Venice’s beloved Windward Grocery remains closed. A trendy Pop-Up Grocer readies nearby

Pop-up grocery like this one opening Feb. 7
Hardly ma-and-pa places, Pop Up Grocer hopes to redefine small-market grocery shopping. This one opened in New York. A similar shop opens Feb. 7 in L.A.
(Aaron Bernstein)

The beloved Windward Farms grocery in Venice remains closed without any indication of opening soon, another sign of rising rents and gentrification that hits close to home for neighborhood residents who valued its robust sandwiches and fresh fruits and veggies.

Cleared of shelves and everything else, the popular blond-bricked market contains only a stainless steel utility sink in back. In business for 28 years, Windward Farms had a prominent spot next door to the popular Cafe Collage and a block from busy Hotel Erwin, which draws big crowds to its rooftop on warm weekends.

The cherished old market, meanwhile, appears untouched from when it closed a month ago — its windows gritty, a small front pane punched out.

“It was just such a cool spot,” Preston O’Connell recalled Wednesday on the way to the beach.

The beloved Windward Farms grocery stands empty in Venice.
The cherished Windward Farms grocery stands empty in Venice after 28 years.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

“In the ’90s, it was one of the first places to have fresh food, “said O’Connell, who grew up half a mile away and used to stop at the market for smoothies after surfing. “I used to go there with my father.”

Known for well-crafted sandwiches and quesadillas, the market closed a month ago after rents shot up 120%. Customers rallied to save it, but owner John Shin, whose family purchased the market in the ’90s, eventually gave up.

Current plans call for the Gjusta Group, the firm that runs Gjelina, MTN and Gjusta, to reopen the space. No timetable or details were available, other than it would remain a grocery with a deli. Building code updates will likely require extra time.

As of Wednesday, there was still no sign of activity, and Windward Farms was guarded only by the fake owls used to ward off pesky pigeons.

Another sign of the times takes place nearby on Feb. 7 when Pop Up Grocer, opens for a monthlong stint at 62 Windward Ave., a block away and steps from the beach. Unlike the traditional Windward Farms, the trendy market will feature a living room for lounging while shopping.

Launched in New York, the pop-up grocery company is trying to redefine the small-grocery experience, with natural brands such as Olipop and Whoa! Dough. The 1,000-square-foot Venice store, with sleek white walls, will seem more like a boutique than a grocery. Look for colorful shopping baskets, fresh-baked goods and cold brew.

Also expect the store to offer after-hours events, one of the ways the new venture hopes to distinguish itself and foster neighborhood goodwill.

Pop Up Grocer will offer online purchases beginning Feb. 7. Store hours will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.