As president of the Florida region for Whole Foods Market since 1998, Juan Nuñez has helped grow the company’s presence in the state from three stores to 19, with a 20th store opening this fall in Tallahassee and several others under development.
Nuñez, a native of Tocopilla, Chile, moved to northern Minnesota with his family as a child. After completing his studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he relocated to the Los Angeles area in 1982, where he began his career in the natural and organic foods industry.
Here are some questions and answers with Nunez about his career and Whole Foods’ growth statewide:
Q. Please tell me about the path you took to rise to your current position.
In 1982, I started as a grocery clerk for Mrs. Gooch’s in Hermosa Beach, Calif., stocking shelves, receiving product, helping customers, etc. Mrs. Gooch’s was a natural and organic food market with three stores in Southern California. Eventually, we grew to eight stores, where I held the positions of team leader, associate store team leader, store team leader, and eventually, regional store operations director.
Mrs. Gooch’s merged with Whole Foods Market in 1993. I relocated to Austin, Texas, in 1996 as vice president of the Southwest Region for Whole Foods Market, and moved to Florida in 1998 as president of the Florida region.
Q. How many Whole Foods stores are there in total, as well as in Florida, and in South Florida? What other operations do you have in the state?
Currently, Whole Foods Market has 357 stores across North America and the United Kingdom. The Florida region has 19 stores with regional offices in Fort Lauderdale, a distribution center in Pompano Beach and a bakehouse in Plantation. We will open our 20th store in the state on Oct. 9, in Tallahassee.
Q. You recently opened a new store in North Miami. Please tell me about that store. Is there a standard design and format for all stores? Do all the stores carry the same products?
We are very proud of our newest store on Biscayne Boulevard just south of 123rd, as the store features many design and product innovations. The 36,000 square-foot store is a standalone building and is built from the ground up. Like all of our locations, North Miami features original designs and we tried to incorporate the community into the look and feel of the store. Our focus here was the MiMo (Miami Modern) influence in the area to honor the proud history of North Miami.
We carry an extensive selection of organic foods and unique items not found in most markets. And while all of our stores carry a core set of products that meet our high quality standards, such as out 365 Organic private label items, we also go out of our way to seek out and feature local products from Florida producers.
Most importantly, all our stores have the freedom to discover and carry items from their community or items requested by our customers. These products must meet our standards; however, you may find an item in one of our stores that is not carried by any other of our stores, as items can come from the community.
Q. I understand you have plans to relocate your Plantation store to Davie. Please tell me why and tell me about the new store, how you plan to deal with traffic, and when it is expected to open.
Our current Plantation store is 29,000 square feet. Our new store will be approximately 42,000 square feet and will feature our latest innovations, many more products and venues that we have not offered in Broward County before. The new store will be .4 of a mile south on University Drive in the vacant Kmart. This location has much more parking, has extremely improved visibility from University Drive, and has a stop light at the entrance of our parking lot. The added traffic will flow well in this great new site and our customers who have been loyal shoppers for all these years will be able to enjoy the newest Whole Foods Market in Broward when it opens late in 2014.