Those design elements rely on the mountain that so heavily dominates Mill Valley’s landscape, as well as the ocean, bay, lanes and creeks that surround us.
“It was time for an update,” says Miller Ave. Store Manager Clarke Pomeroy. “We tried to capture the essence of Mill Valley and remind customers of our deep ties to this community, and our connection to the environment around us.”
The result is a store whose walls, aisles and checkout areas tell the story of Whole Foods itself, utilizing reclaimed wood and design touches to put a fresh face on one of the company’s oldest stores.
In 1991, marketing and sales consultant and organic food devotee Walter Robb, who previously created a health food store in Trinity County called Mountain Marketplace, was looking to open his own store in Mill Valley. He’d signed a lease for 414 Miller Avenue, a 14,000-square-foot, quonset hut-style building that was previously home to butcher shop Jerry's Meats and some smaller businesses. As Robb prepared to remodel the space, John Mackey, his longtime friend and the founder of Whole Foods, convinced him to swap the lease of his new store for equity in Whole Foods and sign on as store manager.
Within a short period of time, the Whole Foods on Miller Ave. that opened in July 1992 boasted the highest sales-per-square-foot of any Whole Foods in Northern California, and Robb was the company's president of the Northern Pacific region. In 2010, just weeks before Whole Foods opened its second store in Mill Valley – the nearly 30,000-square-foot space on East Blithedale – Robb became the Whole Foods’ co-CEO with Mackey.
Given the Miller Avenue store’s role as a keystone in the history of Whole Foods, it’s no surprise that its management team has continued to innovate. They’ve bolstered their catering service significantly, recently drawing rave reviews at the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce’s September Mixer at O’Hanlon Center for the Arts.
They’ve also just launched a Personal Shopper Program, allowing busy customers or those planning large events to order ingredients and products via email and either pick them up at the store or have them delivered for a small fee. IN doing so, they can connect with "Chef Jerry," a longtime chef at the store who can walk customers through a custom shopping experience.
"You can basically walk the entire store while shopping and get a real feel for what we are passionate about and what we think our shoppers want as well," says Brownlie Raffaini, the store's marketing team leader. "We're excited for this next chapter of the store."