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A few bottles of vitamins and a single pint-sized container of Silk soy milk were all that remained for customers in the Whole Foods Market at 4301 Main yesterday afternoon. After 17 years of operation -- 14 of those as a Wild Oats Market -- the store closed its doors at 4 p.m.
"We'll be sad to leave here. There was a real community around this store," store manager Paula Alexander said yesterday.
The former Wild Oats store was acquired in 2007, when Whole Foods purchased all 110 store in the rival Wild Oats chain. The Main location had been operating as a Whole Foods Market for three years. The Federal Trade
Commission, which earlier had ruled that Whole Foods sell the Main location, approved the sale of the midtown store earlier this year to Paul
Emig and his father, David Emig. The pair plan to reopen the
location as a grocery store later this summer.
The Ernigs enter a neighborhood ready for the return of its neighborhood grocer. The store's narrow aisles and small footprint brought staff and customers together, often literally. And long before reusable bags and local food were trendy, the Main Street market had a dedicated core of careful shoppers.
"The people who shopped here believe in natural foods, and I think that's what made the store so important to them," Alexander said.
Alexander worked at the Main Street location for the past two and a half years as a manager. She's been with Whole Foods for 20 years, working in Berkeley, California, and Houston, Texas, before helping to launch the location at 91st Street and Metcalf, in Overland Park, in February 2002. She returns
to the Metcalf store to the Overland Park store (6621 West 119th Street) next week.
I asked Alexander what she thought would happen when she closed the doors for the last time.
"I'll probably cry. I don't know. It's been a special, special place."