A few months ago on my way to Gelson’s in Franklin Village I decided on a whim to stop and check out the little store I had driven by so many times called Locali. I had always been curious what this shop was all about and I had read a few things about it online, but since moving here from Chicago I had yet to get down with the West coast way of living organically and sustainably. Perhaps now was the time to start?
The self proclaimed “sustainable neighborhood market,” Locali aims to provide its customers “conscious convenience” – and it succeeds with that on many levels. With healthy and eco-friendly versions of most everything you’d find at a neighborhood convenience store, Locali gives Franklin Village and nearby Hollywood and Los Feliz residents an environmentally-friendly place to shop for everyday needs. They also serve up delicious salads, sides and sandwiches (The Franklin Phenomenon is my favorite).
Locali’s co-owner Melissa Rosen (herself a Franklin Village resident) was kind enough to answer some of my questions about how Locali got started, where it’s headed and what it all means.
Take Sunset: How do you feel Locali fits in with the local community?
Melissa Rosen: Locali’s aim is to provide delicious food and planet-friendly products to our community. I think the fact that we have garnered such wonderful support from our customers (and remarkably daily patronage from many) is not only a testament to the services we’re providing Franklin Village, but also a testament to the community-mindedness of Franklin Village residents. We are humbled by our customers spending their hard-earned money at a true mom and pop shop.
TS: What do you like about the community (Franklin village)?
MR: I know everyone says this, but t’s a real neighborhood. You run into the same people all the time. You have wonderful shops. Counterpoint Records & Books is one of the best places in L.A. to spend free time. Tailwaggers has one of the nicest staffs in the city. The proximity to Griffith Park doesn’t hurt either.
TS: What do you like most about running a store such as yours?
MR: Seeing the satisfied smiles on the faces of customers and friends after they’ve tried our food. Having the ability to employee eight fantastic people in this economy. The opportunity to educate people about healthier eating and provide tasty alternatives in our deli for vegan eaters or those with dietary restrictions who need their sandwiches gluten-free. Offering a venue for local food artisans to sell their wares. Having the chance to work with my husband everyday – which may sound insane – but it’s true. He makes me laugh a lot.
TS: What are the biggest challenges?
MR: Being small and independent limits our buying power and thus the pricing we can offer. We don’t have the capabilities, nor wholesale costs, of a Whole Foods or Walmart. Sometimes people groan about our prices, but considering our wholesale costs, our pricing is beyond fair. This is how mom and pop pharmacies and hardware shops went out of business. If you can get it $2 cheaper at CVS or Home Depot, why bother with your neighborhood-owned store? So shopping by us takes a bit of rebellion and thought into the long-term consequences of where your purchase dollar is being spent daily. I think with the growth of Etsy stores and other small shops like Locali, there’s a great deal of hope in terms of little grassroots businesses staying competitive in the marketplace.
TS: How would you like to see Locali grow?
MR: Recruiting more local food artisans to our shelves, so if you have a yummy food item made in a commercial kitchen, we’re always willing to give new products a shot in our store. The more we can feed money back into the local economy, the better. Also, while we have been looking for an ideal second location, we have been approached by a surprising number of people interested in franchising. We see the growth of Locali in this manner as having a great deal of beautiful potential. First of all, it would keep locations owner operated and we would have more buying power to bring down costs of organics/natural foods to our consumers.
I believe the literal translation of Locali in Italian is “the place to be at”. While we want to continue to support local charitable causes and community initiatives, we also want to be a force for creating deeper community connections. I love to see customers start chatting as they wait for a sandwich. So much of the day, we move through life increasingly in our little bubbles. At Locali, we want people to participate. We try to accommodate as many customer requests as we are able. Much of our inventory actually ends up being curated by people in the neighborhood. Eating a more plant-based diet is a huge part of leading a more healthy and sustainable life, so we plan to expand our vegan deli options.
A new menu will be out in the next couple of weeks. We also want to figure out a way to encourage our customers to bring their reusable bags and containers to the store to cut down on to-go ware waste. We added gift cards and delivery based on customer requests and those are proving popular. We also have really cool ideas for other spin off related restaurant and retail concepts, but those would require investors at this point, so it may be a while before these magical places open. In the immediate future, we’re planning another food/wine/beer fest in the parking lot which should be loads of fun. It will be a celebration of the bike racks on Franklin that are supposed to be installed soon by the city.
5825 Franklin Ave.