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17 Incredible Things You Didn't Know About Whole Foods

The Wholey Grail of supermarkets.

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1. Whole Foods' first store opened in 1980 in Austin with 19 employees, some of whom are still with the company!


2. Some of the founders lived in SaferWay, the food store that eventually became Whole Foods. There were no showers, so they bathed using the hose attached to the dishwasher.

3. A year after the first Whole Foods opened, one of the worst floods in Austin's history hit the city, wiping out most of the store's inventory and equipment.

Flickr: 14723335@N05

The store had NO insurance, but customers and neighbors helped clean up and creditors, vendors, and investors were lenient with the store.

4. Whole Foods' first West Coast store was unsurprisingly in Palo Alto, Calif. The company expanded into Manhattan in 2001 and the United Kingdom in 2004.

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5. Whole Foods' Bowery location in New York City is the largest supermarket in the city.

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6. But Whole Foods' largest location is in Austin. This flagship store is 80,000 square feet. The company's headquarters is located above the store.

By comparison, an American football field is just 57,600 square feet.

7. There is even an ice skating rink ON TOP of the flagship Austin location.

8. The company has been on Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies To Work For" for 17 straight years, ever since the magazine started the rankings.

9. The company has an "open policy" when it comes to salary. ANY employee can look up ANY other employee's salary, up to and including the CEO level. The practice is meant to encourage both discussion and competition within the company.

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10. The chain pays its employees pretty well.

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The average hourly wage was $18.89 in 2013, and the average annual wage was nearly $40,000.

11. Co-founder and CEO John Mackey has worked on a $1 annual salary since 2007, and has no bonuses or stock options.

At the time, Mackey said he was financially comfortable and didn't need to work for money.

12. Whole Foods also has a "salary cap" for its executives. They cannot earn more than 19 times the company's average annual salary.

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13. Whole Foods maintains an "unacceptable ingredients" list for food products it sells, and it is constantly updated.

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These include any artificial flavors, artificial colors, and aspartame.

14. At Whole Foods' Westport, Conn., store, two team members are named "King and Queen of Customer Service" for the month. Each member is given two minutes to sprint around the store, collecting as many groceries as possible.

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The entire store cheers on, and each contestant usually leaves with two or three carts of food.

15. Whole Foods offers a microlending program to local farmers called "Local Produce Loan Program."

The money-lending program offers low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans.

16. Whole Foods buys local from regional farmers, ranchers, growers, and producers, so every store will have a different selection of items!

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To an extent, the company even lets stores determine what "local" means, allowing them to pick and choose providers.

17. Finally, Whole Foods stopped offering plastic grocery bags on Earth Day 2008. The company saved 150 million bags in roughly the first year after.

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Go forth with this information and shop till you drop!