Whole Foods shows love for its hometown with new ‘atx’ sculpture

The ‘atx’ sculpture is in front of the downtown Austin Whole Foods store.

Next time you head to the flagship Whole Foods Market store in downtown Austin, keep an eye out for something new.

The homegrown retailer has installed a new piece of public art – a unique twist on the familiar “atx” shorthand many Austinites use to refer to their hometown – in a prominent spot out front at West Fifth Street and North Lamar Boulevard.

“About a year ago, we decided it was time to replace our logo here on the corner of our flagship Whole Foods Market store,” said Mark Dixon, regional president for Whole Foods’ Southwest region. “As we began brainstorming, we thought, this is such a visible spot for the city of Austin, we should do something that the community can enjoy.”

Dixon said it took about six months to come up with the concept and design for the grocer’s newest piece of public art.

The sculpture comes from Ion Art, the same company that made the neon sign for the very first Whole Foods store back in 1991.

“Our relationship with Whole Foods goes back 26 years,” Ion Art owner Greg Keshishian said. “In the ’90s, Whole Foods began opening dozens of stores…it was during that time of Ion Art’s history that we stopped starving and this vital relationship with Whole Foods enabled us to grow.”

Today, Ion Art has almost 50 employees, Keshishian said.

“Whole Foods employs tens of thousands of individuals and I wonder how many other small companies like Ion Art got their first break through Whole Foods and just how many others became gainfully employed as a result,” he said.

Already, Whole Foods says the sculpture has become a hit, with many people – shoppers and non-shoppers – stopping by for photos.

“We never imagined the reaction from the Austin community,” said Laura Zappi, executive marketing coordinator for Whole Foods’ Southwest region.

This 1991 photo shows the original neon sign Ion Arts made for Whole Foods.

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