NEW YORK - Whole Foods (WFM) is prepping for the launch of its hipster new grocery chain. But shoppers won't be able to get a tattoo with their cheese just yet.
The company says its "365" chain will have a minimalist layout, affordable prices and third-party vendors who set up shop inside the stores. That generated fanfare earlier this year when Bloomberg noted the chain's website said the vendors might include sellers of body care products, record shops and even tattoo parlors.
But Jeff Turnas, president of 365 at Whole Foods, said in an interview this week that there are no plans for tattoo parlors to date, and that he doubts that there will be. He said the example was given to illustrate that 365's partners could include any number of possibilities.
"I think the point of it is that it's going to be diverse - it's not going to be just food," he said.
For instance, Turnas noted a pet grooming service that uses organic shampoos has expressed interest in being a partner.
Still, Turnas said the press coverage about the potential tattoo parlors sparked genuine excitement among his employees, who started asking if they would be able to use their employee discounts for tattoos. Even if a tattoo parlor isn't likely, Turnas said the idea reflects the culture of Whole Foods employees.
"I would say 75 percent of our team members have tattoos," he said of the team working on the 365 chain.
That includes Turnas, 44, who has a tattoo on his leg is of a Grateful Dead bear with a lacrosse stick, a memory of his time as a lacrosse player at Michigan State University.
The offshoot chain by Whole Foods comes as sales growth has slowed at the company's flagship stores, which are being pressured by traditional supermarkets with expanded organic selections. Whole Foods Market Inc., which has more than 430 locations, says it still sees potential to expand to 1,200 locations in the U.S.
Some analysts question whether the offshoot chain will cannibalize sales from Whole Foods stores. But the Austin, Texas company says 365 will help it reach new customers, particularly those who want more affordable prices or are looking for a quicker shopping experience.
Turnas noted that 365 stores won't have meat or seafood counters, and described it as Whole Foods' "younger sister, a little scrappy."
The first 365 store is slated to open in Los Angeles on May 25; its third-party vendor will be an outpost of a New York vegan eatery. Two more locations are slated for Lake Oswego, Oregon and Bellevue, Washington this year, and 10 additional stores are slated for 2017.