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Customers can get a sneak peek at the new Whole Foods at a Saturday event

08/28/2014 10:43 AM

08/28/2014 12:11 PM

Wichita’s new Whole Foods store at 1423 N. Webb Road won’t open until Wednesday.

But on Saturday, interested customers can get an sneak peek at an all-day event that will feature tours of the 30,900-square-foot-store, samples, food trucks, live music and a bouncy house in the parking lot.

It lasts from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is likely to be a madhouse. The store offered tickets for tours on its Facebook page, and they almost instantly sold out. But store managers say they will try to accommodate walk-ups and have arranged for an afternoon of activities in the parking lot to help entertain the big crowds.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., The Flying Stove, Funky Monkey Munchies and Let’m Eat Brats will be set up and serving outside. From 4 to 7 p.m., Hopperoni Express, Brickhouse BBQ, B.S. Sandwich Press and Kona Ice will be there. A different local musical act will perform in the parking lot every hour from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Inside, people will be getting a preview of the much-hyped store, which offers high-end health foods including humanely-raised meats and seafood, non-GMO food products, gourmet cheeses, local produce and a huge prepared food area that includes fresh-made sushi, pizza, sandwiches, burritos and other high-end meals designed for takeout or dine in. The store also has a gourmet coffee and juice bar and plentiful seating both inside and outside.

On Wednesday, members of the media got a look at the store and some of the perks it will offer.

All the fresh-food shelves were empty, but aisles of body products, chips, cereals, pet foods, salsas and cheeses were ready to go. The store also had the bulk-foods area, which features snack foods, nuts, grains and grind-your-own-nut-butter section.

A big attraction at Whole Foods likely will be its prepared food area. Customers can drop in and pick up sushi freshly made on-site by a contract company, Kikka Sushi, which offers a long list of rolls that range in price from $4.39 to $14.69. The sushi chefs also can make a variety of big catering platters.

A sandwich chef will be making four different types of grab-and-go sandwiches each day using the store’s meats and local produce. A special Wichita sandwich called “The Shocker,” for example is a Cuban-style sandwich with pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and a spicy collard green coleslaw.

The store has a burrito and taco counter as well with items including smoked jack fruit carnitas and pork al pastor tacos.

Gourmet pizzas will be sold for $13.99 for a 16-inch cheese pizza. Customers can choose to pay extra for additional fresh toppings. The pizzas are prepared in the store in a big, built-in pizza oven. On Pizza Friday each week, the pizzas are on sale for $8.99. Gluten-free crust also is available.

Whole Foods also will have a huge buffet of hot, prepared foods ready to go. That self-serve area has breakfast items including oatmeal in the morning, too. Another area of to-go meals will focus on Korean barbecue when the store opens, with options such as short ribs and kim chi fried rice with a poached egg, but that theme also will regularly change. And a chef’s case will have hot dishes ready to go including bacon shallot gouda mac and cheese, chicken pot pie and lobster and sweet corn creme brulee.

There’s also a rotisserie chicken area that will have all organic chickens prepared in seven to eight different flavors with hot sides such as mac and cheese and collard greens.

“Our hope is that we become a hot spot for lunch and dinner,” said Matt Collins, an associate marketing coordinator who was in the store on Wednesday.

The store also will have a giant salad bar that’s at least half-stocked with organic veggies. And there’s a big coffee bar where any type of coffee or espresso drink is available along with fresh-made pastries. The coffee bar also will offer fresh fruit smoothies and fresh juices made with all types of fruit and vegetables. Nearby, a case will be full of cakes and pastries, and another area is stocked with gourmet cookies including Millionaire bars, raspberry oat bars and chocolate dipped macaroons, which are self-serve and available by the pound. A single cookie from the case would be about 50 cents, store managers said. Foodies also will find a 16-foot artisan cheese case, an olive bar and a deli.

Whole Foods also focuses on local vendors and will carry produce from several local farms and products from Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates, Chile Slinger BBQ Sauce, Newton’s Crust & Crumb bakery, Reverie Coffee Roasters, Chicken Poop, Sarah Jane Salsa, and Cravings, a local gluten-free bakery.

Those who want to hang out and eat can find a stylish seating area inside, and Whole Foods also will have an outdoor patio that’s equipped with heaters and has more than 100 seats.

Whole Foods added some local touches to the decor of the store as well. A back wall is stylishly decorated with images of airplanes and is printed with the Whole Foods zip code – 67206. The coffee bar also has an interesting Wichita touch in the form of two bars for seating that are crafted from old, beat-up airplane wings encased in glass. Overhead lights also are fitted with old airplane parts.

Once open, the store’s hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

For more information, call the store at 316-630-8484 or follow the store’s Facebook Page www.facebook.com/WholeFoodsMarketWichita.

About Denise Neil

Denise has been an Eagle reporter since 1997. She writes about pop culture on Sundays, reviews restaurants on Fridays and blogs at Dining with Denise. Previously, she worked for the Chattanooga Times and graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.

Contact Denise at 316-268-6327 or by e-mailing dneil@wichitaeagle.com

Follow Denise on Twitter: @DeniseNeil

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