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Friday, July 17, 2009

The Echo Park Vons is getting a new lifestyle

The Vons in Echo Park has always seemed out of place, a 1960s-era suburban supermarket surrounded by a mostly empty parking lot, caravans of RVs occupied by homeless people and flaming taco trucks. It seemed as if the owners of Vons, a division of Safeway Corp., had lost track of this urban outpost in their giant supermarket empire. How else to explain why this "Marina-style" store, beloved by architecture fans for its sweeping parabolic roof, had never been remodeled even as nearly every other Vons nearby has been supersized or postmodernized. Many Echo Park residents have long complained about the dingy and tree-less parking lot, crusty shopping carts and locked-up wine and liquor cabinets. It has been derided as a "ghetto" Vons by some shoppers and, by at least one employee, as the "7-Eleven" Vons because of its small size. Well, change is finally coming to the Vons at Alvarado and Montana.

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Crews have been working for several weeks to convert the store into the chain's Lifestyle format, which has been making its way across the company for the last four years. The site has been the home of a supermarket since 1952, when Safeway opened a store. It's not clear when the existing store was built but architecture fans will be happy to hear that the building will not be demolished or enlarged and will retain its distinctive arched roof and large windows.

"The architecture of this store is unique and offers a good platform for our Lifestyle Program," said company spokesman Carlos Illingworth in an email. "We have completed remodels in several of these stores to great results."

The only other visible exterior changes, besides a new shade of sage green paint, is that the parking lot will be resurfaced and the chain link fence along Alvarado will be removed. There are no plans, however, to add trees or landscaping, he said.

Most of the change will take place inside, where the 24,000-square foot store is getting repainted in Starbucks-like shades of sage, bronze and amber, with fake wood floors, dark shelving and rows of spot lights completing the look. A new bakery and self-serve deli- selling soups, sandwiches, pasta salads and other prepared meals - are taking the place of the check cashing booth near the entrance. Illingworth would not say how much the company is spending on the remodel, which is expected to be finished next month.

The upgraded Echo Park Vons will most likely become fodder for those opposed to the forces of gentrification - looks like those bins of dried chilies and Mexican spices are never coming back - and those who fear the G-Force has taken a detour - sorry, no in-store sushi bar of Starbucks here.

Maybe the Taco Zone truck can start serving lattes.


  1. This store has been a mess for decades, so it's good to hear that they are updating it without screwing with the building's great architecture.
    But come on- no trees? What kind of acres of asphalt "lifestyle" are they going for?

  2. This is good, it is needed. Now, if we could just get them to spruce up the ghetto Ralphs on Glendale...

  3. Thanks for the update on our Vons! I think it will be a huge improvement, but wish they'd incorporate some trees into the plan.

  4. But we are in the Ghetto. Get used to it! Shop at what used to be Pioneer Market. Sav A Lot. Alot easier and cheaper.

  5. So where do people with families go now for low-cost staples and discounts on groceries?

  6. "low-cost staples and discounts on groceries?"
    I thought that Vons was expensive!

  7. could we get some soy ice cream in the freezer too please

  8. Low cost staples? That Vons is not low cost and hasn't been in years. They are more expensive than Gelsons! And I've gone to pick up staples like whole wheat flour and found they had run out. I don't care if they lock up the liquor but Advil?

    I'm glad to hear there will be some fresh prepared foods at the store, that has been lacking. I'd love to be able to stop in and bring home something for dinner, and not have to cook. They are nice people, but the makeover is really needed.

  9. When the Pioneer closed (very sad) I called the then new manager of Vons and asked them if they realized how badly we needed a good market in this area, and could they somehow help fill the void, not lock up the medicine for example (frightfully insulting), get rid of the fence, install a community bulltein board. I was told that in fact until the Pioneer closed this Vons was slated for closure due to low volume, and that in fact they were hoping to make improvements slowly by slowly to this store to fill the void left by Pioneer. To his and all of the employees credit they immediately started with keeping the inside as clean as possible with the old floor and vegetable bins. They strove to be friendly. They brought in more organic products. I am so glad they are remodeling. I do wish it would extend to a community bulletin board, trees in the lot or at the least outdoor plant sales like some markets, would help it appear more friendly. I also hope they will focus on keeping products and prices that serve the entire wide diversity of this area. In terms of prices it is far cheaper than the nearby Ralphs (not to mention much faster to check out of). Get a Von's card and you will save much more (yes, I also shop at Save A Lot and TJ's and the Fresh and Easy, no I don't shop at the Ralph's).
    So, thanks Vons and the local employees, keep on going!

  10. I have been complaining for years about the filthy, "wheel locked" baskets for years. It's about time that "ONS" is finally going to be a VONS. We really do need the chocolate fudge cake so we don't have to go to the Virgil & Sunset Vons to get our sugar fix.

    Yes, they should have tree and flowers. Echo Park deserves it...after all these years supporting "ONS".

  11. Hey Vons, could we get some PAPER grocery bags while you're at it?

  12. BRING back PIONEER Market that was once on Sunset Blvd and Echo Park Blvd. It always had fresh vegetables and fruit and FRESH meat. When it closed, I cried.
    I refuse to shop at the VONS on Alvarado. Its small, dingy, never has the yogurts my family enjoys. Sigh.
    I stick to Trader's and the VONS on Sunset/Virgil.
    Ralphs on Glendale blows too: overpriced and almost EXPIRED items on the shelves. Gross. -Rocky

  13. Go to Super King on San Fernando Road. You will get bargains there.