These days the word Erewhon is basically an adjective in the LA health food scene. It can be used to describe something that’s high quality, thoroughly healthy, and altogether just the best-of-the-best. Since 1968 Erewhon has been at the top of the food chain as far as grocery stores are concerned, competing with competitors like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s on another level. Erewhon has understood balance, radiance, lifestyle, gut health, and the pairing of foods, probably, before you were even born.
Undergoing new ownership in 2011, the new Erewhon took what the old Erewhon had created and added that high-end aspect. Jason Widener, the Store Director of the third (and newest) location in Venice Beach (it opened in April) describes what the brand was before as “super hippity dippity—the kind of rational where you would only take a shower twice a week,” he laughs. “Life is still good, and you might have a bit of a smell but it’s still cool.” The new Erewhon, however, came in with a mindset that cleanliness is next to godliness. And you can see it in everything from the architecture of the historical 1950’s building, to the leadership, to the food. Every aspect of the place screams integrity.
The vibe walking into the store is cool, hip, and fun, but it also seeps of deeper meaning. The vaulted ceilings cover more than just a grocery store—they cover a lifestyle that provides a vision into what radiant living is really all about. Just by looking around at the fellow patrons shopping along with you, you know you’re in good company. People who shop at Erewhon put health first and they’re knowledgeable about the stuff they put into their bodies, yet they’re not hoity-toity. It’s a nonjudgmental place where no one is better than anyone else. Although it’s changed over the years, it still has that hippie vibe that made Erewhon, Erewhon.
The products they carry speak for themselves. Jason likes to get grassroots with people. “I love building small companies and ideas. That’s what’s different about us. If you tell me you’re already in Whole Foods I don’t want you,” he says. He understands health and trends, and realizes that his core customers know as much as he does, so he listens to their ideas. “The other day a guy came in smiling ear to ear eager to share these special honey sticks that no one’s ever tried. We get excited about new food here. We’re always looking for the next thing,” he adds.
Jason likes to think of his store as the little store that could– as the heartbeat of what the health community could be. He knows it can be expensive, but he also knows how important it is to supply your body with quality, healthy foods. “Before I started working here, I didn’t have any money but I would still eat here. I wanted to put my mind and energy in the right place. I made it a priority.”
Community is everything at Erewhon. They recycle their byproducts, using them in their own commissary or giving them to local ranches like Apricot Lane Farms. They take pride in their relationships and in the food they offer. “When people come in here and don’t know what Erewhon is, I tell them ‘forget how beautiful this place is, forget the customer service… now let me show you these avocados. Do you know what it took to make these?’ Then I tell them where they’re from.” He continues, “I talk about these avocados like God came and kissed them himself. Like you don’t understand what they had to do with the grass and the soil to get this freakin’ avocado!”
Jason loves what he does, and it’s obvious. His conversations are real. He is real. And the food is as organic, whole, and as real as it gets. It’s truly a community market– a family. He goes on, “The small businesses and farmers went through so much blood, sweat, and tears to get the product here, and then it gets here, and we drop the ball at the end? No way! To me, Erewhon is about truly good service. We have a business because we’re lovingly giving our customers the food that was so hard to find, to get, and to source, and they appreciate it. I like to align ourselves with purpose.”
And that’s exactly what Erewhon is truly giving out, a purpose for life, a respect for food, and if you happen to run into Jason, one big hearty hug. (He says he gives out about 50 a day, and boy do we believe it!)
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of The Fullest. She just figured out the correct way to pronounce ‘Erewhon’, like, yesterday. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media via @lindizzaster.