Thursday, February 12, 2015

From Beans & Grains & Things to Whole Foods: The Next Chapter.

Ages ago, if you wanted healthy foods in Central Arkansas, you traveled to Beans and Grains and Things on Rodney Parham.  Long before the terms "organic," "free-range" or "cruelty-free" became catchwords in our vocabularies, Beans - or as we lightheartedly called it, "Weeds & Seeds," catered to our whims.  It's where you could find honey by the gallon, flax seeds and hemp products alongside a great deli that served hummus and tofu and aisles that held just about anything that wouldn't fit in a traditional grocery store, and in the 1990s it was our only choice.

Just like Discount Records and about every hippie-esque shop in town (with the lone exception of Armadillo Hands, which will never, ever die), Beans had a special place in the hearts of Earth-loving folks like the crowd I hung with.  And just like those places, Beans went away... but not completely.  First, in 1996, it moved out to The Village Shopping Center, and then it was acquired by Wild Oats Market... a national chain in the same bend.  And a few years later, Wild Oats was acquired by Whole Foods.  And that's what it's been, and where it's been, ever since.

And over the years, that's where we've gone to get our specialty pastas, our spices by the ounce (or sometimes pound), sometimes honey and sometimes organic, HFCS free sodas.  

Next week, the store at The Village will stand empty.  Whole Foods is moving.  And it's changing again.  But a lot of the things that make it pretty cool are staying.

Grav and I were in one of the first parties allowed a glance inside the new facility this morning.  It's located inside a building originally purposed for Linens 'N' Things, which has hosted a church, random sales of this and that and Halloween Express over these past few years.

The exterior has been changed, with the utilization of shipping containers.  Inside, the decor leans towards the outdoors, with a camping theme.  The Whole Foods folks have realized that Arkansas has a whole lot to enjoy outside.  

So here are some of the images we took this morning.  

So, to start off with, I have to mention the bar.  The old Whole Foods doesn't have a bar.  This
one does.  You can have a nice pilsner or ale or whatever and drink it in the bar, or go out into
the beer garden and consume it.  The other members of our tour party were very enamoured
not just with this bar but this particular bottle, which was photographed ad nauseum.
Here's something that may not be immediately apparent.  The price tags on the shelves
at Whole Foods are electronic.  This means no printing new labels each week and replacing
them by hand. It saves labor, it saves paper, it fits into the weeds and seeds sort
of philosophy.  
This is a view across the back of the store.  To the right, there's a hot foods buffet that will
include local favorites each day.  At the end of that island, there's a rack for barbecue, and
cornbread will also be offered.  Against the wall at the back of the photograph, you can see
the Whole Foods standards on the wall.
Of course, you have to have check-out lines... across these, you can see the Guest Services
center. Now, like most Guest Service centers, this is where you can find information on things.
But this is also where the concierge service is located.  What would you need with
a concierge? Think personal shopper.  Have a party coming up and no time to shop?
The concierge will help you come up with party ideas and acquire the ingredients you
need.  All you have to do is pick up and pay.  Shopping lists?  Need
a store sherpa? Hey, it's a cool idea.  I know people who will use it.
Now, up front there will be an area just for kids -- which is going to please my child to no end.  One of our favorite things about Whole Foods is the kids area, which gives her something to do when she gets bored with me ogling packages and reading labels... like I do.  At the new store, the kids area is up front, and yes, there will be educational materials just for them.  Also, classes.  Like the classes we're used to taking at the Whole Foods we have now.  Right.

Cheese.  Yeah, cheese is near and dear to my heart, and Whole Foods always carries a
grand selection, This won't change... except it will, since it's in a different store.
Cheese is located right next to the produce section, which makes a lot of sense to me.  Yay.
Of course, Whole Foods has a wide array of what we once considered exotic items
here... from fish sauce to curry sauce and all sorts of other stuff.
Something new that wasn't in the old store -- a make your own sushi station.  Yeah, seriously.  I could get in trouble with that.

There are, of course, so many other options Whole Foods will offer -- fresh fish and meats as usual, plus a juice and coffee bar, a deli station with specialty sandwiches such as the Pinnacle and the Bowman, and the aforementioned bar.  

This chicken feed may not be exciting to everyone, but to backyard farmers in Little
Rock, this is awesome -- chicken feed.  Also, the same company will be offering eggs.
The store has its own forager, who will be seeking out even more local farmers and producers to bring local products to the shelves.  So yes, shopping Whole Foods is shopping local.

The grand opening is at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 18th.  Doors open at 8 a.m. -- and there will be free pastries and the first 500 people through the door will get a free shopping bag.  Cool stuff is afoot and ahead.  For more information, check out the webpage -- and to keep up with happenings at the store, go hook up on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. Kat, the original Beans, Grains and Things opened in April of 1978. It was on Fair Park near UALR. Beans was at that location for several years. I watched as Gary and Karen renovated what had been a laundrymat into the original Beans. I was the first customer. I loved that place.

    Thank you for the tour of the new Whole Foods. It is really expanding the options we have available just like the original Beans did in 1978. It was our first true natural foods grocery store. I am so very glad that we still have one even though I miss the earthy ambiance of the original Beans.

  2. I was a small child but remember the original Beans location vaguely. As a young adult, I frequently shopped at the location in the strip mall by the old Mexico Chiquito on Rodney Parham near Markham. I miss that location! I crave their tofu salad. If you have any idea how to recreate or locate that recipe, I would be forever grateful!

    1. I worked there! You had to press the tofu first to get the extra moisture out. It had nutritional yeast, garlic, tamari, mayo with chopped purple onion and celery.

    2. I'm looking for A Oat meal cake that Beans made my mother turns 80 in August and that was her favorite cake and she would only get it at beans and Grains please help

  3. I thought Beans Grain & things started out in a old house on 12th street? The first person I New as a vegetarian took me there in the early 70’s? It had to be before 77?

  4. That's so weird. I have a distinct memory of a tiny store I really thought was called Beans, Grains & Things in the little island where Kavanaugh turns in the Heights near R Street, Van Buren, etc. I wonder what I am remembering! It was a bank branch after that.


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