A long-awaited Whole Foods in East Austin has opened, but amid the coronavirus pandemic it is operating only as a fulfillment center for now.
The store in the Saltillo mixed-use project at I-35 and East Fifth Street had not yet opened to the public and is being temporarily converted to an online-only store, Austin-based Whole Foods said.
“As we continue to face the challenges associated with COVID-19 we are constantly looking for new ways to meet the increased demand for online grocery shopping,” the company said in a statement. “To respond to this demand, especially for our most vulnerable customers, we will postpone the public opening of the East Austin store and temporarily use the location exclusively for fulfilling delivery for Whole Foods Market.”
Saltillo is a 10-acre development built at a former rail yard between East Fourth and East Fifth streets, just east of downtown. It features a seven-story office tower that is currently under construction and has been leased by Google, as well as 800 apartments and a mix of restaurants and retail including a small-format Target.
Businesses at Saltillo that were deemed nonessential closed during Austin’s shelter-in-place order, but many have reopened and construction has restarted, said Jason Thumlert, principal at Endeavor Real Estate Group.
“Google has finished a couple floors and they’re working on the balance of their floors,” Thumlert said. “Apartments are open and leasing activity has been encouraging. We have a couple retail tenants still under construction and going through permitting processes. Hopefully they’re opening into an environment with a bit more clarity.”
The Whole Foods in Saltillo was originally planned as a 365-brand store, which is the company’s chain named after its private value-based label.
But that changed when Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, said it would no longer be opening new 365-brand stores.