15 Outstanding Independents That Dare to Stand Apart

Progressive Grocer celebrates forward-thinking indies in annual award program

progressivegrocer.com, February 11, 2022, Bridget Goldschmidt

Los Angeles
Number of Stores: 7
The year 2021 was a year of various achievements for Erewhon — the opening of its seventh Los Angeles-area store, in Studio City, the adoption of exciting tech to support its e-commerce operation — but none was perhaps more meaningful than when, in June of last year, the organic grocer and café earned B Corp Certification, a designation awarded to companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. B Corps must also undergo verification every three years to maintain certification.

“That’s probably one of the biggest milestones in Erewhon’s timeline, at least so far,” agrees Kabir Jain, the company’s chief growth officer. “We feel like we’ve been living the mantra that B Corps live by, for a long time. Using business as a force for good, thinking about the way we can inspire everyone, from the communities to the employees to the vendor relationships, et cetera. But this was a stamp that we’ve known of and wanted to have. There are very few retailers that have it. There are even fewer grocery stores that have it. We’re definitely one of the first in the U.S., [and] we were super excited. It’s a really daunting, long, arduous process, as it should be.”

According to Jain, the months-long road to certification took a “lot of work, from top leadership all the way down to front-line employees. What we loved about it was it forced us to take a really hard look in the mirror at what we do and how we operate, all parts of the business. We learned about where we exceed, we learned about where we have areas of opportunity. … It really helped us recognize the areas where we [can] spend extra time, spend extra effort, spend extra money to do the right thing.”

As for the effect of the certification on shoppers and associates, he notes: “The common consumer has heard about B Corps. They see the stamp on the wall. They see it inside the store and in the employee rooms, and [it] just gives a real sense of pride for everyone.”

Beyond bragging rights and the deeper confidence it gives customers and employees, the B Corp designation has become “a foundation … of our training now,” says VP Jason Widener. “We have a really, really robust learning management system that we use for everyone that joins the company, from the top down, through [software company] Wisetail. … The core values of B Corps are kind of aligned with our core values as a company, which is really cool, and that’s how we teach our employees. Ultimately, that appreciation for health and wellness and changing people’s lives just becomes infectious. It all kind of goes hand in hand.”

As for the company’s further growth, future stores in Beverly Hills and Culver City are in the works, but the company is content to take its time to find the correct locations. “We’re so focused on the community and just making it right that we’ve been tiptoeing into [expansion] very slowly,” explains Jain. “The owners, Tony and Josephine Antoci, [are] so dialed into the details of every little aspect, the look, the feel, the vibe, the subcategories of the selection, and taking into account the community that we’re serving. … One of our mantras is, you’re either in front of it or you’re behind it. And the way that we stay in front of it is by moving at a slow pace.”

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