What Is Erewhon?

Where is a humble Los Angeleno to buy their groceries when their Albertson’s bill is just too dang reasonable? Why, the hallowed halls of Erewhon, of course! This Los Angeles mainstay has been keeping cupboards full of organic soup jars and receipt totals in the quadruple digits since the early aughts. Let’s dive in, because you said this trip’s your treat, right?

What is Erewhon?

Erewhon is a luxury grocery chain in Los Angeles, California, with eight locations peppered throughout L.A. county. According to their mission statement, Erewhon is “more than a grocery store, we are a community of people who are united in our love for pure products that protect the health of people and our planet.” It was originally a tiny macrobiotic food store in Boston that was opened in 1966 by macrobiotic pioneer Aveline Kushi, but the Golden State started a-calling and she moved the entire outfit to California by 1968. 

I went to the Silverlake location, after walking right by it several times assuming it was a hip hotel of some kind. It had all manner of hot food, a huge variety of wine and beer, and a very friendly staff who complimented my Connecticut Audubon Society shirt. Did I buy anything? Absolutely not, but that’s not what L.A.’s about, pal! It’s about seeing and being seen! I figure a couple more trips around the produce area and I could’ve been cast in three pilots and a short film. Hollywood! 

Who owns Erewhon?

In 2011, Aveline Kushi sold Erewhon to Josephine and Tony Antoci, who transformed the store into the version we know today. Don’t worry about Kushi though; I heard those Antocis reportedly paid her such a large sum for the franchise rights that she was able to buy Erewhon sushi for lunch three whole days in a row. 

Why is Erewhon so expensive?

This is a very good question, but one that elicited a thorny reception when I asked the employee behind the checkout counter.* Erewhon is home to twenty dollar yogurt, and a news-making 50 dollar bottle of balsamic vinegar…but why such a high price tag? The answer, as far as I can tell, is that Erewhon’s products are typically organic and locally sourced, which can drive up prices. They also offer a wide variety of foods for specialty diets like vegan, raw foods, and keto, which are typically pretty pricey even at stores that don’t look like luxury hotels. Another reason is location. When one opens a supermarket in, say, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, or the Pacific Palisades, the folks who frequent said supermarket are often willing to shell out $12.50 for a bottle of water. So Erewhon charges exactly that. That being said, they should really start selling a line of top hats and monocles at their stores, too, because it seems like the folks that shop there might be in the market for those things as well. 

*Just a joke, please don’t ever hassle our nation’s grocery store employees! 

What does Erewhon mean? 

Erewhon is an anagram of the word “nowhere,” which was originally coined in the 1872 Samuel Butler book of the same name. Erewhon (or Over the Range) was a science fiction story about a health-forward “utopian” society meant to satirize Victorian-era England. You can surely find a copy at your local library, which is where you’ll need to be getting your media from after your Erewhon bill causes you to cancel all your streaming subscriptions.

I’ve poked a little fun at it today, but at the end of the day, Erewhon is essentially no crazier than Whole Foods. So, if you’re ever in the L.A. area, pop in and take a look for yourself! Just please don’t forget to take out a hefty bank loan before you buy anything. 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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  • At those prices, California was about the only place they could move to. You can keep your $35 pizza.

  • In the Chicago area, we have Erewhon Mountain Outfitters.