I don’t think we have: a forbidden rice batard, a polenta loaf, and fresh rosemary focaccia. (That’s Jay Jay in the photo below — say hi when you go.)
More in my other post since I have so many photos…
Whole Foods One Wall Street
7a to 10p, seven days