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.

Ralphs 2.0

Would you sit here in the cool evening air? Inquiring minds wish to know.
Would you sit here in the cool evening air? Inquiring minds wish to know.
Ralphs 2011
Ralphs 1970’s-2013

The redesigned Ralph’s on Hazeltine debuted last month, cool, bright and modernist.  Gone is the asphalt parking lot, banished from view below stairs.  The front doors are pushed right up the sidewalk, the better to scoop up the foot traffic in a manner befitting….West Hollywood. Will it?  The jury is still out. Despite a take-out cafe and on-site Starbucks and a cluster of shaded tables and benches out front which all but announce: hang out here, oh ye walkers of the neighborhood, oh ye cool people of Sherman Oaks, no one appeared to be taking the store up on its offer.  Begging the question, do the yentas walk in Sherman Oaks? Do the grandkids?  Does anyone? Is it that kind of neighborhood?

Andy Hurvitz at the HereinVanNuys blog has more:  Ralph’s Sherman Oaks.