‘Rethink, reuse, refill’: re_grocery offers an alternative way to shop

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re_grocery
Inside re_grocery on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. , 2022. Gianna Nguyen/The Occidental

With a foldable orange sign sporting the store’s slogan, re_grocery, an alternative grocery store located on York Blvd, invites its customers to “rethink, reuse, refill.” There is not a piece of single-use plastic packaging in sight as customers are encouraged to bring in their own clean containers and serve themselves. Everything is carefully labeled, alongside QR codes for customers to learn more about each item. Joseph and Lauren Macrino, who now have two other locations in Mar Vista and Studio City, founded the store in April 2020.

“[Lauren and I] started the store because we were personally finding it extremely difficult to grocery shop without unnecessary plastic packaging and waste. And we knew we weren’t alone. We got the idea from a few places,” Joseph Macrino said.

According to Joseph Macrino, re_ grocery is committed to making sustainability more accessible.

“I think refilling is the future,” Joseph Macrino said. “We really want to leave this planet in a better shape than how we found it. And that’s a big reason why [we’re doing] what we’re doing.”

The Macrinos drew inspiration for their zero-waste grocery store from the shopping methods of other countries and the bulk-buying style of San Francisco. The result: re_ grocery is structured in a way that is very community-centered, from how they source their products to the way they interact with their customers.

“This style of shopping is very popular in Australia and Asia and Europe,” Joseph Macrino said. “We used to live in San Francisco and there’s a few more grocery stores that are somewhat similar to this, so we wanted to kind of bring that kind of grocery store feel to Los Angeles with a modern twist.”

According to Joseph Macrino, the QR codes on each product label lead to the re_ grocery website, with information such as the origin of the product, its nutritional information and directions on how to use it.

“We source things from all over the world, but we really try to focus on local vendors whenever possible,” Joseph Macrino said. “Whenever we can’t find things that are made in LA, we try to be transparent about where they’re coming from.”

Miah Lapeyrolerie is the manager of re_ grocery in Highland Park and said they were drawn to the job because of its focus on sustainability.

“Working within the system that’s already created, there’s only so much we can do with the way the food industry has already been structured. So [we’re] doing what we can to avoid styrofoam plastic, despite that being the standard for the industry,” Lapeyrolerie said. “So also, like, if things are going to come in plastic, we’re gonna get the biggest bag that we can. So it’s only one and it’s not a whole bunch of little individually packaged things.”

With seven staff members at the Highland Park location, Lapeyrolerie said that they have grown close to the people they work with, helping the store run smoothly.

“​We [are] always in constant communication,” Lapeyrolerie said. “Because the team is so small, we can always be talking and just sharing our true opinions and feelings on things, which I feel like is also what helps things run smoothly.”

According to Lapeyrolerie, re_ grocery is a stronghold of the community, with the majority of its customers being regulars.

Customer Angela said that re_ grocery originally caught her eye with their displays after she had been visiting a restaurant in the area. Although she does not live near any re_ grocery locations, she said that she wished there were similar stores in her area.

“They have pretty much almost everything you need outside of the perishable produce. I like the experience,” Angela said. “I always like looking at a bunch of natural products and seeing what I can try. I think it’s nice that I can bring the containers. And I think, most of the time, the prices are pretty good compared to if I were to go buy a packaged item.”

Joseph Macrino said that although some people may initially be hesitant about shopping sustainably, re_grocery often offers new customers a rewarding experience.

“A lot of people get intimidated by trying to shop this way the first time, but I really encourage them to come and give it a try,” Joseph Macrino said. “And a lot of people really enjoy it, have fun doing it and really get a sense of fulfillment out of refilling their own containers.”

re_ grocery, 5046 York Blvd., Los Angeles, is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Sunday through Saturday.

Contact Gianna Nguyen at gnguyen@oxy.edu