Monday, September 9, 2013

Inside the New Wheatsville On S Lamar

This past weekend, Wheatsville Co-op hosted a preview day at their new location on South Lamar. I was so happy to be invited to their party as I am REALLY looking forward to their opening this store. And as my Vegan Mofo theme this year is "vegan stuff," I thought there was no better time than now to share my love of Wheatsville for you, considering it's probably the best place in Austin to buy vegan stuff from!

We had co-ops in New Hampshire when I was growing up. I love the concept, but I had never seen a co-op as strong or successful as Wheatsville here in Austin. The store began in 1976 and currently has over 12,000 "owners." They carry a large percentage of locally grown produce and that includes a lot of organic produce as well. Local grocery items are sold there too, and they boast a generous amount of bulk, hot bar, and deli items, too.

But the absolutely crazy thing I like the most about Wheastville is that they actually WANT vegans to shop there. They serve up house made popcorn tofu and vegan mac 'n cheese for starters. Their deli, hot bar, and takeaway cases always have other vegan options, too. That bakery case, by the way, often has vegan cookies and other sweets made in house or by Red Rabbit Bakery, another Austin co-op.

I talked to Wheastville's Brand Manager, Raquel, about their new store after we visited. Here's what she had to say about the new store.

Lizz: It seems like [the new location] is huge compared to the other store. How much bigger is [it]?
Raquel: 4401 South Lamar is 22,000 square feet with about 14,000 dedicated to retail space. The store at 3101 is about 12,000 square feet with about 8,500 dedicated retail space. So yes, it's almost twice as big. One of our new features will be the 2,500 square foot artisan bakery! The new bakehouse will make bread for both locations and future Wheatsville's! We'll also have a community room, lots of indoor and outdoor seating, plus we'll have a bike repair rack out front complete with tools and air pump.

Lizz: Do you know how many more products [the new store] will carry?
Raquel: As far as packaged groceries are concerned, the stores will be similar, however all of the fresh departments have gotten bigger. You’ll see lots more bulk bins, freshly made burritos and tacos (and YES, there will be a Popcorn Tofu Burrito), and bigger presence for fresh baked bread. Currently we have about 1500 local products in store and an average of about 80% organic produce. We hope to grow those numbers over time as we are able to buy and sell more – and support our local vendors and growers.

Lizz: Are there any vegan products that the new store will carry that the other one has not?
Raquel: For packaged grocery our mix will remain about the same, however we always take requests for products and get a lot of our best products from customer suggestions. Products can be requested through our website on in person at the stores.

Lizz: Do you have an opening date yet?
Raquel: That’s the golden question these days! We’re all so excited, but all we can say is that we’re opening mid September and the actual date and time will be announced via FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and our weekly email, so stay tuned!

So, without further ado, check out the slideshow below for a peak inside!

 Thanks, Wheatsville, for the opportunity, and I can't wait to get in there and stock up on vegan essentials. It will be a lot easier for me to get to this new location, which means I'll be shopping there a lot more often. Yes!

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