A Whole Foods Protest in Silver Lake

Some residents of Silver Lake have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of a Whole Foods supermarket in their neighborhood. But then, the upscale grocery chain announced that the Silver Lake venue would be something new and different. And that has some people there upset.

What’s coming instead is a budget version of the store called 365 by Whole Foods Market. It’s a store that mainly sells the Whole Foods brand, called 365, kind of like Trader Joe’s. It’ll have grocery staples, fresh produce, prepared foods and more. And it’s taking over the former Ralphs location at Glendale Blvd. near Fletcher Dr., close to Atwater Village and Echo Park.

Silver Lake will be the first location, and is set to open in the second half of 2016. But there are others planned for Bellevue, Washington; Houston, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Santa Monica.

Whole-Foods-365-basket2

The 365 brand is meant to cater to a younger, less wealthy clientele who maybe can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods. A company spokeswoman, Marci Frumkin, assured me by email that “this new store will offer innovations similar to what customers would find at a Whole Foods Market and the quality standards will not be compromised.”

Here’s Jeff Turnas, president of 365 by Whole Foods Market, talking about the concept behind the brand.

What we’re hearing now are people who want the full Whole Foods experience and feel that Silver Lake is being dismissed as a hipster neighborhood, when in fact there are well-off families that live there and can afford to shop at Whole Foods. Dawn White, a music marketing executive, heard the news and started a petition online about a month ago to get Whole Foods to change their mind.

“I think myself, and some of my friends – and I’m clearly not speaking for all of Silver Lake, because I know there’s a lot of different opinions out there – but we were more excited about the prospect of a Whole Foods that’s got a cheese monger and a butcher and a fishmonger and a hot bar, you know, all of those elements that come in a Whole Foods.”

White’s petition is supposedly hoping to gather 10,000 signatures by September 30. Last time we checked it has about 180 signatures. Some of the messages are supportive:

We don’t want you test tube baby store. We want the whole kit and caboodle. Don’t shortchange Silverlake with your knock-off brand store.

It seems pointless to put another discount market in the neighborhood when there is already a Trader Joe’s a mile away!

Others were more dismissive. One person wrote:

Sometimes you find a cause so socially important – like race, gender, and economic inequality – that you’re compelled to organize support. This is such a cause, representing my desires to fight for six-figure families and their neighborhood concerns.

What this says about Silver Lake as a neighborhood is that it continues to go through an identity crisis. We hear a lot about the hipster-ization of Sunset Junction and all the yuppies moving in – or yuccies (young urban creatives).

The median household income is $54,339, comparable to LA as a whole. So Silver Lake is not Bel-Air or Brentwood, by any stretch. But rents are skyrocketing. Dawn White says the apartment next to hers is renting for $3,000 a month. And White makes an interesting point: the owners of La Guadalupana grocery store in Echo Park, which has long catered to Latino residents, changed its name to LG Fresh Foods Market in 2013 and promoted that they sell organic produce. Clearly a sign of the times.