By CHARLES ANDREWS

HAPPY DANG NEW YEAR!

No, seriously. Despite my cynicism over over-the-top New Year’s Eve celebrations expressed in my last NOTEWORTHY column, I am an eternal optimist (…deep down) and do see Jan.1 as an opportunity to hope that many good things might unfold in the next 365. Why not? Aren’t we due for a break? Some major breaks?

Next week, my New Year’s wishes for all.

WHAT IS GOING ON?

At our downtown Vons? I think I may have figured it out.

Besides the hangers-on getting more sketchy. That’s part of a larger problem Vons can’t do much about. No, I‘m talking about the produce section. And quite a few other things. I should know, I’ve been shopping there since it turned from a Safeway to a Vons in ‘93.

There are some really good people who work there who do a great job and still with a smile, despite the worsening management situation. Let me at least name Brandon, Azer, Andrea, Casandra and Sidney who have been exceptional for years, and there are others. They won’t talk about it but you can see it on their faces and their avoidance of pointed questions that they are not happy with the way things have changed there. I would guess there must be a serious morale problem by now.

Often when a new boss comes in and shakes things up at a workplace, workers don’t like it. But when you have employees who have for years been doing their best to make things work for the customer and the corporation, and now their hands are tied by new practices that don’t work, good workers naturally become frustrated. I witnessed part of the “new team” berating loudly and publically a veteran in the deli section. Not right, not good business practice.

THEY’RE STILL GETTING PAID BY THE HOUR

But I have a choice, and so do you. I’m spending more time and more frustration shopping there and even though it’s closer to my home than the nearest Ralphs, I’m less and less willing to go to Vons. And with traffic increasing ridiculously on Lincoln, it now usually takes longer than it would to get to a more distant Ralphs anyway.

And it will get worse, much worse. Have you seen the Grand Canyon-sized foundation hole dug next door where the Denny’s used to be? (Oh, and thank you Denny’s for properly using an apostrophe, unlike Vons and Ralphs.) When the “mixed use” project there is completed, and the one catty-corner where the late lamented Norms (apostrophe!) stood for nearly half a century, you won’t be able to even wade through sidewalk traffic to walk to Vons.

THAT PRODUCE SECTION?

I have told the manager, twice — worst I’ve ever seen in a major supermarket. No basil? No heirloom tomatoes? No sun dried tomatoes? No employees available for questions on the many unpriced items, ever. My last three trips there I have had to hike to the manager’s register to find out a price. That’s a waste of my time. But I’m not going to pay $5.99 for asparagus when Ralphs has it for $1.99 (true as I write this).

And literally for years I have complained that when you pick up a couple of fruits or vegetables that you want and turn around to look for a plastic bag, you have to go searching to find one. “People steal them to pick up after their dogs!” I have been told with a straight face several times, as an explanation. “Shoppers at Ralphs, Gelson’s and Whole Foods don’t have dogs?” is my comeback.

When I went Christmas afternoon to buy a fresh salmon for our big family dinner that evening, the seafood case was dark. Few items lurked in the shadows, and no salmon. The guy behind the counter told me he had been out since yesterday. That’s crazy, and it never would have happened at this Vons a year ago. I couldn’t go to Ralphs because they were closed; they properly, humanely gave their employees Christmas Day off.

NEW MANAGEMENT

Took over sometime earlier last year. It’s been a downward spiral ever since. Why would a smart, successful SoCal corporation behave this way? I finally figured it out.

Look at that big parking lot and that one-story building, just sitting there with all that air above it. What a waste! What a wasted opportunity site! How much moolah could Vons Corp make if they sold that site, and if it exacerbated gridlock and the Wall of Lincoln now being constructed there, so what, we’ve still got our other SM store.

I’m sure developers and City Council members alike are salivating over that site, for years. More transit-adjacent housing and retail, we can bring in 1,000 more renters and no one will own a car! O frabjous day! We’ll even let them put a small Vons on the ground floor, better run, and no one will care that the other bigger store with easy parking was gone for two years because everyone was getting to hate that one anyway.

OK, it’s a thin theory but when something doesn’t make sense in this town I usually smell a rat. The part about salivating over that site is true and it’s just a matter of time before we Ocean Park and Sunset Park people have to drive farther for our reasonably priced sun dried tomatoes. Or ride our scooters because of the gridlock. Hmm, I guess I’ll have just a pinch of basil, please, and one heirloom tomato — that’s all I can carry on my scooter.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Did you see reports of the passing of the oldest WWII vet, Richard Overton, at 112 recently? He attributed his longevity to cigars and whiskey every day. Since I can’t stand cigars, does that mean I need to double up on the whiskey?

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever” – Thomas Aquinas

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go” – Dr Seuss

(C’mon now, a little credit, who quotes Aquinas, Gretzky and Seuss in the same column?)

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    A little correction on you Vons history. Safeway left SoCal in 1987, not ‘93 They sold the SoCal division to Vons and all the signs were changed to Vons in 1987. Safeway retained a 30% ownership of Vons stocks as part of the deal. Then in 1997, Safeway purchased Vons and with their headquarters in Pleasanton, Vons ceased being a SoCal Corp in 1997. Then just a few years back, Albertsons bought Safeway including all the various names including Vons and at that time, Vons and Safeway ceased being a Corp based in California. Ralph’s is owned by Kroger, also based out of state. Out of state are where the decisions are made, not in your local neighborhood market. Neighborhood marketing has been dead for a long time. I retired from Vons after 40 years. Good years by the way.

  2. Vons May have dropped the apostrophe decades ago, but Ralphs (ending in s) was actually the founder’s last name.

    At least their parent company allowed this location to keep the self checkout.

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