Following months of concern by the Toco Hills Jewish community, the Briarcliff Road Whole Foods closed April 2, leaving many in the neighborhood scrambling to replace the store’s wide variety of kosher options.
“I shopped there nearly daily, several times a week,” Leslie Mallard said. “I was disappointed because it’s such a good resource for the people in the community, a lot of whom live in the immediate area and like to shop nearby.”
Mallard, who is the office manager at Young Israel of Toco Hills, explained that alternatives for kosher grocery shopping in the area are more limited, following the prior closure of the Fresh Market less than a year ago.
“That was very disappointing, because we do have a great many people who live in this area and don’t drive,” she said.
The Chamblee store, which opened in 2017, is more than six miles from the Briarcliff location, which Mallard said would be a challenge for many in Toco Hills.
Bernice Werzberger said that when she first heard the Toco Hills Whole Foods was closing, she was concerned about other options available.
“About three or four months ago I found the next closest one, which is in Midtown, and I don’t want to go there. Parking is terrible and it’s not in the safest area,” she said.
After investigating the alternatives, she settled on the Peachtree store, and was immediately impressed by it.
“It really is very user-friendly, even more so than the store we had over here,” Werzberger said. “Everyone there really is very nice and kind and happy to help me out, and that’s really important to me.”
A major concern for both Mallard and Werzberger was the lack of kosher fish cutting.
“I spoke to them at the Peachtree Boulevard [Chamblee] location and asked if they’d be willing to bring in Meyer Greenberg, who cut fish on Wednesdays at the old location,” Werzberger said. “They said as long as there was enough business to support it, they’d be happy to do it.”
Greenberg explained that the fish cutting would continue at Whole Foods uninterrupted.
“I have begun cutting kosher fish at the Whole Foods location on Peachtree Boulevard on Wednesdays, starting this week, [April 2],” he said.
The newest location, in Midtown, opened April 5, and is just under six miles from the Briarcliff location. It is the Amazon-owned chain’s largest location in the Southeast and is the 500th Whole Foods to open, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The 70,000-square-foot store next to the Icon Midtown high rise apartments has four floors, featuring several eateries, a pub, a microbrewery, rooftop bar and cooking lessons.
“We will continue to offer the great selection of Kosher and Kosher for Passover items that our customers appreciated at the Briarcliff location,” Heather McCready, Whole Foods executive communications and corporate reputation coordinator said in a statement to the AJT.
Mallard, however, has been unsatisfied with the responses she and others from Toco Hills have received from Whole Foods in the past.
“It’s not anywhere close. A lot of people in the apartments in the area walk,” she said. “I don’t know that they’re going to go to Peachtree or the Midtown store. … There were several people who tried to reach out to corporate management, including myself, but by that point it was a done deal.”
Now the most accessible grocery stores are the Kroger and Publix further down Lavista Rd., and community members such as Mallard are reevaluating their options for shopping.
“I’ve been doing more shopping at a Publix where I live and at the Publix over here,” she said. “It’s not the same selection in terms of produce and the store brands that I really liked.”