When I first began visiting Los Angeles via LAX, I was saddened by the unsightly welcome that greeted me along Lincoln Boulevard. I dreamed of a future that included a high-class, tree-lined Lincoln thoroughfare, complete with fancy stores and unobtrusive billboards. My dream could be one step closer today, as Whole Foods held a Grand Opening of its latest “superstore” (my term) in Venice, along Lincoln just north of Rose Avenue.
The first challenge was getting into the place. The parking lot was utter chaos, with too many cars vying for too few spots. The numerous yellow-vested traffic directors did not seem to be able to help. Hopefully, this was just Grand Opening overcrowding. Otherwise, if I want a food store that has insufficient parking, I can save money and go to the notorious Trader Joe’s up Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica.
I had to park in the last spot on a crowded side street several blocks away, and then try to cross Lincoln, which is no easy feat, since there is no pedestrian crossing for a long stretch between Rose and Marine. Ironically, the new Whole Foods location is bookended by downscale “Old Venice” eateries Thomas’ and George’s Hamburgers,
and La Playita, serving up Mexican cuisine.
On the way in, I passed a homeless-looking woman picking through the garbage can at the Arco station just yards away from the gleaming new Whole Foods. Outside the doors, Indie 103.1 had a tent set up, and free Whole Foods chicken sausages were grilling nearby.
Numerous tables lined the outside of the entrance,
as well as a flower shop.
Once inside, I was greeted with a busy emporium that is essentially identical in scope to the Whole Foods superstore along South Sepulveda Blvd. in El Segundo. It’s basically a self-contained city that includes the usual dizzying array of fruits and vegetables, a fish counter (Chilean Sea Bass for $26 per pound), a beef counter, a bake shop,
but also a taqueria, a sweet shop featuring a chocolate fountain,
a wine shop and wine bar,
a sushi bar, clothing, shoes,
CDs (including the “Momma Mia” soundtrack), tables with WiFi access, and even jewelry. I used to joke that, one day, people would be able to live their entire lives inside Starbucks, buying their food, drinks, and music, conducting business meetings, and finding significant others. At the new Whole Foods, it’s really possible.
Nevertheless, I have to question the opening of a Whole Foods in Venice during the current economy. Isn’t Whole Foods, like Starbucks, being abandoned by customers who can easily find nearby food and beverage substitutes at cheaper prices? Are there really that many people from gentrified Venice who can support a behemoth Whole Foods right now? Will Whole Foods be a neighborhood gathering place for these beautiful, healthy-looking Venetians (many of whom were on hand today)? Will strangers meet in the hemp sandal aisle and have their first date minutes later at the wine bar? Or will the other denizens of Venice, the homeless and the poor hippies, seek refuge at Whole Foods to make meals of free samples and ogle expensive bottles of Pinot Noir?
I contemplated all of this as I ambled, belly full of samples, up to the checkout line with only a bottle of shower gel and two Braeburn apples (more than a buck apiece), for a total of $5.06 (reduced to $5.01 when I presented my reusable green Whole Foods bag). It may have been the smallest sale of the day.
That’s because I had stocked up at Ralph’s yesterday.