In what is perhaps another chapter in the gentrification of Venice, the building on Lincoln Boulevard just north of Rose Avenue that used to house a Big Lots discount store reopened as a Whole Foods Market on Wednesday, September 3.
The 48,750-square-foot space was six months in remodeling, construction, installation of fixtures, equipment, and lighting, and modifications to the parking lot, according to Associate Venice Store Team Leader Andre Sugars.
The new Whole Foods – the first in Venice – employs about 200 people, many from the local community, Sugars said, and added, “We have set up donation programs with various local nonprofit organizations,” such as a September 10 Community Support Day on which five percent of net sales will be donated to the Venice Family Clinic, which provides comprehensive health care and education, mental health, and child development services to low income families and individuals on the Westside.
“We are excited to be here,” Sugars said, “and we look forward to serving great food to a community that has looked forward to our being here.”
The Venice Community Alliance, a coalition of Venice community and faith-based institutions, welcomed Whole Foods after negotiating with the market to ensure local hiring and to guarantee that the new store spreads benefits to the community surrounding the store. “We wanted to work with Whole Foods Market on the basis of ‘Whole Foods, whole community,’” said Michele Prichard, who chairs the board of Venice Community Housing Corporation, an Alliance member. “Approximately 75 of the 200 employees hired for the new store come from Venice’s 90291 zip code. Venice lost jobs when the Big Lots store previously on the site closed. The new hiring boosts local employment.”
“Our Alliance expressed the community’s concern that Venice should provide jobs and housing for income groups of all levels and not become a preserve for only the well to do,” she continued.
On the other hand, Santa Monica resident Shawn Barry expressed her own concern that the building has become an unaffordable Whole Foods where only the well to do can shop, rather than an affordable Trader Joe’s. The single mother of a 17-year-old Samohi student who lives near 4th and Marine Streets in Ocean Park said that a clerk at “her” Trader Joe’s on Pico Boulevard near 32nd Street told her that TJ’s “put in a bid for the Big Lots building but lost out to Whole Foods.”
“There’s no way I can afford [Whole Foods], but I can afford Trader Joe’s. … Most everyone I know can’t afford Whole Foods; I’m surrounded by people that can’t afford it.” She added, “It really bums me out that we were that close to having a larger Trader Joe’s.”
Venice Whole Foods manager Sugars says that the new store will feature “gluten-free foods, a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan foods, and a nutrition department that provides homeopathic alternatives” as well as “a wide selection of prepared to-go foods,” including a meat department smokehouse where customers “can request to have [meats] cooked to order on the premises.”
The new market has a line-up of special events to celebrate its opening from the September 3 Grand Opening through September 14, including neighborhood BBQs, wine tastings, and value tours. wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/calendar/VEN