Published First On: Caleb Golston, FTW!
Whole Foods Opening Soon In Oklahoma City: A Sign Of A Changing Region
in the Oklahoma City area are wondering when the Whole Foods at the triangle at
Classen Curve is going to open. A July 20 piece at NewsOk.com by food editor Dave Cathey says "around Halloween". This is the most recent update on the grand opening date from a credible source I have found. In late June, Whole Foods told Oklahoma City news stations that construction was ahead of schedule and the grand opening could happen as soon as September. Before that, Whole Foods was saying ‘late 2011’. For now, ‘around Halloween,’ the median of the three, sounds reasonable. The truth is regardless of the specific date it won’t be long now. What does a Whole Foods eminent opening say about Oklahoma City?
The city, which has grown 15% in the past decade, doesn’t have the best image nationwide. In fact, tornados, obesity and the 1995 Murrah Building bombings are about the only things non-natives know about the city. But times in the region are beginning to change. Oklahoma City has been simply one of the strongest economies during the current economic downturn. Unemployment has been well below the national average and the continued growth of the oil and natural gas business regionally ensures a bright future. Furthermore, Oklahoma like other Great Plains states is considered more business friendly than many other states. It is becoming increasingly common to hear stories of businesses moving from California and other states to the Great Plains, to enjoy lower taxes and the lowest cost of living in America. With increasing business growth, more jobs and immigration into the city from other states comes demand for upscale restaurants, retail stores and healthier options like Whole Foods.
Whole Foods isn’t the only trendy--dare one say ‘sexy'--new business coming to Oklahoma City soon. Confirmed new arrivals not traditionally associated with The Sooner State will be Anthropologie, 5 Guys Burgers, Sunflower Market, Marco’s Pizza and Genghis Grill. Other businesses hoping to open in Oklahoma City soon include Performance Bikes, California Pizza Kitchen, LA Fitness, Sam Moon, Sprouts, Von Maur, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Edward Watts Golf and others. Many of these might sound out of place in the 8th most obese state as the list of newcomers is largely composed of ‘health-food’ grocery stores, sporting goods retailers, gyms and lighter dining options.
In addition to a high obesity rate, Oklahoma is the 8th poorest state, and has 5th highest smoking rate of any state. I believe with stores like Whole Foods coming to Oklahoma City, a paradigm shift is occurring. And it is in reaction to this shift that these stores are coming to OKC rather than the catalyst for change. Whole Foods isn’t cheap and will not be the primary grocery store for most Oklahomans. However, anyone can incorporate a few changes into their lifestyle, especially more produce. In response to Whole Foods selling fresh local produce, organics, pasture raised meat and whole grain breads, according to Dave Cathey’s article, other grocery stores in the area are introducing these types of products to their lineups. This is how it takes off. More and more healthy and gourmet options arrive and those interested can try them. There will always be a market for traditional options, such as fried catfish, which by all means have their place but also more options for something lighter. There will be more choices to choose from now and that is a good thing. One final positive of all these new stores opening is all the jobs it is creating for locals.
The path to a better image and a healthier, less impoverished population is underway, though it will not come overnight. This transformation will come in steps and will trickle down to many Oklahomans, especially the next generations. It's not just because of a Whole Foods opening "around Halloween" but because of the thousands of other positive things like this to come.