Wheatsville’s Second Store to Feature Demo Areas, Bakery, Expanded Café
Imagine being able to attend a cooking demonstration, get all your grocery shopping done and meet a friend for lunch all in one locally-owned location – that location is soon to be the second store of hometown grocer cooperative Wheatsville Food Co-op.
With expanded in-store seating, meeting space and a demo room, the new Wheatsville at South Lamar and Ben White will provide a closer location for South Austinites and might become a destination for the rest of the city when it opens in a few months.
Demolition work, the first step in the site renovation on the new location, is “imminent,” said Raquel Dadomo, Wheatsville brand manager, “and we hope to be open by June 1.”
Wheatsville started in a garage near the University of Texas in 1976. The consumer-owned cooperative food retailer had less than 5,000 members just five years ago; today, its membership has more than doubled to around 12,000. For years, Austinites have been requesting a store in South Austin, representatives said. The South Lamar store will be almost double the amount of retail space as the original store and will create about 100 new jobs.
The site of the new store at 4001 South Lamar was formerly a Wells Fargo bank branch. The 22,000-square-foot, $4.7 million renovation is being designed by Antenora Architects, the same firm Wheatsville worked with on their Guadalupe store renovation a few years ago.
“They have a good amount of experience building for retail food environments,” Dadomo said. “They were able to meet our needs and budget on the remodel and worked with us to create a cost-effective green, energy-saving building.”
The biggest “green” initiative the new store will feature is its lighting, a mix of skylights, LED lights and "Solatubes" that channel sunlight from the roof to the inside of the building, “which will help regulate our energy usage depending on how much natural light we are getting during the day,” Dadomo said. Additionally, all refrigerated areas will have doors and cool LED lights, and the store plans to reclaim heat generated by the refrigeration systems to help pre-heat hot water.
The most noticeable changes for the shopper – other than the much larger parking lot – will be additions throughout the store. For example, the South Lamar store will have an on-site bakery that will service both locations as well as any future stores.
The Wheatsville deli, which features smoothies, sandwiches, a salad bar and a hot bar at the original location will include all that plus custom burritos and expanded in-store seating, in addition to an outdoor eating space.
The meeting and demonstration area will provide a space for Wheatsville and vendors to give classes and demonstrations.
“People have been dying for us to have a place where we can learn from each other about cooking and wellness,” Dadomo said.
Although fulfilling a long-time demand for a South Austin location was a high priority in opening the second store, Wheatsville representatives say they hope to open five locations over the next 10 to 15 years as part of their overarching plan.
“By having more co-ops, we are able to increase our overall impact and get closer to our BIG Direction goals of more local, organic sustainable food, more co-op economy and more happy people,” Dadomo said. “More people buying from co-ops means that we get to buy more from local farmers and vendors.”
The new Wheatsville will open as Austin's organic and upscale grocery competition grows hotter than a (locally sourced) hot tamale, as Whole Foods and Central Market continue to thrive and Trader Joe's plans to open a downtown store this year.