Whole Foods Bets on Detroit

Upscale chain will open in struggling city
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2012 11:34 AM CST
Whole Foods Bets on Detroit
In this July 25, 2011 photo, a shopper departs a Whole Foods Market grocery store location, in Dedham, Mass.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Whole Foods is planning a location in Detroit—and the move is raising eyebrows given the chain's arugula-eating clientele and the city's economic struggles. Detroit has lost more than half its population since the 1950s and continues to struggle financially, prompting the Wall Street Journal to wonder if this is "a business plan gone off the rails." But the company's Midwest chief tells the newspaper it isn't: "We think it's a great site." There are a number of reasons for that.

The education level of local residents was the top factor influencing the decision, a rep says. The planned location will be in Detroit's higher-income Midtown, sections of which have seen population rise in recent years. The area is also full of community gardens and a leading farmers market, where Whole Foods will buy. Plus, the city is indirectly offering the chain tax incentives or grants to move in. "This is huge for Detroit," says an advocate for the city. But some small-business owners aren't happy. "They're getting tax breaks that we independents have never received," says one. (More Whole Foods stories.)

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