Is the Health Food Store in Netflix's 'You' Channeling L.A.'s Upscale Erewhon Market?

YOU - Anavrin -Penn Badgley, James Scully- Publicity Still - H 2019
Courtesy of Netflix

Jason Widener, vice president of the popular organic grocer and cafe, reflects on the "funny" similarities with the show's fictional market Anavrin.

[This story contains spoilers from season two of Netflix's You.]

In the second season of Netflix's thriller show You, out Dec. 26, serial killer Joe (Penn Badgley) moves to Los Angeles and takes a job working in the book section of a healthy food market, Anavrin. Stocked with plenty of green juice and organic produce, Anavrin gets its name from "nirvana" spelled backward.

It's just one possible cheeky reference to the real L.A.-based organic grocer and cafe Erewhon Market, which is a misspelling of "nowhere" backward. Erewhon — with five locations across L.A., from Calabasas (home of the Kardashians) to Santa Monica — started about 50 years ago in Boston and was purchased in 2011 by Tony and Josephine Antoci. In You, Joe dates the owners' daughter, Love Quinn, and befriends her twin brother, Forty Quinn.

So how similar is the real thing to the fictional, bougie Anavrin? Well, it features an all-organic deli, a superfood Tonic Bar and a staff that includes doctors, herbalists and dietitians. Erewhon Market's vice president Jason Widener, an L.A. resident of about 20 years, talks to The Hollywood Reporter about how accurate onscreen depictions are of the L.A. wellness lifestyle, full of reiki, yoga and Moon Juice for "radiant living." 

Have you watched any of the season?

I haven't yet. I was trying to watch it last night. I read an article. I hear, obviously, that they're having fun with it. 

So Erewhon's likeness in the show was a surprise for you?

Someone mentioned it to me [on Wednesday], saying, 'Yeah, there's a show You. They said this thing about Nirvana; they spelled it backwards.' I'm like, 'No way. That's totally a take on Erewhon.' Then the owner sent me a text last night that said, 'Have you heard about this?' It's like, 'Yeah, I have actually.' He's like, 'That's funny.'

What is your reaction to it?

We think it's awesome. People think health and wellness is — now it's cool to be healthy. People understand that there's something there with nutrition. We've been around for 50 years, so it's not like we're trying to be anything. We're not trying to be trendy. I've been selling matcha and reishi [mushroom] teas and gynostemma tea and doing adaptogenic tonics for over ten years here. I was doing it way before it was cool. We're doing it because it was real knowledge that we had from science and herbalists. We've been into that ethical, sustainable type of thing for a long time. It's just catching on. 

Did Netflix contact Erewhon about the show or even wanting to film there?

No, they didn't. I'm in talks with someone from Netflix. They wanted to film in our store, but I don't think it's You. I don't even know. I gotta check my email. But no, nothing was ever said to us. Obviously, they changed the name. Nowhere, Nirvana. It is pretty funny; I like it.

How accurate are depictions in films or TV shows about the L.A. wellness lifestyle?

We've been doing it for a long time here in L.A. Obviously, it's so much fun to poke fun of it, like the yogis and Muscle Beach and the green juices. You've got Moon Juice [by] Amanda [Chantal Bacon]; people like to poke at [it] because she really takes health and wellness to a whole other level. 

Do they depict it pretty well? I mean, yeah, but it's trendier now than it ever has been, because of all the documentaries and all of the doctors and the data on [everything] from gut health to probiotics. I don't watch TV that much, because I'm so dialed into my store and my customers, but what I see now is a lot of people that shop here [do it] because it's cool.

There's still a lot of education to happen. For someone that doesn't know about a reishi cappuccino — it's a little bit of coconut oil, it's reishi, it's He Shou Wu. I can get you sold on it in one minute. All of a sudden, you taste it and it feels good, it gives you a little bit of energy. And with time, it does improve your health. All of a sudden you're like, 'Okay, I'll take that reishi cappuccino.'

You mentioned Moon Juice, which is actually featured in You when they go to Anavrin after taking LSD and want Moon Juice.

Amanda is amazing. She's not just trying to sell health foods because it's fun and trendy. She's been doing it her whole life, and she travels and has teachers and she's really into it. For the outsider, you look at it and you're like, 'Wow.'

Erewhon was started by a macrobiotic doctor studying different utopian books in New York back in the 1940s. He was trying to promote world peace when he came across the book Erewhon, written by Samuel Butler, on this utopian society. In the 1960s, he opened a store called Erewhon because he knew [that], through food, he could teach people about sustainability.

In another scene, Joe goes on a celery juice cleanse for a few days and then eventually vomits. Is this common?

With cleansing — and doing anything that's celery juice, because that was a trendy thing last year — celery is a diuretic. It's a clean water source. It has vitamins and minerals. It gets the metabolism moving. It's great.

As far as people throwing up in reaction to cleansing, any time someone stops their normal meal and they're flooding their system with something they normally don't flood their systems with, they could have a hard time, especially if they have any kind of stomach problem. Unless you're a doctor and you really deep dive, it's hard to pinpoint where that would come from. He could have thrown up because he touched the table that had some kid's snot on it. Obviously they're poking fun at it, and it is funny. I even think it's funny. 

What new trends are customers interested in?

The keto cleanse is still big and ramping up. Quote-unquote "the way humans should eat" — the grain-free diet, just fats and proteins and greens. People really love that. You can biohack your body in your own way through checking in with yourself: Do I have mental clarity? Do I wake up in the morning [and] feel exhausted or do I feel rested? Do I have energy throughout the day? Do I go to sleep easily? Do I stay asleep? Do I have control of my emotions? I call it radiant living, when you really start to feel the effects. [It] doesn't mean you can't go out and have some drinks, get crazy every once in a while. It just means [moderation] and live a healthy lifestyle. 

Of course, another platform that pokes fun of L.A. is the Instagram account Overheard L.A. You have a connection with that, right? 

I've known [founder] Jesse [Margolis] for over 10 years. Back in the day, when I used to work at the Tonic Bar, you would just hear the most ridiculous things. Right there at the Tonic Bar — Instagram was taking off — is where he said, 'You know what? I bet I can get more followers than that model over there within two months,  just by putting all the crazy stuff you hear at Erewhon.' He started doing that and, literally two months later, he had 20,000 followers. He's like, 'Oh my God.' You get such a mix of people who are driving these artistic markets, so you get interesting conversations. It's endearing when you make fun of yourself a little bit. I think we all make fun of ourselves a little bit. 

What do you want You viewers to know about Erewhon? 

We're here to inspire people to eat better. That's number one. I always say, 'I'm getting high off the good stuff.' The energy that I have all day, every day — I'm a 46-year-old guy who feels great.  

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.