wholefoods14Typical El Paso, it acts nothing like the ninetieth largest city in the nation and more like a small town trying to be a city. Typically provincial, El Paso leaders and politicians celebrate the announcement that El Paso was picked to be the place for a new Whole Foods in the next couple of years. Unfortunately, for El Paso the celebrations and congratulations masks the insecurities that is the city’ elite. Let’s look into the Whole Foods announcement for a moment.

Whole Foods is nothing more than a grocery chain specializing in uppity food products that are marketed to those with income to burn. Let us ignore, for a moment that El Paso’s disposable income is below par, and look at what the reactions were from the city leaders and the local news media. Masked in the celebratory headlines was the relief that the city was now going to be home for a specialty chain of high-priced groceries. The sense of relief was all over the place but it didn’t last long. Almost immediately the city started fighting with itself online as those on the eastside and northeast sides of town demanded to know why the west side was getting the pig’s lipstick applied while they were being ignored yet again.

Lost in the arguments and the sighs of relief that El Paso was now up and coming because it was now getting a Whole Foods are some inconvenient facts that no one has brought up. Primarily the upcoming store is still two years away. In the highly charged and competitive grocery marketplace two years is a long time for businesses to close down or change their expansion plans because of revenue pressures heaped upon them by their fickle clientele.

As a matter of fact, although organic foods sales have risen historically, Whole Foods’ stock is on a rebound after re-energizing its marketing strategy by lowering the prices on its products in an attempt to reimage itself away from being pricy. Even with its current stock upswing, Whole Foods stock price is well below its 2013 high of almost $60 a share. This year, the stock price tanked at it lowest rate before rebounding. Although market analysts are excited about the prospects for Whole Foods many of the analysts focus their enthusiasm on Whole Foods expansion plans because the more square footage the more sales it can generate. This is important because with very narrow margins the only way to increase revenues, and thus stock value, is to increase the number of products it sells per period. The more stores the more product is can move is the thought. However, more stores equals more overhead. Is El Paso capable of sustaining that overhead?

Keep in mind that stock analysts are looking at the current upswing in price to cash out their stocks and the announcement of new square footage tends to raise the optimism resulting in higher stock prices. It is important to note though that announcing, building a Whole Foods is one thing and it is another to keep it sustainable over the longer period. Therefore, El Paso’s celebration may be premature.

More importantly is that the values espoused by the Democrat-leaning elite of the city mysteriously ignores the other inconvenient truths about Whole Foods. Whole Foods is in the midst of a battle between the employees and the management centered on the notion on whether to allow employees to unionize. This is a battle that has been brewing over for a few years now.

As a matter of fact, on January 20, 2013, John Mackey, CEO of Whole foods was quoted in an article by Global Possibilities as stating that a “union is like having herpes” when the question about unionizing was brought up. Last week, the San Francisco store employees at a Whole Foods started the latest employee movement to unionize a Whole Foods store. I wonder if the city’s progressives will support the unionizing efforts or quietly look the other way hoping no one notices that it is not all shiny under the motif that “it’s all good” in El Paso.

The other thing to consider is that the whole basis for the existence of Whole Foods is the progressive notion about sustainable ecologies and supporting the local farmers. Which brings me to the question about whether the El Paso shopper aka the taxpayers paying outrageous taxes to the city’s elite will care whether the tomato is from the local farmer or from South America when buying it for the enchilada sauce for dinner later in the week. When mashed up into the chile pods, the Whole Foods organic tomato will look and taste exactly the same as the tomato at the other groceries stores thereby forcing the question, once the novelty is done and over with will anyone in El Paso really care if Whole Foods opened on the west side first?

Probably not because even if it actually has a grand opening the grocery chain will likely shutter its doors once the reality that is El Paso hits it right between the “locally-sourced” vegetable isles.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

18 replies on “Whole Foods and Typical El Paso”

  1. Martin,

    For someone who claims to care about El Paso, this article reads like a purely negative post directed at being against anything that Niland and the “Progressives” are in favor for.

    Is it really that provincial for folks to be excited that a well known upscale company (that people here have apparently been asking for) has decided that the El Paso market is worth exploring? Given EP’s history of being snubbed on a statewide and national level, I’m not at all surprised that the powers that be would be dancing a little jig over this news.

    Looking a little deeper though it’s interesting to look at how negative your post is given how little actual information it contains. A grocery chain specializing in “uppity food”? Really? So I suppose the Apple store sells uppity phones and computers. Attracting bigger name stores to an area is generally seen as a good sign and while the local politicians may have gotten a little over-excited about this announcement, if you look at the city as a whole and you consider what stores are opening here, El Paso does seem to be doing ok. It’s certainly feeling a lot less like the ass crack of Texas than it did 20 years ago. Heck it’s improved noticeably from how it was 10 years ago.

    Even your comments about unions are a bit specious given that Wal-Mart is probably the worst company for being anti-union and they have a couple of dozen stores in the area. So Whole Food is also anti-union… and this is going to matter why? We’ve already sold our soul to Wal-Mart, why would we do anything differently with Whole Foods? How is this in any way going to be an issue for the local politicians to deal with if they already gave WM their blessing time after time after time? Leeser and really the entire council have made it clear that “El Paso is open for business” and that they will by and large do whatever they can to attract businesses (well except for cutting spending but that’s a subject for a different rant).

    At the end of the day, this post comes across as largely just being anti-El Paso and not really having a great deal of substance. You comment about how a store opening nearly 2 years from now doesn’t mean a whole lot but your only quote against their CEO is also nearly 2 years old. For some reason we should be worried because 2 years is a very long time before a store opens but it’s incredibly relevant when quoting their CEO. If you go back to the article in question you can’t actually see any context to the quote which seems unusual. Even if news outlet is the first to publish something like that they would normally give us an idea of where it came from (e.g. talking to investors during the quarterly conference call he said….). Given the distinct slant that Global Possibilities has, it’s not exactly the most unbiased of sources. It seems like a questionable source for such a negative quote and you also take it further out of context by only using the briefest snippet of the qute (the entire quote being: “The union is like having herpes. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.”)

    Once again Martin, while I don’t think you’re lying, you are working very hard to put a very definite spin on this post and it goes far enough to feel somewhat dishonest and extremely anti El Paso. I can certainly see being against certain people or cliques and certain actions, but it feels like you cross the line into just putting down El Paso for no reason other than it’s El Paso.

  2. Amazing that a town and its people gets all excited because of a new grocery story. If that’s not small town mentality…..

    Martin, don’t worry about the negative comments directed at you. Some people have a difficult time grasping reality. It’s like a child wearing daddy’s shoes and believing they’re adults.

  3. It’s kinda funny that Martin rails against Whole Foods and says it will fail in EP because of the lack of disposable income. Yet Martin thinks El Pasoans have enough income to burn by donating to his blog.

  4. There’s a major difference between donating and spending a fortune.
    Apparently the report, that El Paso is listed as one of the worse individual credit ratings in the US, is being ignored. Nothing saying the store will fail. Just that don’t overestimate the amount of median income.
    And to become over excited by the opening of a grocery story is unbelievable !

  5. More important than having an extra grocery store is the pressure that Sprouts and Whole Foods exert on Albertson’s where El Pasoans pay for the produce that fell off their loading dock in Phoenix, because everyone in the business knows that those dumb Mexicans can’t tell the difference. Well, soon they will be able to tell the difference even if it costs them a little more.

    Next, Trader Joes!

  6. When it comes to thinks like the reaction to Whole Foods and those other stores that have moved here to EP recently, I am reminded of this….

  7. Funny video, John.

    I think what a lot of people commenting here fail to understand, is that many of us who are critiquing the latest announcement by WF aren’t against new stores, new businesses or even ballparks. We simply grasp the notion that we don’t need these outside companies in order to be a viable city. We understand the uniqueness of our great city–shortcomings and all.

    (Let me state here that I enjoy a visit to WF as much as the next person.)

    There are some in EP that just can’t wait for us to look like every other city in the US. To trip yourself up over a grocery store is ludicrous. Of course there are some people who are foaming at the mouth anxios to jump in their Prius and shop in their North Face jacket for “locally sourced” produce. They trick themselves into thinking they are “hip”. Just like they trick themselves into believing that they are buying locally sourced, organic papaya in the middle of the desert.

    Do you remember when Chipotle opened in the UTEP area? There was a line out the door! A line…for a BURRITO…in EL PASO! You’ve never seen so many people who you’d think had never eaten a burrito!

    Some visitors to EP are fascinated by our Mexican-style grocery stores, even taking photos. Some El Pasoans don’t recognize that for people outside of the region that sort of thing is interesting. Those same people hate the city for what it is and want it to be anything else than what it is.

  8. That was the worse written article on Whole Foods I’ve read in a long time. You know nothing of the company Martin.
    1) the union battle was +10 years ago in Wisconsin. -get your facts straight. 2) WFM supports more local farmers than any other company in the U.S. – meaning the local El Paso farmers will reap tons of benefits (and profits) partnering with WFM. 3) they company is not targeted solely to upscale food – they beat any other grocer in pricing when buying solely commodities – do the math and actually test the prices yourself 4) Do you even like El Paso? you bash the city and disrespect the people living there. you can take your “perspective” and shove it. You are a terrible writer and researcher. – don’t listen to this guy folks – he knows nothing of the grocery industry or the city.
    (I’ve been in the industry for +30 years)

    1. “Voice of Clarity” thank you for your comments. But just for clarity sake, are you posting for Whole Foods as an organization or are you posting while working at Whole Foods because your IP address shows you posted from a Whole Foods Internet connection. Since you are the “Voice of Clarity” I figured you’d want the world to know where your “clarity” comes from.

      Oh, and by the way, a union movement in San Francisco was 10 years ago? Tsk, tsk, you might want to update your public relations department with your many years of experience.

      Regardless, thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog,

      1. Thought you might be better than this Martin. Jaime and David K have used IP addys against people, sorry to see you go down this path.

      2. I do not normally release the IP addresses of individuals that comment on my blog however, this was a unique situation for many reasons. I apologize if this bothers you but I feel it was appropriate for this situation. It is not something I did lightly and it is not something that will become common practice.

        Thank you,

  9. If you can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods, then don’t go. Have a problem with the way they conduct business? Then don’t go. You’re too down-to-earth for their ‘uppity foods’? Then do not go there. As with most things in this world, Whole Foods coming to El Paso will be celebrated by some, while others will get their shorts in a twist over some perceived slight to the non-uppity food eaters of this fine city.
    As for all your nonsense about how silly it is to get excited about Whole Foods coming to El Paso because it is just a grocery store – we are excited because we are happy to have choices. I do my stocking up shopping at Target and Sam’s, but will definitely shop Whole Foods for specialty items that I can’t find at any other store in town. Why that has you confused is something I’ll never understand. I don’t always shop at Dillard’s, but it is nice to have them in town to give me choices.
    The only reason there was an online argument over why not the east/north/central side of town versus the west side is because there will always be people who complain about everything. Whole Foods could build a store every 500 feet in EP and there will be people who wonder why they have to travel that far to shop. And even if they did put the darn thing in another area of town, you would have the complainers wondering why they put it in the northeast/central/east side because only westsiders can afford their uppity food.
    The bottom line is, you seem to think that all El Pasoans are a homogenous mass of non-travelling, uneducated, Dollar Store shopping simpletons who get our validation when a big name retail outlet comes to town. In reality, we don’t need validation, we just want to be able to shop for uppity food.

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