Shoppers flock to Whole Foods in Brighton, open after long legal battle

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BRIGHTON, N.Y. — Long talked about, long fought about, the Rochester region’s first Whole Foods Market has opened.

Hundreds of people lined up ahead of the grand opening of the store on Wednesday morning on Monroe Avenue in Brighton.

The store opened after a judge sided with Whole Foods developers after the group Brighton Grassroots tried to delay the store from opening. Now, people are able to shop at the store with its in-house veggie butcher, full-service seafood, meat department, and soup and salad bar.

The grocery store will carry more than 500 items from Central and Western New York, many of them produced by businesses in Rochester. You can expect to see products from Rochester-based bold & gritty coffee, kombucha from Katboocha in Rochester, and sauces from Rubino’s Italian Foods whose flagship store is in Irondequoit.

“For the Brighton store alone, we’re launching about 20 new suppliers, and over 100 new items just for this store alone, and they are based in Rochester or surrounding area,” said John Lawson, senior local forager for Whole Foods Market.

The store’s regular hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“It’s a bit of a drive for me so I probably will come only so often, but they have a unique selection of stuff to choose from,” Charlotte McMorrow from Victor said.

”I did know that they do have quite a variety: say vegan and gluten-free items. I did know that they have some wonderful cheeses, and some meats, and their vegetable department is amazing,” Pauline Marlowe from Henrietta said.

More about legal battle

The group Brighton Grassroots asked a judge to delay the Wednesday opening of Whole Foods, but the judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order. The group filed an appeal after another judge ruled in favor of the developers last month.

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Whole Foods will bring competition to a town where Wegmans has long been a dominant business. Wegmans is financially supporting Brighton Grassroots, one of the community groups that brought the lawsuit. It’s flagship store is just down the avenue.

Town of Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle is excited to see the store finally open.

“Wegmans and these groups that it funded, they have had their day in court,” Moehle said. “In fact, they have had their months in court. They’ve had their years in court and time after time after time each court has ruled in favor of the project proceeding.”

Tuesday, Brighton Grassroots lawyer Aaron Saykin raised the issue of safety due to the amount of traffic in the area surrounding the new plaza on Monroe Avenue. He also repeated the group’s previous argument that Whole Foods is encroaching on the Auburn Trail, which runs behind the plaza. Saykin asked the court to require the town and developer to get approval from the state legislature.

In a statement Tuesday, Brighton Grassroots member Howie Jacobson said, “It was always going to be an uphill climb to obtain a temporary restraining order right now. But our appeal remains very strong. We presented overwhelming evidence to the court about the Auburn Trail. And we feel very confident that we will ultimately prevail.”

Lawyer Warren Rosenbaum, who represents the developers, the Daniele family, says Brighton Grassroots did not prove opening this Whole Foods would cause immediate irreparable harm. He also said they have shelves stocked, employees in place and are ready for business.

In a statement Tuesday, Danny Daniele of Daniele Family Companies said, “We’re pleased the judge denied the Wegmans’ last-minute desperate attempt to stop the Whole Foods opening with all the new team members excited to serve Rochester at the grand opening tomorrow morning.”

“This is really good news for the whole community,” Moehle said. “I mean this really resonates in so many ways for the community, so I am very pleased.”