2006_08_wholefo.jpgExcellent - the New Yorker has updated its 2003 story on Bill Jones, the Whole Foods employee who became an institution at the Chelsea location for directing shoppers to available registers, providing comfort with his reassuring, "Number 5 is yours!" and a wonderful smile. When the Time Warner Center Whole Foods opened up at Columbus Circle, we suggested that they should clone him. But wouldn't you know, Bill Jones himself was working at the Columbus Circle location, greeting shoppers at the store's entrance. This is where an online-only New Yorker story picks up:

In February, 2004, a Whole Foods opened in the Time Warner Center, at Columbus Circle, and the company offered Jones a healthy raise and transferred him and his sonorous baritone uptown. The Columbus Circle store boasts almost twice as many checkout counters as in Chelsea, but Jones isn’t line-directing—the cashiers there take turns. Instead, five days a week, he stands at the base of the escalator that leads into the subterranean supermarket, to greet customers and offer directions. “When they come off that escalator, their mind is someplace else,” Jones says. “What I was doing in Chelsea was much more fun.”

And the Chelsea location missed him too, with shoppers begging him to come back. But this summer the Chelsea store got plasma screens that tell shoppers which registers are available - the voiceover that says which ones are ready is Bill's voice, thanks to the home recording studio of an assistant produce buyer. The New Yorker's Blake Eskin reports that the computerized screens might go into other urban locations, and we'd love one for the Fairway on Broadway at 74th Street - it's bloodsport waiting on line there.

At any rate, we're happy for the "Mr. Next" update. We remember when we saw him at the Columbus Circle location back in February 2004, we were really excited.