Erewhon Grocery Stores Have Been Around Longer Than You Might Expect

From its seasonal celebrity smoothie menus to its most recent Balenciaga collaboration, Erewhon has a way of always staying current. But, LA's trendiest gourmet grocer isn't just another health food, social media craze. The truth is that the grocery store has been around much longer than you might expect. What's more surprising is that — despite arguments that the store's refrigerators full of pricey, pre-made soups and abundant stock of flavored sea moss gels house everything that's bad about Los Angeles — it didn't even start on the West Coast. Still, that isn't to say it's without credence.

The first Erewhon store opened in Boston in 1966. The 10-by-14-foot basement market wasn't what you imagine of Erewhon stores today. Even then, it was considered the first of its kind. The owners, Michio and Aveline Kushi, stocked the store's dimly lit stalls with traditionally made Japanese ingredients and natural foods sourced from organic farmers all across the country. Widely credited with pioneering the macrobiotic lifestyle movement, the Kushis were eventually able to expand, first to a larger location across the street and later to Los Angeles, the city it now calls home.

Born from the owners' Japanese upbringing, the Kushis bred Erewhon as an extension of their passionate mission to restore health through education on and implementation of the principles of the macrobiotic diet they followed growing up. So, how did the grocer become what it is today? It can all be traced back to one location in particular.

A West Coast rebrand

Erewhon's success in the late '60s was followed by decades of financial stress, and while the Kushi's children went on to inherit the Kushi Institute along with their share of Erewhon, neither would survive. Before their parent's passing, the LA location was bought out of bankruptcy and eventually acquired by another husband and wife duo, Tony and Josephine Antoci. The husband, who had recently found himself extremely rich and riddled with boredom after selling his first Italian foods company, bought the original LA location on an impulse. The sale was finalized in April 2011, and that date will forever mark the day that Erewhon became something else: Cool.

While the Antoci's expertise lay primarily in Italian cuisine (which came to rule American kitchens in the '90s), they had an inkling about the natural foods business. They ran the location like a local grocery store, although the prices may not have reflected that, nor do they now. Today there are ten locations in total — six of which opened in the last four years and all of which were designed to fit into the high-income, communities in which they reside. Erewhon's success is a reflection of a cultural shift, one it has continued to keep a pulse on. In the last decade, that's looked like smoothie collabs, designer merch, and anything else that keeps the internet influencers posting. While its beginnings may have looked different, who's to say it won't change in the future?