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El Paso Whole Foods Embraces Local Culture

The culture of El Paso, Texas, has become the inspiration for the city’s first Whole Foods store, recently opened and intended to serve as a “third place” for bilingual and bicultural residents.

Working with DL English Design, a Pasadena, Calif.-based multidisciplinary design firm, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market sought to capture the regional culture of El Paso through lively, bright décor inside the 45,000-square-foot store, which opened in October. Each section is given its own identity through changes in materials colors and lighting, and signage is in both English and Spanish.

With retail foodservice and grocery retail continuing to meld, DL English designed several dining venues in the store with a separate-but-related brand intended to distinguish the sites from one another while still connecting them within the greater Whole Foods ethos. Thunderbird Taproom, for instance, is an 82-seat bar and restaurant that is dark and woody, with a suspended timber ceiling, board-formed concrete bar and charred wood walls. In contract, Juntos – which means “together” in Spanish – is more refined, with natural wood banquettes and tables, triangular lighting fixtures and indoor/outdoor seating. Although different in many ways, both sites still keep consistency within their color scheme of black and green.

Each area in the store is signified with color, signage, and décor.  The bakery counter is faced in patterned concrete tile recalling Mexican tilework and framed by red walls and a soffit with angled lighting and “Rise” spelled out in freestanding letters. The produce section resembles a road-side farm stand with display cases recalling wooden packing crates, while the Whole Body section of health and beauty products is a streamlined interpretation of brand’s signature green.  The cooler along the rear wall sports both painted and dimensional lettering combining English and Spanish into the “Spanglish” phrase “Real Food en su casa,” meant to speak in a strong voice to the El Paso community.  

“A common thread throughout the hundreds of Whole Foods Markets we have designed is creating relevance through purpose, story, and style — the relevant and meaningful integration of local culture into the store,” said DL English Design Founder and President Deborah L. English, IIDA, CCID. “Through design, we connect the brand story with the community story. We find common ground between the core values of the brand and the community, giving a visual voice to those values inside the physical space.”

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