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Austin360has a story about the new 365 by Whole Foods store that opened this week in the Texas capital, the fourth of the format that has been opened by the chain. (The others are in California, Oregon, and Washington State.)

There are a couple of points made by the Austin360 writer that are worth noting here:

• "Good luck finding a reasonable amount of cilantro. Two small nits, but ones I wanted to bring up. For the most part, I was pleased with the store’s grocery options, shopping flow, vibe, etc, but I had two memorable hiccups. I went to buy cilantro, and the only option was this 10-pack of cilantro for 95 cents that was so huge, I couldn’t even wrap my hand around the stalks to show you how much cilantro was bunched together. The roots are attached, so it’ll last longer, but I certainly didn’t need all that cilantro. I mentioned to the produce guy that this was waaaaaaay too much cilantro and that I wasn’t going to buy it because I knew 9/10ths of it would go to waste. He said, 'Well, that’s how the local supplier gives it to us' and didn’t seem to care too much about getting the feedback, which also rubbed me the wrong way. It’s opening day. Customers are going to give you feedback. It’s your job to take that feedback, even if you can’t do much about it."

• "The small selection isn’t too limiting, until it is. My other nit: The 365 stores have about 8,000 products, a small number compared to the 30,000 or so in a traditional store. I didn’t mind having fewer options in each category, but that changed when I went to buy tortillas, and the only flour tortilla option they had were these rustic flour tortillas from California for $2.59. Maybe I’ve been living in Texas for too long, but I want several different options when it comes to tortillas. They had corn and other gluten-free tortillas, too, but I wanted a couple of different sizes to choose from — or at least tortillas that hadn’t been on a truck for a few days before getting here. They were also high priced for a store trying to sell itself on value."
KC's View:
Forgive me, because I don't want to be too negative about a format about which I've already expressed skepticism here. But ... to my mind, these two anecdotes reflect potentially serious problems.

Whole Foods always has made a big deal about people who are living the life, not just doing a job. If you have someone who is almost curt in the treatment of customers on opening day, that's a problem.

And while I may be wrong about this, it seems to me that selling California tortillas in a Texas store - especially in a format like 365 - is almost unforgivable. There is an enormous difference between fresh/local tortillas and the packaged variety ... and one of the reasons I go to Stew Leonard's (in Connecticut, hardly a bastion for great ethnic food) is because they make fresh tortillas on the premises.

To be fair, I haven't seen this new Whole Foods ... but I've seen the other three, and the whole affair still seems flawed to me. Maybe not fatally flawed, but with problems that need to be addressed.