Whole Foods Opens Superstore in Venice, Upsets Delicate Balance Between Yuppies and Bums

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.

Good luck finding a parking spot
Good luck finding a parking spot

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,


books,

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.

14 Replies to “Whole Foods Opens Superstore in Venice, Upsets Delicate Balance Between Yuppies and Bums”

  1. I’m going to wager a “Yes” to all those questions.

    Best thing at Whole Foods: freshly ground honey roasted peanut butter. For those of us who can’t/won’t go to the “farmer’s market” at the Grove, this is the next best thing. Mm mmm.

  2. Trader Joe’s is on Pico. There are two more Whole Foods (one a former Wild Oats) on Wilshire in Santa Monica.

  3. Thanks Mummey, correction made. You also remind me that Whole Foods’ expansion plans included that recent takeover of Wild Oats on Wilshire.

    And thank you, Travis, I’m your fan too!

  4. “The first challenge was getting into the place. The parking lot was utter chaos, with too many cars vying for too few spots.

    Ah, yes. A tradition since they bought out Sandy Gooch all those years ago!

  5. Personally, as someone west of Lincoln, I’m thrilled. Everything else nearby is Ralphs or Albertsons which are not only pricey but crappy quality and selection. If you don’t count the Sunday Farmer’s Market, there is no place to get decent produce. One Life on Main St is very limited in general and usually packaged things have expired or are about to. I will however, continue to support my beloved Venice Ranch Market on Rose and 5th Ave. Good, inexpensive butcher!

    I did notice big traffic congestion so I think we will need to put a bigger light at Rose and Lincoln (aka, left-hand turn arrows). Today, it took 2-3 light cycles to make a left on Lincoln. Or it could just be grand opening madness. Hopefully.

  6. “Trader Joe’s is on Pico. There are two more Whole Foods (one a former Wild Oats) on Wilshire in Santa Monica.”

    Don’t forget the other Whole Foods that was a Wild Oats, on Montana at 15th (I think–somewhere on Montana around there).

    Plus, there’s the WF on National/Barrington, and the one in Brentwood…and the one in Westwood.

    Oh, and Matt: “and Marisco’s Mexican.”

    C’mon…mariscos is not a proper name–it means seafood. The place is called Mariscos Guillen, or La Playita.

  7. I think it’s strange that Venice got a Whole Foods before a Trader Joe’s. Holy super-accelerated gentrification.
    I remember when I used to go shopping for Christmas presents for my elementary school clsssmates at the Pic ‘n Save that used to reside on that forlorn corner. Strange times, these.

  8. Hindinwood — my thoughts exactly. I figured that a Trader Joe’s in this neighborhood would be spectacularly popular. I know I would go (if parking was available). I would also be remiss in not mentioning that the Whole Foods took over a space formerly occupied by self-styled “closeout retailer” Big Lots.

  9. For what it’s worth: “Whole Foods Opens Superstore in Venice, Upsets Delicate Balance Between Yuppies and Bums” is the best title I’ve seen since I started writing here.

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