John Mackey, the co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market, is making for the produce section of his 80,000-square-foot flagship store in Austin, Texas. He walks with a slight limp, the result of osteoarthritis in his hip after years of jogging and basketball, so it’s easy for customers to recognize him and chat him up.
One, clutching a ground beef and veggie taco lunch, tells him he’s been shopping at Whole Foods for three decades. “You don’t look old enough to have eaten here for 30 years,” says Mackey. He stops by an elderly woman picking through a container of pink lady apples. “These are not organic, but I happen to know for a fact the grower does incredible things in the way they take care of the soil,” he tells her. Other customers turn to each other and whisper as Mackey passes. The fishmongers and meat cutters behind the counter call out his name.