WEYMOUTH – Kim Willett can barely wait until Whole Foods Market moves into the space once occupied by Johnnie’s Foodmaster in a strip mall on Route 18 – so she’ll have somewhere to shop again near her home and work.
Johnnie’s closed in mid-November 2012, and Whole Foods is scheduled to open in the renovated 40,000-square-foot location on July 10.
“People are looking forward to Whole Foods,” Willett, who lives nearby, said as she waited on customers at the Hallmark shop in the Pleasant Street Plaza last week. “They just want something here. They all miss Johnnie’s; it was so convenient. There are a lot of apartment and condo complexes [around here] and a lot of elderly people who don’t drive.
“It will be very different, though. It will take some people a while to get used to,” she added.
Her assistant manager, Michelle Thetonia, agreed. “Whole Foods is a totally different class. It’s a step up,” she said.
Thetonia said she hopes the upscale natural foods store will attract other businesses to the once-bustling mall, which has several vacant storefronts. Existing shops include discount retailer Marshall’s, CVS, a Subway sandwich shop, a Chinese restaurant, hair salon, and party supply store. The parking lot was half full on a recent Friday afternoon.
“The plaza needs a lift,” Thetonia said.
Late last year, Johnnie’s Foodmaster, a family-owned grocery chain based in Chelsea, closed all six of its stores and Whole Foods took over the locations. One opened in Brookline earlier this year, and the Weymouth store will be the 23d in the state for Whole Foods, a Texas-based company with more than 340 stores in North America and Great Britain, said company spokeswoman Heather W. McCready.
About 250 people came to a three-day “job fair” in early June looking for work at the store, which will employ about 140 people — about 100 of them full time, McCready said.
The store will have a café seating area and coffee and smoothie bar, as well as the traditional fare of organic groceries — such as grass-fed beef and Pacific-rim organic coffee beans — produce, seafood, meats, baked goods, and prepared food. There also will be a pizza oven with a direct takeout phone line and an “artisanal cheese room.”
“I’m happy to see them coming in,” said Margie Godfrey of Holbrook, who shops at the plaza regularly. “I’m not currently a Whole Foods person, but I look forward to trying it.”
Jeanne McCormick of Abington, who works at an orthodontist’s office down the street from the plaza, said she’ll be especially glad to have another place to go for lunch. As for grocery shopping, she said the Weymouth location is closer than the Whole Foods she currently goes to at Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham. The next nearest is at Legacy Place in Dedham.
Some shoppers are not as excited about having a Whole Foods in the neighborhood, though, saying its prices are too high. “I’m a bargain hunter, and [Whole Foods] doesn’t exactly fill my bill,” said a woman who was getting her hair done at Great Cuts in the plaza, who wouldn’t give her name.
Buck Rollins, the new Whole Foods’ “team leader,” said he looks forward to convincing conventional grocery store shoppers that “we’re not an expensive grocery store. We have a ton of value.” Rollins said he’s also eager to share information about organic food and healthy eating.
“This is kind of a first for us,” he added. “To come to a community that is a little more blue-collar is great.”
He said he’s already talked with the Weymouth mayor’s office about getting involved in “Healthy Wey,” a local program geared to improving nutritional habits and fighting obesity, and has provided healthy snacks for several local school events. Whole Foods also will donate a salad bar to the school district in a school “of their choice,” he said.
The grocery chain also plans to work with South Shore Hospital, particularly helping patients with dietary needs, he said.
Whole Foods will mark the Weymouth store opening with a 9:45 a.m. “bread-breaking” ceremony, at which community and company representatives will break and share a three-foot loaf of bread, McCready said.
“Everyone at the event gets to eat some. It’s a tradition,” she said. The store will open to the public at 10 a.m.; from then on, store hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.