Are You Whole Foods or Piggly Wiggly?

Whole Foods is officially opening in Shreveport on Nov. 16, and for many people that’s a barometer that we’ve stepped up in the world.

I’m excited about Whole Foods and will shop there sometimes, but I’m still a bit of a Piggly Wiggly type where you are comfortable going in cut-offs and flip-flops, maybe even rollers in your hair. Rollers? I would never do that, but I do fear I’ll have to buy status fitness wear like  lululemon  to go to Whole Foods.

On the very day Whole Foods announced the Shreveport opening date, I was online reading a Southern Living piece titled 7 Reasons Why Southerners Love Piggly Wiggly. One is the endearing pig mascot. Another is Piggly Wiggly’s habit of stocking local products.

The closest Piggly Wiggly to me  is 45 minutes away in Plain Dealing,  Louisiana, a town of about 1,000. I stopped in a few days ago and did see a lot of local products–particularly in the sausage section where there was a brand from just about every southern state and just about every parish in Louisiana. Bryan bacon. Tennessee Pride sausage. Smoked ham from Kentucky and Virginia. B&R hot links distributed from just up the road in Springhill, Louisiana.

Piggly Wiggly T-shirt in the Plain Dealing store
Piggly Wiggly T-shirt in the Plain Dealing store

Some of the produce items, though, not locally grown were labeled as “Tennessee” or “Missouri” grown. I appreciated that.

Buying local, I know is part of Whole Foods culture, and I’ll be watching to see what they carry. There may not be much in the sausage section but there’s an emerging local farming movement specializing in grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs, pasture-raised pork, even organic lettuce. I hope to see some of those products there. I like that Whole Foods is already engaged in the community. Check out their Facebook page here.

My first visit to Whole Foods was the flagship store in Austin about 10 years ago, and I admit I was awestruck with all of the organic, non GMO, non-dairy, fair trade, gluten-free groceries.  I added a few items to my cart — for my health or perhaps just to feel urbane. I had to be careful as I did not want to add evidence to the Whole Foods “whole paycheck.” nickname.

Since then I usually stop in Whole Foods when I’m traveling. If I think I’ve been eating healthy, a trip there is a reality check akin to walking into Best Buy and seeing how much of a technology laggard I am.

There wasn’t a Piggly Wiggly in the Mississippi town where I grew up, although there is one now. But there was a Jitney Jungle and a Big Star. In nearby towns, there was Sunflower and Winn-Dixie and other happy sounding names, specials written on butcher paper in the front window alongside “Go Bulldogs, Sting the Panthers” signs and pictures of the $300 weekly jackpot winner. That was part of being local.

So I’m still on the fence on how often I will shop at Whole Foods. Their salad bar and ready-to-go meals will be tempting. I’m eager to see what interesting products they bring to the local market. (My tastebuds haven’t bought into kale or quinoa that have become prominent even in my mainstream Kroger, which is opening a new upscale Marketplace near me at about the same time Whole Foods opens.

So, this is how I’ll do Whole Foods, and it may be a suggestion for you as you get your feet wet in this new player in our market. I’ll buy a few essentials (the 365 store brand products are good and not too pricey) and then try a couple of new things at each visit and let that be it until the next trip.  On a recent visit to the Whole Foods in Jackson, Mississippi store, one of my newbies was a package of spiralized butternut squash to substitute for spaghetti noodles. (Clearly, I’m behind the curve on this as I saw several kinds of “spiralizers” for sale in a recent Bed, Bath & Beyond circular).

At home, I have Cool Whip and Clif bars,  chia seeds and Cheetos. I have a framed picture of the Piggly Wiggly mascot because I like the friendly face. I have a Whole Foods bag that says “I Used to Be a Plastic Bottle” because I like recycling.

I have a deep fryer but no spiralizer yet. Evidence that I may still may be more of a Piggly Wiggly type.

But Welcome to Shreveport, Whole Foods. I look forward to visiting.