CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A new grocery store in uptown Charlotte is turning heads and drawing massive crowds.

Thousands of customers flocked to East Stonewall Street to check out Charlotte’s newest Whole Foods store. It’s the latest major player to join the Queen City’s rapidly-growing grocery war.

“You can have all of the grocery stores in the world, but there’s only one Whole Foods,” one customer said.

By 9 a.m. Wednesday, the line had extended well down the block. It had the look and feel of a block party but actually, it was the grand opening for a long-awaited grocery store.

“I’ve heard everything is really fresh, and so far everything looks really beautiful,” another customer said. “I’m really excited about the produce.”

It’s the produce and the promise of fresh, organic food that provide the foundation for the Whole Foods model.

“This used to be a Harris Teeter town, and it was that way for years,” said Tim Bogert, the creative director of the marketing firm, Theory House.

Next week, Publix will open a new 46,000 square-foot store in Cotswold. The competition is growing, giving consumers more options and lower prices.

Grocery shopping these days is about much more than buying a can of soup.

“Everything from the bar at Harris Teeter to Starbucks [at Publix], to prepared foods, those are the things that really build a relationship with a retailer,” Bogert said.

At Whole Foods, the amenities include a coffee bar complete with local beers on tap, great deals for Amazon Prime members and a prepared food section that drew a big lunch crowd on its very first day.