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Is the line at Barneys warehouse sale any worse?

August 24, 2009 |  1:36 pm


After a most satisfying dim sum brunch at Elite in Alhambra (my two teenagers may have cleaned them out of pork buns), and a mostly satisfying stop for back-to-school clothes, we figured we'd make a quick detour for some fancy olive oil and other treats at the nearby warehouse sale put on by Nicole's Gourmet Foods and Gourmet Imports -- an import and distribution company.

They were grilling sausages out front, and it was a good thing. Shoppers could easily work up an appetite from what lay ahead.

An employee warned us on the way in that the warehouse was crowded, but it didn't look too tough to negotiate. That is, until I noticed the line for the cashier. One woman, who was about a dozen people back in line, said she'd been in line for two hours.

There was a cold room full of cheese, with lots of samples out. Oils, chocolate, dried mushrooms and much more. But that line was just too daunting.

Gourmet Imports owner Steve Grandjean, whose mother owns Nicole's, said this morning that he was surprised by the crowds Saturday. He estimated that about 700 people came to the warehouse, and that despite three checkout lines, the wait got a little gruesome.

"Our systems are just not set up for retail," he said.

Most people were patient and happy for the chance to buy foods at as much as 80% off retail, he said. Some people told him they were buying fancy foods for holiday gifts; others bought canned San Marzano tomatoes and other staples.

Grandjean said he and his employees learned a lot for next time.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: An assortment of cheese. Photo by Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times