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Henry’s opens up

Market has a selection of natural and organic foods that resembles a mix between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, marketing manager says.

October 06, 2009|By Zain Shauk

BURBANK — Hundreds of shoppers crowded a parking lot Wednesday for the grand opening of natural grocer Henry’s Farmers Market, two years after residents effectively blocked a Whole Foods Market from moving into the city.

The first customers walked through the doors at 9 a.m., after waiting in line for more than 16 hours in anticipation of free groceries.

Each of the first 200 shoppers at the store got a reusable shopping bag filled with $75 worth of snacks, fruits, vitamins and other items, said Aimee Della Bitta, a marketing manager for Irvine-based Henry’s.

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The new store, one of the company’s first in Los Angeles County, is filled with a selection of natural and organic foods that resembles what customers might find if a Trader Joe’s merged with a Whole Foods, Della Bitta said.

“We’re kind of a mixture of both of those stores,” she said.

Burbank, which is home to a Trader Joe’s, welcomed the opening of Henry’s after the City Council voted against the development of a Whole Foods on Main Street and Alameda Avenue in 2007.

That project — initially planned at 60,000 square feet before being scaled back to 40,000 square feet amid neighborhood protests — was deemed too overwhelming for the quiet Rancho District near Griffith Park.

But interest from Trader Joe’s in the Burbank area may have set the stage for Henry’s to move in, City Manager Mike Flad said.

“I think what you saw was a recognition by Whole Foods that the demographics of Burbank are ideal for something like this,” he said.

The 27,000-square-foot market at 1011 N. San Fernando Road, next to CVS/Pharmacy, was an exciting addition for shoppers who said they were ready for a change from the conventional offerings at a Ralphs across the street.

“This is wonderful,” said Estella Carmona, of Burbank, who was taking advantage of some of the store’s healthy options that she had not found at Ralphs.

Still, most customers Wednesday, including the most eager visitors who were first in line, had never heard of Henry’s and were drawn to the store by the promise of free groceries, they said.

“When you don’t have any income coming in, $75, that’ll feed for two weeks,” said Burbank resident Steve Roe, who has been out of work for a year.

Roe was laid off from an auto-parts dealer after eight years on the job and, like many in line, was looking for any way to save money.

“Plus it was an experience,” he said.

“We sat out here with sleeping bags, got out the laptop and watched ‘Twilight.’”

Shoppers inside the store crowded aisles with shopping carts as they weaved between fresh meat and produce sections and sample tables featuring bacon, or chips and salsa.

“I’m just really happy it’s just down the street,” Burbank resident Marlene Benda said.

The new store will be a major addition to an area north of downtown that does not have a similar draw, Flad said. It will also create an economic infusion as it adds about 90 jobs to the area, with most employees from Burbank, store Manager John Gibson said.

“In this economy, any time you’re getting a world-class business that’s opening their doors, we’re excited about it,” Flad said.


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