Lights, Camera, Eat

Backstage at the the most ostentatious grocery store in the history of San Fernando Valley, opening Wednesday….

Ralphs started out as a local chain in Los Angeles. If you wrote a complaint to the manager for bad service, he would come to your house with a fruit basket.   Alpha-Beta started in Pomona, and it ran cheesy ads with low end brands emerging from a bottomless paper bag and actor Alan Hamel urging viewers to “tell a friend”.

It was a different world then. You could smoke in the aisles and fill your cart with Sugar Smacks and Jiffy, and give your kid a shiner if he was making too much noise.

Now Whole Foods and Pavilions and Gelson’s are taking no prisoners, sparing no expense in the war of luxury. Little zings of moral affirmation will be found on every shelf. Local this. Fair trade that. No preservatives, no hormones, no trans fats. The gentry will be satisfied!   The little people can f*** off to Costco.  (Or they can shop at Amazon. Win-win, Bezos.)

Whole Foods employees have been told they will be ticketed and towed if they park in the surrounding neighborhood.   But they are expressly instructed not to park in the garage. Those spaces are reserved for shoppers.   In a metropolis where every public land use decision pivots on parking space requirements, this is a remarkable oversight. Unless of course it isn’t.

7 thoughts on “Lights, Camera, Eat”

  1. I loved Von’s until it became Jon’s. We used to watch Spanish TV to work on our language and I still remember “digale un amigo, AlphaBeta!”

    Now I shop in multiple locations included Whole Foods, Gelson’s-equivalent, AlphaBeta-equivalent, TJ’s and Costco. Just can’t get everything in one place. Those high end places are obsessed with take out food. I haven’t seen data anywhere about whether supply meets demand but at lunchtime both our local high end places get lots of traffic. To tell the truth I’d rather eat at McDonalds.

    Where are the employees supposed to park? Oh, I get it, they are walking from the great commuter rail that was put in for easy access…

    1. Let’s put it this way, there’s a high end bar/restaurant, a taqueria, a pizzeria, a deli, a sushi bar, a charcuterie, a poke bowl, two salad bars, four hot bars, employing about a hundred people…. just for takeout.

  2. Sorry, before I decamped to Olympia WA I used to shop at the original TJ and or Lucky markets mostly. Now I have a local Co-op that has most everything I need foodwise. Sorry you have to shop in the urban upscale ghettos. I pity you all. You will starve before I do… but don’t try to come up here since we will shoot you.

    1. In starvation terms, how long do you think your Co-op will survive as a viable provider of goods once America is ruled by ad hoc tribes of The Walking Hungry, fleeing the cities, roaming the countryside….

  3. In high school (the late 1980’s) I worked in a supermarket in the Midwest. One of my many duties was making sure the ashtrays located at the end of the aisles (there were no “endcaps” then) were empty and clean. My other duty was burning the thousands of cardboard boxes we accumulated each month in the gas-fired incinerator attached to the back of the store. If you saw black smoke belching from the smokestack behind the loading dock, you knew it was box burning day. The guy who owned the store detested the government in all forms; he resisted the installation of disabled-accessible amenities and thought minimum wage was “communist.” But – the customers lined up for the thick-cut steaks and the elderly woman who worked in the bakery could make a lard-based sheet cake that knocked your socks off. Seeing these photos makes me chuckle… I think to myself, “Where would the Kefir have gone back in ’88?”

      1. All I have is my plastic name tag… it belonged to someone else before I got it, so the owner just used one of the classic “Label Maker” labels to cover up the previous user.

        It looked a lot like the photo with the man smoking a cigar (above.) Basic refrigerated perimeter with central aisles layout, with produce occupying one corner. Entire back wall was meat. Like I mentioned, no endcaps with shelves. The man in the photo is walking next to what’s known as an “end bunker”, which is a small refrigerated case found on the end of aisles. There were a few of those.

        One of my better memories involved “grazing” or eating food off the shelves. The owner had a strict policy that if he caught you grazing, you’re fired. We got around that rule by “accidentally” damaging items which sent them to the damaged goods area for the vendors to take back. Once they were “damaged” they kinda ceased to exist in his system. Oreo packages were especially easy to damage since they were wrapped in chintzy plastic… poke a small hole in the front and it’s snack time. I remember sitting on the loading dock during break time eating Oreos, drinking a Pepsi, not caring much about anything.

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