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.