These Small, Local Grocers Are Changing the Way L.A. Shops for Food

Specialization and service are back on the menu

Even at a time when organic groceries can be delivered to your door same-day via Amazon Prime, a new crop of personalized, specialized stores is giving Angelenos a reason to shop mom-and-pop.

“People want the convenience of a grocery store, but if you come here, you can expect more than just a transaction,” says Jered Standing, wearing a gunmetal salvaged-material apron inside his bright Hancock Park shop.

At Standing’s Butchery, which specializes in using the whole animal, the namesake meat guru might talk customers through a case full of California-sourced meat broken down into cuts they’ve heard of (Autonomy Farms short ribs, Cook Pigs Ranch pork chops, Pasturebird half chickens) and some they haven’t (beef “heel”).

No part is left behind: Bones are used for stock, trimmings go into an impressive array of sausages, beef tallow is available for frying, and even paleo-approved dog food is made from organ meats.

In a similar sense, Ken Concepcion, half of the husband-and-wife duo behind Chinatown’s Now Serving, offers more than just a place to pick up a new release at his cozy 450-square-foot bookshop. Along with floor-to-ceiling stacks of cooking tomes and food ’zines, you’ll find cool chef accessories (JB Prince tweezers, antique silver tasting spoons, vintage Harley-Davidson bandannas). Concepcion says the shop tries to offer educated recommendations. “You might come in for a book on fermentation, but we can say, ‘If you’re interested in that, here are two others you might be interested in.’”

At Psychic Wines, which opened last month in Silver Lake, encouraging discovery makes for smart business. Co-owners Zach Jarrett and Quinn Kimsey-White offer of-the-moment natural wines, sure, but their aim is also to share the stories behind producers they admire and help turn more folks on to the movement.

“Instead of looking at our wine as a trophy case, we’re trying to hit the ideology we admire in wines that are affordable and approachable so we can be inclusive to everyone,” Jarrett says.

And 600-square-foot Dopolavoro, a retail venture from Terroni restaurant next door, gives the DTLA set an excuse to shop like Europeans. Imported goods—French cheese, Sicilian chocolate, Spanish tinned sardines—are front and center, and there’s fresh pasta to go made daily in a glass-enclosed “lab.”

Co-owner Max Stefanelli explains, “We saw a need for an old-school corner store, so people who live or work downtown don’t have to drive to find these items.”

While the products themselves draw traffic, it’s a sense of community that turns customers into regulars. At Now Serving, book events have ranged from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker on Thai food to Rustic Canyon’s Jeremy Fox in conversation with the authors of The Flavor Bible. Same goes for Standing’s, which hosts demos that teach attendees about different cuts to expand their home repertoires. “Nearly every conversation ends with a handshake,” Standing says. “That’s not going to happen with a grocery store clerk.”

RELATED: Butcher Jered Standing Shares His 10 Favorite Dishes in L.A.

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