Full O’ Life to close after 59 years in Burbank

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After 59 years in business, the Full O’ Life natural foods market and restaurant in Burbank will be closing up shop toward the end of the month.

One of the first organic-focused businesses in the city will ring up its last customers on Sept. 21 as the business, like many other small specialty shops, has not been able to survive the competition from larger stores, according to its manager.

The last couple of years have not been kind to the family-owned business, which has had to compete with big-box grocery stores.

The quaint grocery store and restaurant, which has been at the same location at 2515 W. Magnolia Blvd. since 1959, had managed to survive in this tough market and economic climate.

However, when the new Whole Foods Market in the Media District opened in June, the local market’s days were numbered, according to at least one store official.

“It’s gotten harder and harder to compete against the bigger companies like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s,” said Cindy Moon, general manager of Full O’ Life. “We’ve been fighting that competition for a while, but that gigantic Whole Foods just hurt us.”

Chris Moon, Cindy Moon’s son and grocery manager, said their store was virtually empty the day Whole Foods opened.

Since then, the market and restaurant have not been able to recover, so the family made a decision to hang things up before they start going into more debt.

Cindy Moon, 58, said her family tried to anticipate the impact that Whole Foods would have on them, making improvements to their façade and bringing in products they hoped would boost sales.

It worked at first, but Chris Moon, 36, said it just wasn’t enough.

“The costs of running this business are staggering,” Cindy Moon said. “The labor costs, the food costs — everything just kept getting more expensive.”

Edward “Barney” and Kathryn Matheson, Cindy Moon’s parents, opened Full O’ Life in June 1959 with the goal of having a store and restaurant that focused on organic and locally sourced foods.

Cindy Moon said her parents had always been interested in organic foods.

Both of her parents were Seventh-day Adventists, a religion that focuses on healthy lifestyles, she said.

Additionally, Cindy Moon’s grandfather on her mother’s side was an organic farmer and a major influence on her mother.

Since its opening nearly 60 years ago, Full O’ Life has managed to be the go-to spot for many people who wanted organic food that they could trust, Cindy Moon said.

“I think the growing interest in people taking care of themselves and eating healthy has helped keep us afloat,” she said.

“Plus, I think we were lucky to be so close to the studios who have employees that really want to take care of themselves and eat well,” she added.

The last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for the entire family.

Chris Moon said he’s had lengthy conversations from longtime patrons after scanning and bagging their groceries.

“I’ve had some people start crying, and I tell them ‘Don’t start doing that!’” he said with a laugh.

The mother-son duo both said they were hoping to reach the store’s 60th anniversary next year, but they said the business would have been in a much worse position.

“If we do this now, we’d be able to take care of all our debts,” Chris Moon said.

“We’ve had a good run. Not many other businesses can say that they’ve been open for 59 years and I’m proud of that,” he added.

Twitter: @acocarpio