Brookline Businesses Say Whole Foods Will Boost Sales

The new Beacon Street location for Whole Foods takes the place of Johnnie's Fresh Market and is expected to attract more customers to the neighborhood's various businesses. (Photo by Angelo Verzoni)
The new Beacon Street location for Whole Foods takes the place of Johnnie’s Fresh Market and is expected to attract more customers to the neighborhood’s various businesses. (Photo by Angelo Verzoni)

By Angelo Verzoni
BU News Service

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Whole Foods is one step closer to opening its latest Massachusetts store here on Beacon St. next month thanks to a prepared food license granted by the town last week, and local businesses say they do not fear the grocery chain will poach customers.

“It’s probably going to generate more business for me,” Nassib Lutfi, co-owner of Temptations Cafe, which sits on the block of Beacon St. between St. Mary’s St. and Carlton St. where Whole Foods will open its first Brookline location, said in an interview last Wednesday.

“I think it’s going to generate more traffic to the area. More people are going to come here because Whole Foods is here,” said Lutfi, who owns another Temptations location in Coolidge Corner and a third on Huntington Avenue in Boston. “We’ve been needing something like this for a really long time.”

The Brookline Board of Selectmen issued Whole Foods Market Inc. a license to sell prepared food items at the soon-to-open Beacon St. location last Tuesday at its regular weekly meeting.

Whole Foods announced in October its purchase of six locations from Johnnie’s Foodmaster, a Massachusetts-based chain founded in 1947. Foodmaster closed all 10 of its locations in November. Its Brookline location, called Johnnie’s Fresh Market, will re-open its doors as a Whole Foods on April 15, according to an executive present at Tuesday’s meeting. It will boast outdoor seating for 35 people and about 80 employees.

Chris Takis, who owns Busy Bee Restaurant, also on Beacon St., seconded Lutfi’s opinion. Whole Foods moving in next door will be “good for business,” he said quickly and confidently.

“The Whole Foods demographic is a higher-income demographic,” Sam Fitzpatrick, manager of Japonaise Bakery and Cafe, which also neighbors the soon-to-be Whole Foods on Beacon St., said in an interview last Thursday. “That demographic we feel we do better with … because our products are high-end, high-quality. We feel that the Whole Foods customers will appreciate that, and the traffic going there will also come here and help our business.”

Japonaise has another location in Cambridge and a third near Boston University’s West Campus on Commonwealth Ave.

Alevtina Guseva, who teaches the sociology of markets at Boston University, said in a telephone interview last Wednesday that grocery stores do not generally drive out small businesses, as, for example, the mega-chain Wal-Mart has been accused of doing.

“I think the whole area needs some revitalization. [Whole Foods is] going to spruce everything up and bring more people to that particular area,” predicted Guseva, who is also a Brookline resident.

An attorney representing Whole Foods and executives from the company appeared at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, requesting a common victualler license, which allows a business to sell prepared food items, and outdoor seating. Both requests were approved by the selectmen in a unanimous vote. There are currently 22 Whole Foods in Massachusetts with similar licensing, Whole Foods’ attorney Michael Scott said at the meeting.

“Whole Foods at this location is going to be great for the neighborhood,” said Robert Allen, who has a law office in Brookline Village and spoke at the meeting, representing the owners of land adjacent to Whole Foods’ property. “We’re very happy that Whole Foods is there.”

“We hope that the outdoor seating doesn’t create a nuisance but just adds to the vibrancy of that block,” said Sean Lynn-Jones, a Brookline Town Meeting member and resident, during Tuesday’s meeting. “There are wide sidewalks [there], and this brings people to them.”

Just before leaving the podium, Lynn-Jones called Whole Foods “a great addition to the area.”

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