Ever since Berkeley Bowl West opened last June, it’s been my supermarket of choice. What’s not to like? The fruits and vegetables are beyond compare, the prices are reasonable (if I don’t get tempted by some of the French cheeses or some of the more expensive fish), the layout is intelligent, and the parking is generally easy.

Yesterday, however, I thought I’d save a bit of time and dropped into Whole Foods Market on Telegraph. It was certainly a quicker trip, but two things struck me after a very long absence.

First, there were tons of parking spaces. I can’t recall ever going to Whole Foods and finding it easy to park. Perhaps I just went at a charmed time on Monday afternoon, but I suspect Berkeley Bowl West has grabbed a good number of Whole Foods’ former customers.

Second, it was such a dull shopping experience. Whole Foods is a far smaller store than Berkeley Bowl West, so there was far less choice. Worse, the quality of the produce to my eyes just didn’t compare.

A trip to Berkeley Bowl West probably adds a minimum 20  minutes to my journey time (often more, because of the many temptations that keep me in the store). But I won’t be going back to Whole Foods if I can help it.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

Join the Conversation

14 Comments

  1. I used to go to the BBE, but have mostly switched to BBW. It’s easier for me to get to and the bike parking is better. I miss some of the funky ambience that is part of the BBE’s charm, and since the store is larger it takes longer to carry out my optimized routine, but everything seems to be there.

  2. When I saw this posting’s headline, I thought it was going to be about how Safeway and Andronico’s are now banning customers for life (for grazing the bulk food bins or posting snarky reviews online) 😉

  3. Well, I’m a dedicated biker who does all my grocery shopping via bike (in the dry season at least). But it is foolish to ignore the fact that many people simply will not shop at the old BB location because of the parking lot. It’s a real factor driving business to (or away from) the site.

  4. Hank, Maybe you could participate by discussing the relative bicycle/pedestrian friendliness of these markets. One thing that impressed me about BBW was that bicycle parking did not seem like an after thought. It was front and center with ample space for my bike and child trailer.

  5. I deeply resent the idea that in Berkeley the only way to get somewhere is by driving a car and the most important priority is parking.

    This is supposed to be a forward-looking, progressive city? Give me a break!

  6. I am a dedicated BBE shopper. The BBW is nicer, shinier, and has better parking. But I love the old BBE. And since I bike over anyhow parking is moot.

    Still, both are wonderful – you can’t beat the quality and price compared to anything in the east bay.

  7. EBGuy: Certainly the prices are higher at Whole Foods as well. I think that’s well known (cue Whole Paycheck joke). But I was surprised that the quality just didn’t seem up to scratch after I’ve become accustomed to BBW.

  8. Maybe it takes longer for you but whenever I need somethin fresh or yummy it’s easy for me to go with BBW. Nothing dull about it, so “many temptations” for sure!

  9. Worse, the quality of the produce to my eyes just didn’t compare.
    Errr… don’t you mean the price?

  10. I went to Berkeley Bowl East this weekend (purely for convenience; it’s less than a ten-minute walk from my apartment), and was reminded how much more I like its Western counterpart. BBW is just so…shiny. It’s a big, open, spacious, airy, sparkly market. BBE has most of the same stuff, but BBW is just so much easier to navigate. I think it has a better layout, and the aisles are wider (not to mention the gorgeously huge bulk section!). I sometimes walk over there on my lunch break just to wander around as I pick up some groceries.