Local Vendors Featured at Whole Foods Harlem

(Photos by Gregg McQueen via Manhattan Times)

Whole Foods Harlem, which opened at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue in late July, was viewed with some concern by neighborhood residents, activists and businesses, fearful that the arrival of the notoriously high-priced food emporium signaled further gentrification and trouble for local merchants. But the store has already featured goods from about 20 Harlem-based merchants through the Harlem Local Vendor Partner Program, and there may be more such activity down the road, reports Gregg McQueen in Manhattan Times.

Kenneth Knuckles, President of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ), acknowledged that the store’s arrival was “a source of concern,” but said the opening of large businesses isn’t a bad thing if the community benefits from it.

“Change does not have to victimize someone,” remarked Knuckles. “Change can be positive if the tide lifts all the boats.”

Whole Foods plans on expanding the number of Harlem vendors in the store to 100 within two years, store officials said.

The local vendor program is a business incubator managed by Harlem Park to Park, an entrepreneurs’ network. Other locations that have picked up products from Harlem-based entrepreneurs are Macy’s and dining locations within Columbia University.

Participants, mostly food and skin product vendors, go through a rigorous six months of business development training, including a five-week course from Columbia University and Hot Bread Kitchen.

“When they come out of that, they’ve received five weeks of the best education they could have,” said Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, Executive Director of Harlem Park to Park. Vendors also take part in monthly networking sessions and several vendor fairs.

What do local businesses have to say about the vendor program and product placement on the shelves of Whole Foods Harlem? And what does the store’s team leader have to say were the first and second questions people always asked him about the store before it opened? Go to Manhattan Times to find out.

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