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Where do you shop for a date?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 10, 2009 - A grocery store isn’t the unlikeliest place to meet a significant other. You brush up against someone in the cereal aisle or wave through an attractive person who arrived at the checkout counter right when you did, and all of a sudden you’re exchanging phone numbers.

Those scenarios might sound more like the start of a romantic comedy than reality, but I’m pretty sure they happen. A good friend of mine met his longtime girlfriend on a bus -– so why not a supermarket?

A chance encounter at the free sample station is one thing; going to a grocery store for the purpose of meeting your soul mate is quite another. But that’s happening, too.

Yup, it’s singles night at Whole Foods, which in some cities has become quite popular. St. Louis’ Whole Foods in Brentwood, which opened in 2001, used to hold fairly regular singles events that included food, drinks and a hired social facilitator, said Marcia Whelan, marketing team leader for Whole Foods Market in St. Louis. The supermarket is giving the idea another look. 

On Tuesday night starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Town & Country location, a relationship coach is holding a class on surviving Internet dating. Christine Kniffen, who has done past events at Whole Foods, covers the basics of navigating online dating sites, discusses their pitfalls and gives advice on how to sort and screen potential dating candidates. The class is $5 and includes a glass of wine.

Whelan said this event isn’t necessarily designed for people to find potential love interests. It’s more informational and structured than the typical meet-and-greet singles event. But Whole Foods plans to hold other functions where a facilitator helps introduce people. Some events could feature activities oriented around food, such as a nutritionist offering health tips. Others, like Tuesday’s event, have nothing to do with food. 

Which raises the question: Why go to a grocery store singles night when there are other options like speed dating or a weekend night out? Whelan’s pitch would sound familiar to anyone who’s ever attended a singles bike trip or camping outing. In short, you have a better chance finding a good match when you know you already have something in common with people at a function.

Whether organic food shopping is a hobby or not is up for debate. But there’s certainly less pressure to meet someone in a grocery store setting than in a dance club.

So what does Whole Foods have to gain from this? Whelan explains: “The Brentwood store already has a reputation for being a great place for singles to meet. We’re told there’s a large singles population in West County. So it seems fitting for the store to reach out.”

If Whole Foods makes some matches, don’t be surprised to see a grocery store wedding. 

“It’s been known to happen,” Whelan said.\

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