Echo Park shoppers check out the new neighborhood market

Lassens' new Echo Park store

Lassens’ new Echo Park store

Echo Park — There were bare spots on the shelves, and some of the cash registers and computers were acting up. In fact, the officials of Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins were considering postponing this morning’s “soft opening” of their new Echo Park store until the afternoon to be better prepared. But with shoppers already gathered outside the Sunset Boulevard market this morning, Lassens opened the glass doors to Echo Park’s first new grocery store in several years.

At lunch time the store was busy with people inspecting the black shelves and display cases stocked with everything from $2.99 organic mangoes and radish sprouts to bottles of papaya enzyme pills and frozen, glutten-free cinnamon rolls.The first peek inside the 12,000-square-foot store found many shoppers comparing prices to other stores and contemplating whether they would no longer have to drive to Glendale or Pasadena to shop at Whole Foods or deal with the perpetually jammed Trader Joe’s parking lot in Silver Lake.

“I loved it,” said Echo Park resident Enid Ron, who purchased some organic chicken, raw milk, coconut water and olive oil on her first visit. While some prices seemed higher than at Vons and other markets, most of the items were reasonably priced, she said. “You are eating healthy,” she said.

One of the first things that Hannah Potter noticed was that the normally desolate parking lot shared with the neighboring Walgreens was noticeably fuller when she and her husband, Nick, arrived to pick up some bread, tofu and other items. “I really liked it,” she said of the store.

Today’s turnout was “a lot more than we expected,” said store manager Chelsea Conroy, who was removing plastic wrapping from brand new chairs and answering employee questions. While the Echo Park Lassens is smaller than a typical supermarket, it’s three times larger than the company’s nearest store in Los Feliz, which was the subject of gay-rights protests and boycott when it opened three years ago. That extra room allowed the company to install a larger kitchen, prepared-food area and deli in Echo Park, she said.

But Lassens may soon face competition for customers interested in the same type of organic and natural foods. Whole Foods plans to open a store less than two miles away in what is now the Silver Lake Ralphs market. While Lassens is a far smaller than Whole Foods, Raymond Martherus of Lassens said his firm distinguishes itself by carrying 100% organic produce and a large vitamins section staffed with employees who are ready to advise customers.


  1. As much as I want to support this in our community, I can’t bring myself to spend money at a company owned by a family that supported Prop 8. In the same way I won’t buy anything from Eden Foods after they’re openly anti-woman stance.

    Which is sad, we need more access to places like this, just don’t want to be giving money to an organization that promotes hatred.

    • Gay marriage is legal in California now…how long do you have to carry the torch?
      Do you not buy German or Japanese products because of WW2?
      I guess the question is – do they do anything now to “promote hatred” or did the founders of the company, personally, make a mistake back in 2008 and have done nothing against gays since?

      • Exactly, if I boycotted everyone I disagreed with politically I wouldn’t ever leave home, or visit my mother.

      • thank you for bringing up the example of Japan and Germany — because they’ve publicly accepted what they did was wrong and we can all move on. Until I hear otherwise, I have to assume that the owning family of this store still believe in promoting discriminatory laws enough to take an active part in it. This isn’t ancient history, these is the same organization, the same people, and the only public knowledge we have isn’t positive.

        So yes, it’s my choice to not spend my money there. I’m open to changing that position, but I’d like to see a good reason to do so first.

        • perfectly stated gititon! I’m on the same boat, I’m open to changing my opinion, but unfortunately, I won’t be spending a dime there as well! I wish for otherwise, as it’s extremely convenient for me 🙁

  2. would love to see Lassens come out and claim how wrong they were to promote hate. I also will not shop at Lassens due to the fact they use profits from their business to fund hate and discrimination campaigns.

  3. Yep. I am thrilled there’s a health food store on the neighborhood, but wish this store didn’t support prop 8. When a large number if people that live in the neighborhood are gay, I can’t figure out why they think gays will shop there. I’m straight and I’m not giving my money to a store that funds the anti-Marriage movement for gays. It saddens me. I am a health nut, but I guess I’ll wait for Whole Foods to come. I’d rather support a small grocery store like Lassens, but oh well.

    • i’m 100% gay, and i’m over the lassen’s prop 8 thing. i go to their store in los feliz pretty regularly, and love the selection (even though i find certain items crazy overpriced). and you know what? i’m super excited they’re opening closer to where i live, in 90026. am i self-hating? ethically compromised? or just lazy? i don’t think so.

      the thing is, no matter where the lassen family put their money in 2008, they’ve lost the anti-gay-marriage issue. BIG TIME. what are we at now – 35 states where same-sex marriage is legal? it’ll be all fifty by 2016, i promise you: it’s a fait accompli.

      of course i support gay rights – i worked HARD in the trenches against prop 22, the precursor to prop 8, in fact. but i also support freedom of speech and religion. and just because i disagree with these folks about this particular issue doesn’t mean i’m going to shun their store (and my own convenience at having a health food store in my neighborhood) forevermore.

      i’m thrilled to have lassen’s in our neck of the woods, and i’ll be thrilled when whole foods comes next year. (and i don’t have any illusion the owners of whole foods share my every political view either…)

      that’s my gay 2 cents on the issue.

      • Exactly! Thank you, Please!

      • I always wonder if I’m being an asshole by going to Chik-Fil-A or Lassen’s, until my gay friends bring me back to reality with gems like this. Thank you for sharing the insight we all need to hear sometimes. 🙂

      • you’re right they’ve lost on gay marriage, they’ll be on to the next issue.

        Remember you are voting with your dollars, supporting a company that is bigoted at it’s heart.

        You can blow it off like it’s not a big deal, but tell that to the next group they target with their effort to promote hate.

        • Hmm, I doubt the Mormons and Catholics are going to team up for another battle of this nature. Can you offer an example of what group they might target next? I think religion is silly, and Mormonism in particular is, but most rank and file members of the church aren’t evil hate-fueled people. They’re just going along with their church, which like I said, is kind of stupid, but don’t you have any co-workers, friends, or family who are religious but still basically good people?

          • Personhood amendments, shutting down funding to women’s clinics, making contraception more difficult to obtain, making Plan B-type drugs illegal or more hurdles to get them…do I need to go on?

          • what is so hard to understand? i have many friends who are religious and don’t systematically repress a groups of people. A company and organization that does have the power and has shown willingness to exert this power is very different. duhhh

          • Jonathan-

            The Mormons aren’t against birth control. And they don’t attack abortion to the degree the Catholics do, though they are opposed to it. Lassens is a Mormon chain. So, no, I’m still not worried about them spending money on the items you list, especially since in California it would be throwing money away to attempt to limit contraception or abortion,

      • So just because after A LOT of effort, that we are just now (6 years later after Prop 8) are starting to see SOME improvement, that you’ve somehow rationalized that into it’s OK to support them? Personally, any company that promotes hate in any way (woman, ethnic, sexuality, etc) I wouldn’t fathom spending any money to continue that hate (which in turn, makes society spend more to retaliate).

  4. Heartening to see my straight allies raising awareness and reminding our neighbors that this kind of bigotry is not welcome in Echo Park.
    Discrimination is not sustainable.

    Boycott Lassen’s.

  5. Echo Park resident

    Such a shame that what could be a nice resource in the community has to be run by a hateful bigot.

    Not even tempted to go inside.

  6. I cannot support them. I cannot and will not support an organization that paid money to deny the right to marry to my friends and fellow citizens, it’s just not right. If they were to come out and make a very very public apology and donate as much or more money to a deserving LGBTQ cause than they spent trying to stop allowing them to get married I might think about it. Something tells me it that hell will freeze over before that happens, though.

  7. Large vitamins section = quackery being sold to the rubes

  8. Lets see..
    I cant eat meat because i have no idea where it came form or if it was humanely killed .plus i cant eat things that can look back at me.
    I cant have anything in containers because they may have been made in China by 8 year olds.-thats out.
    I cant have fruits and vegetables organic or not , from any store, because the people who pick them work 12-14 hours doing back breaking work for shit pay.
    I cant drive a car or ride a bus because even if its an “American Car” most of the parts come from Canada or Mexico , so i will drive a Priuus-oh wait , not made in America- but i will save gas..
    But if i did have a car i of course could not use the air conditioning because its bad for the ozone.
    But i cant get gas because it is most likely from Texas , a conservative state or Saudi Arabia , whom don’t even let women drive. …and i cannot get myself to support Texas or the Saudi’s Ugh… I’ll walk, barefoot of course because most shoes come from cheap labor .
    My clothes and make-up are out because chances are they were made by more cheap labor in some sweat shop in downtown or Bangladesh and i cant afford a 70 dollar “made in the USA ” t-shirt.
    I cant eat out at any restaurant because many of the busboys cooks etc are latino , and don’t believe in abortion or gay marriage so i cant support a business that hires people who don’t believe exactly what i do.
    Oh and lastly ? My iPhone was made in China as well by even cheaper labor ….gotta get rid of it.
    I suppose if i have a cause and want to do everything ethically right, i will quit my corporate job, damn corporations, will sit at home naked, eat from my avocado tree , smoke weed all day ,that i grew and picked of course, and call it a day.
    Fuck , what a mess .
    Gotta do the right thang ya know?

    • Opie – Shame on you! It takes 54 gallons of water to grow an avocado.

    • Exactly. Like everyone’s beliefs and morals line up EXACTLY with every business they patronize?! Get real people. Bunch of hypocrites in here. Prop 8 is over and America is on it’s way to making same sex marriage legal in every state. Politicians, Employers, the Armed Forces, and Grandparents all over America have changed their mindset towards gay marriage over the past 8 years. I’ll bet that the Lassens have eased up on their stance as well and are pleased to have gay customers.

  9. Opie, you might want quit your corporate job, sit at home naked, eat from your avocado tree , and smoke weed all day . You sound stressed out.

  10. Ford was anti-Semite and I drive a ford. I also own a Mercedes. I also enjoy Picasso and rudyard Kipling. I will be shopping at lassens. Otherwise I won’t be able to eat, drive, appreciate art if I had to boycott everything that offended me. Boycott the federal reserve and banker takeover of the world, if anything. That’s where the real problem is located.

  11. @ please: Lassens may have “lost the war,” and you may be “over prop 8.” but the fact that they not only supported the proposition, but did so in such an overt manner, speaks volumes about the ideals and values Lassens holds tight. While gay marriage and prop 8 may be the example here, it’s difficult to imagine there aren’t other stakes as well.

    We consumers are afforded a very basic privilege in a capitalist society: we get to vote with our dollars. So, if throwing money at a business whose owners see you as “less than” strikes your fancy, I’d say “self-loathing” might be the only descriptor you need. That may sound glib, but it’s not a tenuous connection to make.

    On a more general note, the comments in response to this story (most of them, anyway) reinforce my love of this neighborhood and its inhabitants by a not-insignificant margin. After 15 years here, I’ve concluded that there’s no other part of town with such grounded, thoughtful, and conscientious folks calling it home. And I’m speaking of all residents here, whether they’re recent transplants or latest-generation Echo Parkers. Thank you to all of those who’ve chimed in, regardless of position on the matter.

  12. @Ben, Egopark, EPGrl, Katrina, Busta, Getiton,

    Are you boycotters avoiding these places too? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/anti-gay-companies_n_4110344.html Do you research all the companies you do business with?

    I hope you’re aware that most large corporations like Target and nearly every cellphone network donate disproportionate amounts of money to the Republican Party, who incidentally eschews same-sex marriage IN THEIR OFFICIAL PARTY PLATFORM. Whole Foods is run by an anti-Affordable Care Act libertarian nutjob. Ralphs and Vons are run by huge grocery conglomerates who have donated MILLIONS of dollars to fight the labelling of foods if they contain GMOs.

    Like Please said above, the battle is over. We won. Lassens wasted some money that would have been otherwise spent on Mormon outreach or something.

    The store will employ locals. They will pay local taxes. They employ LBGT workers. They sell thousands of products made by small, environmentally responsible companies. They carry items hard to find in EP. I can walk there and not pollute by driving to Whole Foods or wherever. So for me, these positives far outweigh the one negative.

    The world isn’t black and white unfortunately. To avoid seeing the big picture here smacks of selective outrage. President Obama was “against” gay marriage when he first ran for president. Do you reject all of his policies and actions? Are you certain that every business you patronize financially supports all of your values?

    And btw, the store was crowded yesterday, with a broad spectrum of people of all ages and colors and presumably, sexual orientation! They’ll do just fine in Echo Park.

    • This. Thank you for saying it way better than I would have.

    • Well said.

      Prop 8 is ancient history. Move on, people. Its a big world out there.

      Welcome to EP, Lassen’s. Happy to have you in the neighborhood.

    • Don’t forget Vons and Ralphs locking out their workers to break the union, and try to ensure that new grocery workers would not be paid a living wage…

    • As a matter of fact, I do not spend my money in any of those establishments. We all make choices about where to spend money, I choose to make informed ones and I feel damn good about it.

      “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

      • I’m honestly curious where you shop. I shop at the EP Farmers Market every week so I know you have to go to a “regular” store to get many items.

      • Really epgirl? Informed?
        Lol !
        Where do you spend your money you keep in big abusive bank institutions ?
        I hope you don’t drive and purchase gas from the petroleum companies that pollute the earth and gouge the drivers that need gas to get to and from work.
        You are not informed, with all due respect you are in denial .

    • yes, I actively keep track of who I give money to. I choose not to support companies that hold bigoted views and actively use their profits to marginalize groups or people. I’m proud of it.

      If you don’t understand where your money goes and how your money impacts others, well, maybe you should. You act like you have no choice but to support organizations that have ill intentions, it’s really not that hard. Your laziness is a poor example.

      • Right, we are all lazy ….
        Another person in denial

      • Busta, might you please share with us some of the businesses you frequent? What gas company is ethical for example? Bank? Phone company? Grocery chain? Department store?

        If you grow your own food, bike everywhere, and live “off the grid” I applaud you. Somehow, though, I feel you probably make some compromises and balance the good with the bad like most ethical people do.

    • Yes, I do boycott those companies. I cannot in good conscience give money to organizations and businesses that seek to strip a class of basic human rights. While the issue may be in the past, those who sought injustice are still in control of these entities. They are people who have a lot of money to throw around, and I don’t want to see one cent of my money going towards inequality in any form. They are all companies that lack any sort of protections for their lgbt employees (and, in most cases, other minority employees as well), and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Although the fight for marriage equality will soon be behind us, any organization that reserves the right and ability to indiscriminately remove someone from their job simply because they are who they are won’t see one red cent from me. I see no problem in that. The problem is with the people who don’t understand that the strides we’ve witnessed are but the milestones of incremental progress made along the road to full and just equality.

  13. Now talk about “culturally unwelcoming,” to borrow from the recent Highland Park threads. Spending over $30,000 to strip neighbors and fellow citizens of their equal rights is about as culturally unwelcoming a move as I can imagine.

    You won’t find me shopping at Lassens as I have yet to hear an apology from them for their truly bigoted stance.

  14. The place was packed all day yesterday and is busy again today.

    Lassens 1
    Detractors 0

  15. I think the point here is that the owner of the stores felt SO strongly about the gay marriage issue that he just had to contribute money to the opposition, so that gay marriage would remain illegal.

    What negative effect could gay marriage possibly have on his business? Why force his Ventura and Camarillo stores to donate against the cause? And his niece donating family money as well.. all the while saying “we have many gay and lesbian customers, and they love us.” She sounds like a piece of work.

    So they lost. But their conservative politics will live on. If this is not the case, then they need to issue
    a statement of reconciliation. Otherwise I don’t trust them. Look for them donating to causes against
    womens rights and Planned Parenthood, etc in the future. They made a lot of people mad, and that’s bad for business.

    So let them issue some kind of lame public statement saying ‘we’re sorry, sort of’ and I guess we’ll all forget.

  16. Here’s the deal:
    I won’t shop at Lassen’s for personal and political reasons. You shop at Lassen’s for your own reasons. Honestly, you have a choice and I have a choice. I don’t harass you and insist on calling you names because you do. I just don’t want to give money to a store that doesn’t believe in giving a good majority of their customers the right to marry. If you want to shop there, that’s your right. I am not questioning your right or even judging you. I just choose not to.

  17. I wiil not step foot in their store.

  18. What a bummer. I was really looking forward to shopping at this place.

    Make no mistake, if you shop here you are directly supporting the views of the business owners. They will use your money to fund their causes just as they have done in the past.

    • But…will they? They donated once to prop 8. is there any record of them donating to other things since 2008? Is this organic store all about fracking? Or starting more wars? Or in favor of coal? Etc.?
      Just because they did something once it doesn’t mean they are still doing it or have other ’causes’ they fund…

    • Well, I was all pro-boycott when the Los Feliz store opened, but then in a concurrent news story, one of the longtime employees, who was openly gay (and even in a management-type position, if I remember correctly), said that they didn’t appreciate the boycott because it threatened their job, which they truly liked, as well as the jobs of all the other employees, who were for the most part local neighborhood residents. So there was that.

      Then I subsequently went in the store just to have a look around, and that made me realize, that yes, when you spend money there, you are financially supporting a handful of some devoutly Mormon family members and their religion’s agenda, but you’re also supporting the small organic farmers (a lot of Lassen’s organic produce is grown locally) and all the hundreds of businesses whose products they carry, many if not most who are small family-owned companies struggling to survive in a corporate-run world, and whose political and ideological beliefs align with my own and yours. And you’re supporting all the employees who are super nice, kind and helpful … and I know this is stereotyping by looks alone … but most of them are also most likely politically and socially liberal in their viewpoints. So my thinking was, yeah, if I shop there I’m helping a few of the bad guys, but I’m also helping hundreds of good guys, so in the long run or the big picture, we’re coming out ahead, especially since the bad guys are losing anyway.

      Sometimes you compromise for the greater good. Having an easy and convenient (within walking distance … and I always walk) place to purchase the products and produce of small companies who are growing organically, practicing sustainability, using fair trade ingredients, and implementing green manufacturing policies etc. , and are also frequently financial supporters of the social changes you’re fighting for, is not such a bad thing.

      • Well said, ese-ese. Some folks don’t seem to grasp that the world of ethics has many grey areas. Too many knee-jerk responses instead of looking at the bigger picture.

  19. I haven’t been inside yet and my reservations were based on the prop 8 issues, but I am curious if this store hired any people who have lived in Echo Park all their lives or is just full of LA transplants?

    • Its illegal to hire people on the basis of where they live or how long they have lived there. Think of where you, your family and friends work and where and how long they have lived there. Most people wouldn’t want those same rules applied to them. Definitely understand the notion though, as you want local EP folks to get those jobs that Lassens is creating. But in practice its not legal.
      Considering my family has been in this country (before it was a country) for over 300 years most of you would not get jobs working for me based on that notion. Most of you are total newbies compared to my family.

  20. Curious how none of the detractors will list some ethically pure businesses they frequent. I am truly interested, as I prefer to support businesses whose values are similar to mine. Even Trader Joes, who I generally have positive feelings toward, gives about the same to Democrats and Republicans. And they are anti-union.

    If you don’t think that most large corporations donate big money to the anti-gay Republican party, you’ve got your head buried in the sand.

  21. There is no purity. Naivety and denial do not serve us well. We pick our causes and our fights. We make choices. There are many Republican anti-union gays. There are many pro-union anti-gay Democrats. When Prop 8 was on the ballot, Barack Obama was against gay marriage and many who voted for him also voted for Prop 8 and may have provided the votes that passed it. Be and stay aware. Whole Foods has attempted to crush anything resembling a union drive among its employees. http://inthesetimes.com/article/16664/whole_foods_artisanal_union_busting How Republican Is Whole Foods? http://www.fastcodesign.com/3035033/how-republican-is-whole-foods-i-used-an-app-to-find-out

  22. Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?
    Challenging elitism, racism, and obesity with a grocery store may sound crazy. Here’s what happened when Whole Foods tried to do it in Detroit.

  23. It truly is heartening to read that so many people get that what the Lassen family did was terribly wrong and isn’t ancient history.

    For me it boils down to them not believing that “all men are created equal” and spending over $30,000 in support of that belief. They believe they are better than me, better than many of my friends, better than many of their employees, better than many of their suppliers, and better than many of their customers.

    To me two of the best things about our country are the foundational tenant that all men are created equal and the great diversity among the people living their lives here. The Lassen family believes the opposite and spent over $30,000 to say so. That is why I won’t spend my money in their store.

    I would feel this strongly if they made such a statement against women, African Americans, people of Mexican descent (none of which I am) or any group really.

  24. As a long time resident of Echo Park who supports marriage equality, I will not be patronizing Lassen’s. I do not approve of Peter Lassen’s $30,000 donation in 2008 to support Proposition 8 and I cannot, in good conscience, EVER shop there. Between the Friday Farmers market next to Echo Park and the huge Sunday Hollywood organic farmers market, I will sufficiently supply myself with organic foods. I lived for years without having a serviceable market in that location and have resigned myself to the unfortunate fact that there is still not one.

  25. I’m boycotting $9.99 a pound asparagus!!!!!

    • For some reason I don’t actually understand I never buy asparagus. I guess I see it as restaurant food. My mistake. What should the cost?

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