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Burb's Eye View: A machine to satisfy that luxury impulse

November 27, 2012|By Bryan Mahoney

Do not cry for the lonely caviar vending machine. Though it is the subject of much ridicule, it is a piece of art in its own right. It’s a fitting reflection, if you will, of our own hubris, standing guard over the Burbank Town Centre Mall atrium where Santa himself — the bastion of opulence and excess — holds court.

I stood before the Beverly Hills Caviar machine at length on Black Friday, oblivious to the whirl of commerce all about me. Its soft, glowing snack tray lazily melted in hue from blue to purple to red to orange. It entranced me as it did a child of no more than 4 or 5, who longingly reached for its shelf of elite trinkets, mesmerized by their twinkle.

I ran my fingers across its cold, impossibly laser-smooth touch screen. Here your desires are laid bare in vibrant ochre sans serif. For the discerning palate, your $500-an-ounce Imperial River Beluga is ready for you, complete with mother-of-pearl spoon. If you’re like the jet-setters for whom the machine is designed, and you just need something quick on the go, you can have Wasabi Tobikko for a pittance of $15.

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The machine offers more.

“Is that perfume?” a man scoffed.

It is truffle oil, I felt like screaming, and is no more perfume than the caviar above it is a shoe-shine kit, or the truffle tins below are Gherkins pickles.

Kelly Stern, owner of Beverly Hills Caviar and sixth-generation caviar importer, said Burbank’s mall is the perfect location for the private-jet crowd from Bob Hope Airport who can’t always run back home to stock up before a trip. It’s an impulse buy, really, much like the delights from the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM located just outside her office.

And yes, it influenced the caviar machine’s design.

“It enables people to do business in retail even if they don’t have time for it,” she said.

Though machines were installed a week prior in Burbank, Topanga Canyon and Century City, Stern and her team spent the better part of a week ironing out the kinks for the refrigerated mansions that house the pre-packaged fish, truffles, escargot and other luxury fare.

Black Friday was the first day in business.

From 3 to 4 p.m., it enjoyed not a single sale. Two friends from Burbank put the machine under heavy scrutiny, but ultimately walked away.

“It’s kind of trashy,” said Marie Yokers. “I don’t know — I don’t trust it.”

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