Erewhon Expands in Los Angeles with Mix of Ground-Up and Conversion Retail Projects

Erewhon Markets, RDC Designs, Santa Monica, Studio City, Silver Lake, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Culver City, I. Magnin & Company, H.G. Chambers, Culver Steps, Gensler, Kroger, Aldi, Ralph’s Fresh Fare, Beverly Hills Bristol Farms, Co-opportunity Market

By Catherine Sweeney 

Erewhon Markets is expanding its presence throughout Southern California, with approximately six stores planned or recently developed. According to RDC, the architecture firm behind the projects, the new designs include a mix of historic conversions and ground-up developments, which showcase a unique retail experience indicative of changing consumer needs. 

The new markets feature unique interior design in high-density urban settings that are unlike many other spaces used for typical grocery store chains. Most recently, RDC wrapped up designs on two Erewhon Markets in Santa Monica and Silver Lake. Erewhon Studio City also just opened to the public, and other locations in Pasadena, Culver City and Beverly Hills are currently being constructed. 

“Brick and mortar retail tends to be a formulaic industry, but that is not us,” said Erewhon Chief Development Officer Yuval Chiprut. “That means attractive but complex settings that most groceries avoid because of site constraints. But that’s often where we do best, aided by the design chemistry between RDC and Erewhon.”

The company’s newest location is set to open in 2023 at 475 S. Lake in Pasadena. The store will open at a historic 1940s-era building that was once home to the I. Magnin & Company luxury department store. The 41,760 square-foot building is currently in the process of receiving historic preservation as well due to its classic mid-century exterior, which were originally designed by Los Angeles-based H.G. Chambers. 

In adapting the historic structure, RDC will keep the exterior elements the same, but will restore the roof, slabs and columns while also adding a rooftop deck. 

“These older buildings tend to have a lot of interesting surprises with them. They did things differently 70 years ago. They had different construction techniques and the code was a lot different at that time, so there’s a lot of challenges with trying to bring the building up to current code. It’s especially true when we have a historic building because we’re trying to balance historic preservation with modern code and sometimes those things conflict with one another,” RDC Associate Principal Terry Todd said. 

He continued, “It has to be complimentary but different, so that way if someone looks at the building 10 to 20 years from now, they can see what was original and what was added.”

Other locations, however, include ground-up developments, such as in Studio City and Culver City. 

The Culver City building will be located in the Culver Steps development at 9300 Culver Boulevard. The 14,258 square-foot store is scheduled to open in 2022. 

The Studio City location recently opened in November 2021 at 2833 Ventura Boulevard. The new-construction location was designed by Gensler with RDC completing the interiors. According to RDC, the complex design included a variety of solutions needed to adapt to the urban footprint of the building, such as the routing of additional plumbing and other infrastructure to serve both the market and cafe. 

“They pick the most challenging spaces to put their markets into. They’re looking at retail spaces no other grocery retail would think of and there’s a huge amount of technical challenges that come along with that,” Todd said. 

Whether new construction or an adaptive reuse project, each space must meet the needs of Erewhon’s urban customers. According to RDC, the company’s strategy is to excel in locations that may not have traditional grocery specs, such as loading docks or large parking garages, while also maintaining a local approach. 

“Erewhon is really unique among retail grocers. One of the accounts I’m heavily involved in aside from Erewhon is Kroger… We also work with Aldi, and these are really rigid corporate structures, they have very strict criteria and standards for their buildings,” Todd said. 

“You walk into one Aldi and then you go to a different one, and they’re almost identical. Erewhon is very different from an interior design standpoint. You walk into Silver Lake and it’s much different from Venice or what Pasadena will be like. They’re all very different. However, there are some things we keep as  a thread from project to project. We tried to standardize their lighting for example and some of the finishes. We generally standardize the concrete floors and the signage and things like that are consistent.”

In addition to Erewhon, RDC’s recent work includes the design of Ralphs Fresh Fare in Sherman Oaks, the Beverly Hills Bristol Farms and a new Co-opportunity Market in Culver City. The Long Beach-based design firm was built in 1979 and has work spanning a variety of commercial uses, including hospitality, retail, entertainment, residential, and office spaces.