It wasn’t too long ago that health-food and organic-food stores generally were drab storefronts, with little merchandising or display flourishes. Shoppers tended to be members of cooperatives, or ex-hippies who had become establishment citizens but still retained some of their youthful idealism. John P. Mackey changed all that, turning a niche concept into a mainstream trend by playing up the romance and theater of food. His $9 billion, 270-plus store Whole Foods Market, started in 1978 in his garage as a vegetarian health-food store, is now a
Mackey is an opinionated iconoclast whose candid comments got him in trouble in 2007 when it was revealed that for several years he blogged under a pseudonym on the Whole Foods Web site. Though chastised, the 53-year-old CEO succeeded in buying out his largest competitor, Wild Oats Markets, and has expanded overseas to London, the next stop on his quest for global dominance.