2005_03_health_wholefoods.jpgPeople have been buzzing expectantly for months about the new 50,000 square-foot Union Square Whole Foods store, which opened this morning at 8 a.m. amid great fanfare, but without seeing the place it was hard to imagine what all the fuss was about. Sure, it's nice to have a good food store around, but there are three others within two blocks, all of which have "gourmet" and "healthy" items and a wide selection. The one in the Time Warner Center is definitely nice, but, after all, it's just a supermarket, right?

But, by chance, Gothamist was walking past the new food mecca today right as it opened, and slipped in to gaze at the mountains of perfectly-arranged food. Thousands of oranges piled neatly beside one another, hundreds of cheeses, a massacre of freshly-cut steak, boatfuls of fresh shrimp on ice behind glass. The store seems to be expecting armies of shoppers, and the amount of food is rivaled only by the number of employees flitting around everywhere, being helpful, asking how we're "enjoying" the store. There were even several signs around the store noting food grown specifically in the New York region.

Someone recently accused Whole Foods of perpetrating a sort of "food porn," simply by the way they display their wares, and this isn't far from the truth; the sheer size of the place and the amount of choices makes the store much more pleasant to shop at than the nearby Food Emporium (in the Zeckendorf complex a block away). As noted in a Times piece today, it's unlikely that the store will put the Green Market on the other end of the park out of business, but it's definitely going to take some customers, and some of the farmers who set up shop there are not happy about it. As well, according to a Post article yesterday, the store is aiming particularly for students, offering discounts and allowing NYU undergrads to use their meal credits to buy groceries.