Whole Foods Bozeman
The Whole Foods under construction near the Gallatin Valley Mall will be the first of its kind in Montana. Credit: Frank Eltman / MTFP

BOZEMAN — It’s beginning to look a lot like the long-awaited debut of Montana’s first Whole Foods Market could be happening in the not-too-distant future.

Tradespeople of all sorts were filing in and out of the new building that is nearing completion in a corner of the Gallatin Valley Mall property this week, and a Bozeman city official said inspections are in the works that would allow Whole Foods to bring its products to consumers sometime in early 2023. 

“I can confirm that a Bozeman store is in development,” is all a company spokesperson would say when asked about an impending opening.

The company is already taking applications for workers in a spectrum of positions for the store, with the promise of a possible opening in January. There are two signs on the building’s property proclaiming “Now Hiring.”

The company website says team members can expect to earn $17 to $25.40 per hour, depending on experience. Whole Foods is advertising for customer service personnel, bakery counter people, grocery stockers, meat counter workers, produce, floral, seafood and numerous other positions at the natural and organic grocery store.

It is telling applicants that depending on the position they are hired for, they may be asked to train at stores in Salt Lake City or Jackson Hole for up to two weeks. The company says no prior retail experience is required.

The store’s opening date has been the subject of speculation among Bozeman residents for some time. 

Ben Abbey, the city’s chief building official, said a permit application to construct the building was filed in August 2021, and a permit application to create a grocery store inside was filed April 29, 2022. The exterior of the building was seemingly completed several months ago.

Abbey declined to speculate on why it might be taking so long for the store to open, but he noted supply-chain issues or weather delays may have played a role. A man working at a trailer outside the store referred all questions to Whole Foods or the city.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s been very long,” Abbey said. “But the hype, I think, surrounding it feels like it makes it longer.”

“It doesn’t feel like it’s been very long. But the hype, I think, surrounding it feels like it makes it longer.”

Ben Abbey, Bozeman chief building official

He said required inspections of construction work are moving forward.

“We are in the ongoing process of working with contractors to complete those inspections,” he said. He noted that so far there have been no unusual findings.

“We haven’t seen anything extraordinary,” Abbey said. “Every project has its issues, and our job is to partner with the applicant to work through those issues to get them in compliance. I would say the key word is ‘partnering.’”

Whole Foods, a subsidiary of Amazon, which acquired the company for $13.7 billion in 2017, has about 500 stores in North America, but this is the company’s first in Montana. The opening of the store coincides with larger plans by developers to renovate and modernize the adjacent Gallatin Valley Mall.

Plans for the 37-acre property call for an additional 15,000 square feet of retail space. A new medical pavilion will take up 45,000 square feet of space and is expected to open in 2023.  

The mall also is getting a new name: Gallatin Crossing.

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Frank Eltman is a former Associated Press reporter and editor who retired in 2020 after a 31-year career. He was the AP’s Long Island correspondent from 2006 to 2018, where he was honored with induction into the Long Island Press Club Journalism Hall of Fame. He most recently was an editor at the AP’s West Regional Desk in Phoenix, where he worked on stories in 13 western states including Montana. He and his wife moved to Bozeman in 2021 to live closer to their daughter and future son-in-law.