Ladders and boxes fill the aisles, vegetable bins wait to be stuffed with a kaleidoscope of produce, and workers scurry about stocking shelves before the arrival of Charleston's newest supermarket.

Whole Foods Market launches its second local store on Wednesday, three years after announcing it was expanding to West Ashley. It's the fifth South Carolina store for the Austin, Texas-based upscale grocer, and Charleston, the state's largest city, is the only metro area in the Palmetto State with two Whole Foods stores.

At 46,000 square feet, it's a bit larger than the chain's store several miles north on Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant. Also, the layout is somewhat different and it has several offerings shoppers won't find at the longtime East Cooper location.

Among them are a juice bar with fresh blends and smoothies, a Mediterranean food station with digital ordering tabs, seating for more than 120 and outdoor music for those dining under the awning.

Unlike the Mount Pleasant store, it will not have a sit-down bar around the pizza and burger preparation station, but self-serve pizza is on the menu.

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Whole Foods Market West Ashley stockers

Workers begin stocking the new Whole Foods Market store in West Ashley ahead of its opening Wednesday. The shop will be staffed with 140 employees. Warren L. Wise/Staff

One thing that is not different is the store's commitment to no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives.

"That's one thing that sets us apart," said Whole Foods spokeswoman Rachael Dean Wilson as she walked through the store pointing out its many features ahead of the grand opening.

The store also carries products from more than 60 local suppliers. Additionally, it will stock craft beer options from Charleston-area breweries.

"I feel like we are really pushing local products," said store manager Debbie Pelkie, who transferred to the Lowcountry from Boston. "The community has been really great about welcoming the store, and people are excited to see Whole Foods in this part of town. I can't wait to see it all come together."

The store's house brand is 365. "We have lots of organic options and it's very budget-friendly," Wilson said.

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Whole Foods Market West Ashley welcome sign

Customers entering the new Whole Foods Market store in West Ashley will be greeted with a welcome sign. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Customers will still find a floral department for arrangements and fresh-cut flowers, seafood and meat selections, a bakery with grab-and-go cupcakes and fresh bread, prepared food, packaged side dishes, specialty diet options, sushi, pizza and aisles of staples and health and beauty aids.

"One of the things that makes the store unique is all of the options in the prepared food section," Wilson said. "We want it to be a place where people come to meet a friend, do their homework or just hang out."

To expedite service, it will offer eight regular checkout lanes and four express registers for those with 15 items or fewer. It does not have a self-checkout option.

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Whole Foods sign near restaurant seating area

The new Whole Foods Market in West Ashley wants to become a gathering place for the community. A sign in the dining area aims to drive the message home. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Some West Ashley residents are more than happy to see the new store open.

"Every time I go to Columbia to see my daughter, I always go there," said Carol LaCosta, who lives off Ashley River Road. "I still go to Earth Fare, but I have been waiting for this store for a long time."

Ginny Grayson sometimes drives across the Ravenel Bridge to browse the store in Mount Pleasant's Patriots Plaza.

"The fresh-cut flowers are very reasonable, and I love the deli and bakery," Grayson said. "The new store will be a lot closer, and I'm looking forward to it opening."

She also believes it will be a big plus for the West Ashley area, and it might even goad some of the other businesses in the area to freshen up.

"We have some shabby-looking buildings in this place," Grayson said.

LaCosta believes it will bring more businesses to West Ashley and offer some competition to stores such as Earth Fare's longstanding store on Folly Road.

But not everyone believes the new store is a good fit.

"I think it's too high-scale for this part of town, but who knows," said Jerry Bradley of Hollywood.

Linda Drayton, also of the suburban Charleston area, agreed.

"I don't think it's going to make a difference to me," Drayton said. "I won't shop there because I have the perception of high prices at the store."

Online retail giant Amazon bought Whole Foods last year. Since then, some prices have been reduced.

For Amazon Prime members, they will find a 10 percent discount on hundreds of sale items throughout the store.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.