VAUXHALL, NJ – As I recently walked through Whole Foods in Vauxhall, New Jersey, I looked up at the aisle sign to see what products were there and the top of the sign it clearly stated that this was the “Millburn” store in big letters with the Whole Foods logo. Then it dawned on me that the store was physically located in Vauxhall. I doubled checked my assumption by putting in Whole Foods in Google Maps on my phone and sure enough it came as located in Vauxhall. So, why call the store “Whole Foods Millburn?”
The two other major stores in the Union Crescent Plaza along with Whole Foods are Best Buy, which is physically adjacent to Whole Foods and Target at the end, adjacent to Best Buy. These stores each have another store located in Union on Route 22 and those are identified as the Union stores on their respective websites.
To differentiate the locations of their sister stores in the Union Crescent Plaza, they are identified as the Target Union North in Vauxhall, NJ 07088 and Best Buy Vauxhall in Vauxhall, NJ 07088. However, on the Whole Foods website it identifies its store as the Whole Foods Millburn-Union in Vauxhall, NJ 07088, yet within the store they drop Union and go strictly with “Millburn”. All three stores have the same zip code and share one large parking lot. Neighboring Home Depot, which is the largest Home Depot in the country, is listed as the Home Depot Union/Vauxhall. The Vauxhall store also has a sister located on Route 22 and is identified as the Union – Rte. 22 store. Whole Foods only has one store in Union.
Union is bordered by eight municipalities: Hillside to the east, Elizabeth to the southeast, Roselle Park and Kenilworth to the south, Springfield Township to the west, Maplewood to the north, Irvington to the northeast and Millburn to the northwest. Vauxhall is an unincorporated community located within Union Township in Union County, NJ.
Branding was the answer to my question, but why Millburn as opposed to the other seven surrounding municipalities? Millburn is geographically closer, but the store is still in Union. Why didn’t the website simple list the store as the Whole Foods Union-Millburn and put “Union” in big letters with the Whole Foods logo above the aisles?
Looking at the 2010 Census Data the answer became obvious. Millburn is 80% White and 2% Black with a median household income of $165,603 and the median family income was $194,421 whereas Union is 54% White and 30% Black, with a median household income of was $73,722 and the median family income was $86,705. Millburn happens to be twice as affluent as its neighbor Union and is predominately White.
Where Whole Foods lack of sensitivity, especially in these racially sensitive times, is the Whole foods wanted to be associate with the more affluent Millburn as opposed to its less affluent actual location in Union. Its physical location isn’t is only lack of sensitivity. As I looked around the store as I continued to shop, I noticed that roughly 90% of the employees were Black and that about 50% of the customers were also Black. Not knowing who keeps your store running or who your customers are is insulting at least. I will assume that the remainder of the employees and customers are not from Millburn either.
Looking at the Whole Foods website for nearby local stores. All the stores are named for the towns that they are located in, except the store in Vauxhall.
The fix is simple, rename the store as the Whole Foods Vauxhall.
Renaming the store to the “Whole Foods Union” would be consistent with the naming convention of the other area stores. It would show some respect to the town the store is actually located in, the employees that work there and customers that patronize the store. The rebranding is simple as well. Update the website and change the signs above each aisle.