Armenian Zombie Market Walking

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

Dead store, walking

The Freasy, in its heyday

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The former Fresh & Easy in North Hollywood has undergone the Vons-to-Jons makeover, but without the makeover.  Designwise they’ve kept everything: the color scheme, the refrigerated shelves, even the signage. They just pulled the Easy off with a crane, dropped Royal in its place, and stocked the shelves with lots of Armenian product at Armenian prices.  There’s no stopping commerce zombies.

Goodbye, Freasy

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Well, this is a blow. Fresh and Easy is closing all 97 stores in California this week.  Liquidation of inventory has begun. Mrs. UpintheValley took advantage of the markdowns to clear out the bulk items at the Sepulveda store, which was always so conveniently situated right on the way home.

Soon it will be another empty husk in a strip mall. Maybe the Dollar King next door will expand into it like an invading ant army.  Maybe it will sit empty for half a year, while the landlord sits on the property, watching its value increase by the minute. In Los Angeles, the real estate casino always wins.

I suppose a sudden arrival of Trader Joes would be too much to hope for.

Not sure why the Freasy didn’t do better.  While it didn’t offer the vast inventory of Costco, or priced as cheap as SuperKing or the Mexican markets, it had an interesting product mix; plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, pre-packaged semi-gourmet meals for singles, ample parking, easy self-checkout.  Also, it was the only place in the Valley open 24 hours, which made for a welcome 3 am pit stop after a long night Ubering.  Andrew at HereinVanNuys described it as like grocery shopping at Ikea, which was not an inaccurate assessment.   It was a store that made perfect sense on paper, but never got the trade to come through the doors.

Seeing the going out of business signs made me think of a different strip mall, at Selma and Cahuenga.  A decade ago it was just another shitty corner in a tacky, at times crime-addled, part of Hollywood.  There was the inevitable liquor store/laundromat combo, the impossibly tight parking spaces, insufficient in number. Crackheads and winos, puttering about. Trash.  Garish signage. A forgettable eyesore.

Today there are three, count them, three, gastropubs, a Pinkberry, and a couple boutiques.  In one strip mall.

The corner of Sepulveda and Vanowen a decade ago had a Ralphs, a Baskin Robbins, high traffic and good visibility.  It was surrounded by quiet leafy neighborhoods of mid-century homes populated by middle class people with jobs.  Dated, certainly, but a solid business investment, one would think.  Apparently one would be wrong.

The divergent fates of these two corners say a lot about what’s happening to this City.

Full moon over Fresh and Easy

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In the warm, warm evening air, just before midnight, gentle zephyrs kiss the back of your neck as you cross the parking lot to pick up some nosh on the way home from the gym after a long day in which almost nothing went right.  Quiet.  So quiet you can hear your sneakers on the asphalt.  A measure of calm in the chaos of the world.   Up and down the moon-dappled streets all around you, people tucked in bed.  Even the freeways are in dormition.  Unexpected tranquility. One of those moments when the Valley is the absolute right place to be.