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Last year, to much fanfare, Whole Foods launched a lifestyle section in its Whole Body department offering organic adult and baby clothing, towels, sheets (cotton is more heavily sprayed with pesticide than any other crop) and vegan shoes. That area, however, always seems emptier than the rest of the store. But Whole Foods may simply be repeating an experience it has encountered many times in its 26-year existence: landing on an idea that is ahead of its time and then waiting around as the world catches up.
Other Whole Foods innovations are also forging new ground. The Austin store offers guided tours via iPod and is about to open a catering division and a world-class cooking school. And a 75,000-sq.-ft. store in the center of London will be that city's largest supermarket ever.
"We're really still just doing what we believe in, what we think is right," Gallo explains. "Though we have gotten as big as we are, we've maintained that same feeling of mission we felt when we made the decision to work in a little natural-food store. That's the rewarding thing."