SAVANNAH — Savannah Technical College students were an intricate part in the design, development and staffing at the Whole Foods Market that opened last week in Savannah.
Four culinary students were hired to work at the location, and students in the historic-preservation program helped design and construct dining area tables with local, reclaimed wood from a bowling alley.
Whole Foods Market collaborated with several partnered organizations, including Emergent Structures, OxForm and Design for Ability.
Benjamin Mattern, a Savannah Tech historic-preservation student and OxForm founder, spearheaded the endeavor, working with both the Savannah Tech students and Whole Foods Market design team.
“Whole Foods was able to see that OxForm was capable of designing and fabricating a product only made possible by local collaboration and resources,” Mattern said. “They liked the idea of OxForm and Design for Ability teaming up to create quality hand-made tables from locally reclaimed materials that also served as tangible expressions of Savannah’s culture and personality.”
When asked what experience the students received from working on the project, Mattern said, “My Savannah Tech education has reinforced and encouraged a more hands-on, local approach that I believe leads to higher quality and deeper meaning. The experience has introduced me to others in Savannah, who are also passionate about cultivating a more sustainable Savannah.”
Meagan Hodge, a historic-preservation student, as well as president and co-founder for Design for Ability, a local nonprofit that provides apprenticeships for green-jobs training, was overwhelmed by how well the collaboration worked.
“They were completely open to the design,” Hodge said. ”The way they have gone about getting the location and involving themselves in the community has been amazing. I know that this is just the beginning of partnerships like these.”
Whole Foods Market hired four culinary students from STC and anticipates hiring more. The store also was excited about the additions to their staff from the culinary-arts program.
“We sought these young men and women out because we like to be a part of the community from the start,” said Rachel Jones, the Savannah store’s “team leader,” equivalent to a general manager. “And our experience is culinary students make great employees.”
Whole Foods Market is also working with the students’ class hours to ensure they can continue and complete their education, while working throughout the year.