Marketplace in Michigan: Can high-end produce sales work in low-income neighborhoods?

Jun 6, 2013

Marketplace, a national radio show on business, economics, and money "for the rest of us," was broadcasting from our studios last night.

Host Kai Ryssdal and his team were here to report on the Whole Foods opening in Midtown, an up-and-coming neighborhood in downtown Detroit.

At the opening, Ryssdal had a chance to interview Walter Robb, the CEO of Whole Foods.

“People perceive Whole Foods as only receiving a particular community and I don’t like that,” Robb says, speaking of the company’s reputation as catering to a more-affluent clientele.

Robb says he believes the company should continue to serve more communities with [a] mission to serve everyone.

The location in Detroit is only the first step in making healthy eating a priority for low-income neighborhoods.  Robb says he plans to open the next store in Mid-City, New Orleans, another seemingly unlikely location for Whole Foods.

Midtown has an edge on some of the other poor neighborhoods in Detroit: a large population of middle-class commuters drive in from the suburbs to work at the medical center and university located in the neighborhood. Robb knows they’ll make up a big slice of the shopper pie, but he says Whole Foods is committed to the people who live in Midtown, not just those who work there.

If you missed it, you can listen to the full Marketplace report here:

A question on many people's mind is what do people in Midtown think about Detroit’s first Whole Foods?

Ryssdal and his team spent the day asking around.

Listen to the sound clips below to hear some of their conversations.

So what impact will this health food chain have in Midtown and the metro-Detroit region at large?

The local marketplace will give us an indication soon.

- Julia Field, Michigan Radio Newsroom