Van Nuys, Rebranded

The city of Cleveland, which has lost half its population since 1970, once known as “the mistake by the lake” and the famed location of Ten Cent Beer Night has hired branding experts to promote its virtues to the outside world, New Urbanist style. The sales pitch they arrived at was World-class experiences without the world-class ego”.   

Well, hell. We could do that right here. If any place could use a re-brand, it is our lovely working-class Brigadoon in The Nuys. It makes for a good drinking game.

The first slogan which came to mind was: Van Nuys, not a damn thing wrong with it! which had the irascible defensiveness of a man defending his love for a forgotten brand of cheap beer.
Alternately, there is always the appeal to Low Expectations:
Van Nuys: Affordable, not cheap.
You know what you’re getting.
Van Nuys: Good enough!
Or passive-aggressive aspiration:
You’ll feel prettier here.

Half the house, half the commute.

Do more with less. 
Ironic:
Who said Hollywood doesn’t have a stepsister?
Futurist:
Back to the streetcar.
Bitter:
Skid Row without the juice bars.
Sardonic:
Millennial prices without the gentrification.
Obscure:
Free yourself of memory sickness. (Mrs. U didn’t get it either)
Misdirection:
Fifty food trucks can’t be wrong.
Convenience:
Here, be comfortable with yourself.
Bold:
The next Highland Park! 
(I stand by this, btw)
Alliterative:
Dollar stores and Dialysis, Payday Lending and Palm Trees
Comparative:
Cleveland, without the weather.

A call to action:
Look beyond the hedge.
Simplicity:
That’s right. Van Nuys, motherf@$#%*r.

That was fun.

Rock Bottom, Meet Basement

Aldi, the estranged cousin of Trader Joe’s, just opened on Roscoe Blvd.   It’s about the size of TJs, but with a bigger parking lot.  The most successful grocery chain in the world with 8000 locations, and expanding aggressively into southern Cal, this is their first store in the Los Angeles proper, and but a mile from Chez UpintheValley.  Let’s check it out.

The product mix consists of a lot of private label brands I’ve never heard of,  containing items I’ve seen before in different wrapping. Or at least think I have. Is this not a Kind Bar, with a new label?

Isn’t this Duncan-Hines? That’s what ze Germans want us to think.  For all I know it is Duncan-Hines. Is this important? Probably not, in the case of cake mix.

But what about organic?   The Whole Foods version is on the right, a dollar fifty more.  So is Aldi buying from Horizon and undercutting on price, or are both Horizon and Aldi buying from third-party vendors? Or is the Aldi version deficient in some way? Are they getting the chaff from the first cut of quality control and passing the savings on to you?

The nutritional information is identical.  Aldi is opaque in the provenance of their products. Reading the label tells you nothing. Everything is “distributed” from Aldi. Inc., Batavia, Illinois.  One can see how semi-familiar packaging flattens the branding distinction, bringing the price point forward in the decision process.

Do I really want to go below 50 cents a pound for pig meat?    Five more days of Lent….think it will keep?  Tempting…

Here’s where the store goes sideways for me:  a surprising quantity of non-food items clogging the aisles.  With limited shelf space and a deficit of certain products I was hoping for -better beer selection, more vegan ice cream, Trader Joes-like stuff- why so many steering wheel covers, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide alarms, gun safes, dog crates, bookshelves and garden furniture? Do you really want to sell shovels and bagged soil three blocks from Home Depot?   How about a two-ton car jack? Why these products? Were they remaindered?  The margins on a square foot basis can’t possibly work. Unless they can.

China is 43 miles from Van Nuys, disgorging craptastic product lines at the Port of Long Beach like the Normandy invasion.  Every single day. In that environment, nothing should surprise us.

Aldi has the warehouse feel of Costco but without the scale.  Priced to compete with TJ’s, but grey, institutional and cheerless, and lacking the unique gourmet items.  I was hoping for Fresh and Easy,  which I loved, and this is not it.    Fresh and Easy is dead as last weeks mackerel and Aldi is expanding, so what do I know?  Then again, so is Harbor Freight.