downtown los angeles, financial district

Wetzel’s Pretzels Now Open at 7th/Metro Subway Station in Downtown LA

A new Wetzel's Pretzels sign points down toward the 7th/Metro subway station entrance where the new chain eatery is now open

A new Wetzel’s Pretzels sign points down toward the 7th/Metro subway station entrance where the new chain eatery is now open

A new Wetzel’s Pretzels has replaced the original “subway snack bar” that symbolized a new direction that LA was taking when it comes to walking vs driving and urban vs suburban. Back in summer of 2011, “Carmegeddon” was the talk of the town as many Angelenos feared the impending “shut down” and “collapse” of our city due to the closure of the 405 (aka, the Westside’s largest parking lot) as part of a billion dollar freeway-widening project. (Don’t we know by now that widening a freeway actually induces more traffic because it encourages driving?) The amount of irrational widespread national media coverage of the “impending shut down” spoke volumes about the general public’s negative impression of Los Angeles as an auto-obsessed town utterly dependent on the car where a single freeway closure could incapacitate all Angelenos!

With all that said, however, there was something small but symbolic happening on the other side of town in Downtown LA around the same time the world was collapsing on the Westside. While many Angelenos fretted over the 405 closing for a whole entire weekend, a new “simple” snack bar was opening up inside the 7th/Metro subway station.

What made this new snack bar so special (even the LA Times’ reported on this snack bar) was not its diminutive size or even what it sold exactly. No, what made it special was the fact that this was LA’s first actual store in a subway station that didn’t depend on cars or parking. This new shop would depend on a novel and “new” way of travel by metro rail that more and more Angelenos are gravitating toward. Walking and taking the train in LA is becoming the haute thing to do.

Now that the original snack bar has been changed into a new Wetzel’s Pretzels (which just opened last week after 5 months of red tape), transit riders are able to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out the station. While standing in front of Wetzel’s Pretzels for a few minutes observing the interaction between the shop and transit riders, I saw quite a few people who were exiting the station stop in to order (who were probably lured in by the yummy smell of baked sweet dough). It’s a simple process you would see in any other transit-oriented city in the world with stores in metro stations, but for Los Angeles, it represents a big step forward.

Wetzel's Pretzels has become an instant hit for transit riders at the 7th/Metro subway station

Wetzel’s Pretzels has become an instant hit for transit riders at the 7th/Metro subway station

A look inside the new Wetzel's Pretzels now open at the 7th/Metro subway station near 7th and Hope Street

A look inside the new Wetzel’s Pretzels now open at the 7th/Metro subway station near 7th and Hope Street

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  1. Gerald says

    I live here in LA but reamin shocked and surprised that LA has only one subterranean eatery, or business available (at least that I know of). There are other cities less than half the size (in population and/or area) that have booming retail otlets below ground. Why is this so absent here in LA?

  2. It’s always a little unfortunate to see an independent business give way to a chain, but I’m sure that Wetzel’s will do a lot better here. Hopefully the success of this location will make some other companies take notice. There is so much potential for all the empty mezzanine space other stations like Pershing Square and Civic Center!

  3. Nice to see 7th St/Metro Center even more activated! (Though I now have double the pretzel temptation on my commute: one at Metro Center and one at Union Station. In this space, I think a chain was needed since it brings with it an existing following and a startup does not have. That said, in a few years, enough folks may know about this location to support an indie shop!

    Now, a donut shop in that space would probably have been my undoing, but (thankfully?) Downtown has no donut shops … yet. (though Yum Yum lurks in Highland Park and Spudnuts resides near USC).

  4. @Gerald: Actually, Downtown already has a thriving food court at 505 Flower, which is below ground. However, if you mean eateries in subterranean transit stations, I wholeheartedly agree that we need more!

  5. And let’s not forget “The Taste” (which replaced a not as upscale food court) a few blocks west, below ground, on Fig.

  6. I am friends with the Ceo of Wetzle’s Pretzel’s niece. We go to the same school. I should have her tell her uncle to open more locations in downtown.

  7. Gerald says

    Alex, I stand corrected…I was referring to subterranean transit stations specifically. Failed to state this properly in my previous post (my bad). I travel to Frankfurt/Main and other cities at least once a year. Subterranean subway/ transit shops have been in-place in Europe (and i’m sure here in US eastcoast cities for years). That being said, at least.this is a start in what I hope will continue to be a developing trend here in LA.

  8. @Gerald – I hear you. I’m living in Japan now, and the amount of retail underground next to transit stations is remarkable. Of course, cities here are as dense as can be, and have huge ridership numbers. In regards to Los Angeles, I can see perhaps a new connection between 7th/Metro and the new Wilshire Grand being built and having enough foot traffic to support underground retail. But the more I think about it, besides this Wetzel’s location, do Metro stations have the infrastructure to accommodate retail underground? I don’t recall seeing any space for them?

    • Gerald says

      Oscar, I thought about your final statement seconds after sending my post. You’re correct…subterranean transit stations here in LA from what I’ve seen, don’t have the infrastructure built into them to accommodate mass retail underground. Hopefully the underground infrastructure for the regional connector will as the new Wilshire Grand is getting off the ground. As you mentioned, This theoretically would be an excellent opportunity to expand underground retail there.

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