After three years of construction, a new 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market has opened in Hoover, Alabama. The developer of the shopping center spent millions of dollars tearing down an old grocery market there and building a brand-new structure in its place. Starting before 7 a.m. on opening day, hundreds of people were lined up for more than 200 yards around the shopping center.
Off The Wall is proud to have been part of what Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato described as “possibly the most anticipated store opening since the entire Riverchase Galleria.” Off The Wall Company engineered, fabricated, and installed many of the key elements that make this Whole Foods such a beautiful shopping environment.
“We were very happy to work once again with designs provided by the very talented Blend Design Co.” says Hillary Gray, CEO of Off the Wall which is located near Philadelphia, PA.
Blend, based in Portland, Oregon, had about 4 months developing the designs for the Hoover market. Prior to that, the architectural team probably worked on the plans for 8 to 12 months. Off The Wall is responsible for some very exciting and effective supermarket design in its own right, but also works closely with various other very creative and accomplished architects and interior retail design firms around the country.
Dan Hefele, Director of Operations for Off The Wall, oversaw the fabrication and installation of the Hoover project. He was interviewed on how this part of the process unfolded:
“Once we received the design and plans from Blend, we generated a quote based on material, labor and delivery. Upon award, we devoted approximately 10 weeks of extended production until we shipped and began installation. Of those 10 weeks, 5 or so were used in file set up and engineering. During this phase, the fabrication details were drawn and submitted to the client for review, approval or revision. Additionally, materials were sourced and ordered so that when the job was released for true production, the plans, details and materials were ready for our craftsmen to begin the build.”
How does Off The Wall work with designs provided by companies like Blend?
“We make modifications and occasional quick fixes, but typically, we maintain the designer’s concept. That said, we communicate extensively during the engineering process. This is a significant aspect of the evolution. Although we receive the designs and basic build concepts, our experience plays a part in the final product. Of note, the metal frames throughout Hoover had a slightly different design. Since we fabricated the décor we knew what it actually weighed and where it would add stress to these frames, so our engineers added elements such as bracing and supplemental supports to ensure stability and safety.”
The store has some pretty remarkable décor. The dimensional letters over the cheese department and the beer and barbecue hangout, Hops ‘n’ Sauce are particularly striking. Take us through the details of how some of the elements fabricated by Off The Wall for these areas of the store were actually made.
“The large Fromagerie letters are 1” painted MDF while the smaller letter sets are silver maple plywood with a clear coat. Interesting obstacle here was the Stainless Steel Soffit Cladding. This metal was installed by the general contractor hired by Whole Foods – but was not called out on the Design (it was a change). This posed some challenges in stenciling the blue band (we had to mix specialty paint) and drilling for each of the few dozen stand off studs – imagine if we had misdrilled… We send templates to our installers to align the lettering and mounting studs. This reduces the risk of mistakes occurring during installation.”
What about the signs on the back wall of the department?
“Since its inception, Whole Foods has always utilized local artists in their in-store marketing and signage. The hanging “chalkboards” are on custom (store specific – not a format to be seen in any other location) frames. The frames are Cold Roll Steel and Maple assemblies which hold the acrylic chalk. Both the metal and maple are seal coated to prevent oxidation and ensure cleanability. The chalk itself is partially printed on a matte black ¼” acrylic which also has an applied sheet metal backer. The chalks receive artwork by a team of store artists using water based chalk markers. The metal backing on the chalk allows earth magnets to hold banners or posters when applicable.”
The beer and soul food area look more like a stand alone restaurant and fun place visit apart from grocery shopping. What can you say about what Off The Wall did there?
“The brick soffit was installed by the general contractor. We used a rigid template (as opposed to a vinyl stencil mask) which is necessary on rough/dusty surfaces such as brick. The stencil was then sponge applied with multiple semi-dry coats in order to avoid bleed out (painting outside the lines). Stencils such as this are progressive. Once the first coat or two goes on, we confer with the Whole Foods team to make sure that we hit the correct opacity. As for the letters, they are Hot Rolled Steel, Laser Cut 12g letters mounted to a ½” inset backer. Again, we used a template to align the backer pieces first. This way, we can accurately align the letters and fasten them securely to the uneven brick soffit. Once the backers are in place, we mount the metal letters to the backer with black oxide fasteners. Of note, the backers are completely painted while the metal letters are clear coated to reduce the chance of rust.
How would you describe your experience with this project, Dan?
“Whole Foods Market – South is wonderful to work with. We come together collectively. This includes the Blend Design team, Whole Foods Project Management, General Contractors and us. Everyone is understanding and flexible and rely and appreciate the expertise Off The Wall brings to the table.”
Off The Wall Co. has partnered with various architects and designers on various Whole Foods Markets around the country. We are proud of our part in all of them; there are a few featured here on our Web site, otwcompany.com