Jewish community dismayed at Kroger's closure of Ralphs in Pico Robertson



Pico-Robertson resident Zev Hurwitz is devoted to his neighborhood Ralphs. He likes the store’s kosher sushi and low prices, and the late-night hours make shopping easy for the busy father.“I usually visit four times a week. Never less than two, ” Hurwitz, 27, said via his cellphone as he roamed the store’s aisles last month. Now, the store at Pico Boulevard and Beverwil Drive is closing, the news coming amid a political standoff between the city and grocery chain. This Ralphs opened in 1996. Owner Kroger Co. is shutting down the Ralphs, as well as another store in South L. A. and a Food 4 Less in East Hollywood, after the Los Angeles City Council voted in February to require large grocery stores to pay workers an extra $5 an hour for about four months. The stores will close May 15. City leaders contend that the chain reaped record profits last year and that grocery store employees should be rewarded with “hero pay” for working on the front lines during the pandemic. Kroger executives say the stores were underperforming before the pay requirement. The pending shutdown of the Westside supermarket has sparked fierce debates on social media, with some casting Ralphs as the villain. Others blame city politicians. “Government gone wrong, ” wrote one Facebook user. Housed in the lower level of a mini-mall, Ralphs caters to Beverlywood, Cheviot Hills and Pico-Robertson and the area’s large Jewish community. The store has an extensive kosher section, one of a handful of Ralphs in Los Angeles to offer what the company calls the Kosher Experience. Local shoppers have their favorites among the nearby butchers and bakeries and small markets, but “Ralphs is the equalizer, ” said Hurwitz, who has started an online petition to keep the market open. “Everyone goes to Ralphs. ”Loyalists put up with the mini-mall’s cramped parking lot and a moving walkway and elevator that’s often broken, according to critical Yelp reviews. “The elevator to and from Ralphs is broken AGAIN, as well as the escalators!!! ” one user wrote. Some shoppers told The Times they like the one-stop shopping at this Ralphs — where they can get a wide variety of laundry detergent as well as challah. Avram Mandell, 48, drove from his home near USC with his 7-year-old son to shop at the store ahead of Passover. “Any of the Jewish holidays, we’ll go there for the kosher specialty items, ” Mandell said.“It’s a real shame, ” said Erick Hartwig, 60, as he popped into Ralphs recently. Hartwig said his mother, who lives nearby, appreciates the store’s kosher offerings, and he likes that the deli workers give him free samples. Also, “you meet a lot of movie stars, ” he said, recalling the time he saw actor Hugh Laurie. Others weren’t surprised by the shutdown. A Ralphs vendor, who declined to give his name, said he understood that the store wasn’t making money.

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