The original Farmers Market is a landmark in L.A., dating back to the Great Depression.
But in 2002, a huge, brand new shopping center was built right next door, just to the east of the venerable old Market. It's called The Grove at Farmers Market (or just "The Grove").
I must admit, I had my reservations about the new project. The old Market, with its open stalls and fresh produce, has a distinct charm of its own, much of it based on its age and its humble origins. Would its homespun ambiance be eclipsed (or worse, ruined) by the opening of some bright, shiny mall on its doorstep?
Well, they've made a believer of me. The Grove is great.
The Grove is a 575,000 square-foot open-air shopping/dining center, featuring 50 upscale shops, restaurants, movie theatres and offices.
But that description doesn't do it justice. This isn't your average simple mall - it's more like a faux street, an extremely handsome new center, with a delightful European ambiance and colorful architectural elements reminiscent of 2 Rodeo Drive, CityWalk and even Disneyland.
And did I mention a shiny green & brass trolley (looking for all the world like something off "Main Street USA") that ferries visitors between the original Farmers Market and the Town Square of the Grove?
Rather than just tell you about it, why don't I first show it to you?
Below is a set of eight photos I shot of The Grove
in 2004 (nine, if you count the trolley shot above). They'll give you a
general idea of what the place looks like. Click on the small photos to
see larger versions. And as you can see, it looks great:
See what I mean? We're talking bubbling fountains, chic sidewalk cafes, imported Italian pavilions, a soaring bronze angel statue, charming side streets, and more European / turn-of-the-century charm than you can shake a croissant at. Absolutely beautiful.
Then there's that electric trolley I was telling you about. And you may need it. The Grove is surprisingly large (at least a full city block long), with a lot of ground to cover - especially if you combine your visit there with a day at Farmers Market. The trolley will pick you up at the west end, near the old Farmers Market, and take you for a free ride up "First Street" (as they call The Grove's main street) to the Town Square at the east end of the center.
So far, tenants include Nordstrom and flagship stores for The Gap, Pottery Barn, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, J Crew, Nike Goddess, Anthropologie, Barnes & Noble and Crate & Barrel, plus a number of smaller, unique shops. a cutting-edge theatre multiplex, and several fine restaurants. And it attracts a very nice-looking crowd.
Now this is Seeing-Stars.com, so naturally I have to tell you about celebrities. No problem.
As Kevin Costner once said: "Build it and they will come..." Now, granted, he was talking about a baseball diamond in a corn field, but he could just as easily been talking about the Grove. No sooner had it opened than celebs started showing up in droves. It's a bit surprising. For such a public place, there seem to be a lot of stars hanging out there behind those sunglasses...
The most popular place for spotting celebs seems to be the Grove's Pacific Theatres, a posh 14-screen multiplex which has attracted celeb ticket-buyers such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Kirsten Dunst, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jodie Foster, Dennis Quaid, Diana Ross, Debra Messing, Brittany Murphy, Ashton Kutcher, Robert Downey Jr., Jessica Alba, Andy Dick, Elizabeth Berkley, Orlando Bloom, Geena Davis, Nathan Lane, Raquel Welch, Harry Connick Jr., Jeff Goldbloom, Tori Spelling, Paris & Nicky Hilton, Nicole Richie, Kate Bosworth, Heather Graham, Kevin Bacon, Christina Ricci and Winona Ryder.
They've even started holding Hollywood movie premieres here. Since 2003, they've had the premieres for "Elf", "National Lampoon's Gold Diggers" and "I Heart Huckabees" at the Grove theatres. They bring the celebrities in on the old-fashioned trolley, instead of in limos.
With an ornate Art Deco lobby, stadium seating and private loge boxes, it has become the highest-grossing theater in L.A. But be warned that the top ticket price is a few dollars higher than you'd pay at your local multiplex.
Misc. celeb spottings reported by eOnline, have included Dwight Yoakam (at The Gap), Chris Rock and his kids, Nia Vardalos of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (at Victoria's Secret), Maureen McCormick ('Marcia Brady') at J. Crew, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Cameron Diaz (at Anthropologie), and Married with Children's Katey Sagal, Charisma Carpenter and Jerry O'Connell.
The big Barnes & Noble bookstore attracts its fair share of celebrity book-signings as well. In May of 2004, for instance, singer Alanis Morissette not only stopped by the store on her birthday to sign copies of her new CD ("So-Called Chaos"), but also sang a few songs for the crowd, which in turn sang "Happy Birthday" to her.
In May of 2005, the soap opera "The Bold & the Beautiful" (which is taped right next door at CBS Television CIty), shot a scene at The Grove, in which the characters Nick (Jack Wagner) and Bridget (Ashley Jones) went to the shopping center for a fun outing.
And in late November of each year, they have a special Christmas Tree lighting ceremony to kick off the holiday season. Past guests have included The Backstreet Boys, Robin Thicke, Mary J. Blige, Jewel, "Babyface", Teri Hatcher ("Desperate Housewives"), Michael Bolton, Natalie Cole, Wilmer Valderrama ("That '70s Show"), Jeff Goldblum ("Jurassic Park", "The Fly"), Dan Aykroyd, Jimmy Kimmel, country singer Lee Ann Womack, songwriter Burt Bacharach, and the cast of the TV show "Veronica Mars" - among others. The holiday show sometimes even includes fireworks and 'snow'.
This new outdoor shopping/dining experience is a wonderful addition to the community, and it's sure to put pressure on the older malls in the area, such as the Beverly Center, Santa Monica Place and the Century City Shopping Center.
And it appears that, so far at least, the success
of the new center hasn't distracted people from the genuine charms of the
original Farmers Market next door... in fact, business is up at the Market.
There's a huge parking garage on the north side of
The Grove, and a small parking lot remains on the southwest side, near
Farmers Market. The first hour is still free, but there is now a charge
for parking after the first hour (with validation from some merchants).
Admission to The Grove (and Farmer's Market ) is
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Getting there: Farmers Market is located on the northeast corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue (just southwest of downtown Hollywood), just south of CBS TV City. The Grove is located just east of the old Market. / From Hollywood and Vine, take Vine Street south (two blocks) to Sunset Blvd., turn right (west) on Sunset, and go about two miles west on Sunset to Fairfax Avenue. Turn left (south) on Fairfax, and go south (about three miles) to 3rd Street. The Market will be on your left (east) side. Look for the famous white, wooden clock tower. / From the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, exit on Fairfax Avenue, and go north (about two and a half miles) all the way to 3rd Street. The market will be on your right (east) side. From Wilshire Boulevard, just turn north up Fairfax and go 3/4 of a mile to 3rd Street.
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