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Famima!!

Fellow Hounds,

I wonder...what's the attraction to the place? I walked through the Pasadena shop and found their selection to be an interesting mixture of high-end yum-yums. But do you think they'll actually make money? I'm curious to know what your collective thoughts are!

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  1. I'm actually a bit curious about that myself, too -- but I do find their food better than most convenience store fares (I <3 their green tea mousse cake /w azuki bean paste), and opening till midnight, I can imagine that place getting a good deal of late-night business (esp. when the Laemmle theater next door lets out.) But I guess time will tell-

    ~AquaW
    http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/

    1. Here's my take on Famima's attraction: when I need something from 7-11, I try to get in and out in record time, as everything usually seems dodgy and off; like a gas station bathroom, the 7-11 experience (for me) is a utilitarian and necessary 'evil'. At Famima!!, the environment seems much more conducive to lingering, leisurely eyeballing the products and trying something new, even if I just need a bottle of water or gum (when was the last time anyone strode into a 7-11 to try something new?). No menacing staff or customers watching my movements or badgering me when I need to break a twenty. I like the stuff at Famima!! (the curry fried bread and the fastfood bao), but I really enjoy the boutique ambiance translated into a convenience store...

      2 Replies
      1. re: silence9

        Exactly. They're also targeting high density neighborhoods and areas with high foot traffic. So they'll definitely make money just off their toiletries and stuff, those looking for quick snacks, and the curious.

        1. re: silence9

          Yup...in a 7-11, I find myself trying to find something that I might actually eat, whereas at Famima just about EVERYTHING looks good. Some of the most interesting sandwiches I've ever seen anywhere, and there they are all wrapped up and ready to go.

        2. No Clue what the fuss is BUT I do Know that 2 Famima's are underway Downtown and to Boot a 7-11 is coming to Downtown too, finally!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: afs

            That's very exciting!!!! DO you know the downtown locations?
            I live in Echo Park and know that one of those could make some killer dough in this neighborhood - cuz there's nothing fast that's open late that isn't a taco truck or jack in the box.

            And to the OP - yes they will make money. Poeple like me who don't want to spend over $10 on almost any meal and who have crazy schedules will eat there a lot. And the food is not bad at all (not phenomenal, but not bad at all.) and a lot of us are looking for fast things that are not completely unhealthy.

          2. Great thoughts!

            I love the lingering eyeballing as well. Rodia notepads? Japanese doo-dads. Great product selection.

            One thing I wonder about is have you seen anyone actually BUY something there?

            1. I've bought things there, at the Hollywood location! And there's generally at least a few people in there, including "characters" from in front of the Chinese.

              Parking is irritating, since I don't live walking distance. Generally have to go during the day, because at night, all the valet parkers hog the meters.

              I am strangely addicted to their chicken salad sandwiches. Strange, since I don't like chicken salad. But theirs has a red pepper taste and much less mayo than usual. I also like their bao, I think it's better than some I've had at those trendy "Asian fusion" places. I don't really like their sushi or rolls, other than the inari with the udon noodles (weird but good). Plus, Pocky!

              1. Famima intrigues me greatly. I hope they branch out into Orange County. I also think they should consider branches on the campuses of local universities with high Asian attendance (ex. UCI & UCLA), or near the dorms. There's a whole, untapped market of carless students with a taste for these products and a moderate amount of disposable income they can tap. I can still remember midnight munchie runs to the local 7-11 with friends when we were up late studying. If we'd had Famima as an option, we'd definitely have ended up there instead. I can't imagine students have changed that much in the past seven years.

                - Chubbypanda

                http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.com/

                2 Replies
                1. re: Chubbypanda

                  The website shows a Westwood Blvd. location, but not near UCLA.

                  1. re: Jesdamala

                    Corner of Westwood blvd. and Ohio...

                2. Great to know.

                  Though I'd love to know more about their market testing and who made the decision to add the two "!!" at the end. Seems a little hyperactive.

                  And do they expect anyone to realize "Famima" is originally English for "Family Mart"?
                  Does anyone else notice its only two letters away from the word "Famine"?
                  Do you think they did any market testing at all?

                  1. tried the bao and a salad there. both were unremarkable, the chicken bao was undercooked (yuck!) and the veggie bao slimy and undercooked. the southwest salad had a funky odor to it that caused it to get tossed. because of this, i WILL NOT try anything that can spoil there. i'd rather roll the dice at the culinary academy across the street.

                    1. japanese 7-11! i only went it b/c i live across the street from the one in torrance, but didn't buy anything. just looked like over priced snacks to me! i thinkt hey need a bigger selection otherwise they're going to go out of business.

                      1. I love going to the one on Santa Monica Boulevard near La Cienega because it's great to sit outside and people watch from their outdoor perch.

                        Love their UCC iced coffee in a can. Their yaki soba is okay. To me, it's great when you have a craving for certain Japanese products -- without having to go all the way to Japan Town or Sawtelle.

                        1. The food is generally ok. Good eclectic mix of stuff. Some Japanese and some not.

                          It's a neat place to have in the neighborhood. The first Pasadena location is actually on Raymond, north of Colorado. They close at 2:00 a.m. daily. I hope they do enough business to stay open.

                          1. Okay, so we went again today. The pork buns aren't bad. I love the soup dispensing machine--$2.99 for a large soup seems an incredible bargain. I even won a box of Pocky in their Grand Opening Contest.

                            However, the $4 packs of high-end blossoming tea seems a marketing failure.

                            I asked the clerk what sold well--Drinks, packed fresh foods, BBQ pork buns and Isabella's homemade cookies (almost $6!!).

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: SecretAsianMan

                              you know the pasadena yuppies will pay for the convenience of not having to go to mitsuwa.

                              1. re: SecretAsianMan

                                I LOVE the pork buns! try the refridgerated sweet sponge cakes with cream filling (the color is yellow)

                              2. Went there again today, bought a few things, took some pictures & just blogged about this ( http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/2006... ), but here's an abridged verison:

                                I agree that food is mostly OK to good (with a few notable raves -- the green tea mousse cake!! YUM!) ~ but here are a few draws I have with famima!

                                1) They are a quick-serve convenience store and they have a lot of variety of foods. I can just go there, make up my mind THEN about what I want and get near-instant gratification. I'm sure I can get whatever-I-bought better elsewhere, but that meant I have to commit to that decision earlier beforehand, not to mention dealing with the likely long wait times and the lack of mix-and-match options that famima!! offers (where I can easily grab a sandwich, some fried ravioli, the green tea mousse cake and a ramune soda!

                                )

                                2) the portions are actually tailored towards single people! Unlike most other places that sells ready-to-eat meals for families (meaning for me that either something's gonna go bad in my fridge or I'll have to eat lasagna/roast chicken/salad till it comes outta my nostrils.)

                                3) it's on my work-home commute, not to mention a block away from the laemmle theater (where I frequent I to catch indie flicks) - combined with their 7am - midnight hours, it's at least a reliable back-up plan for times when I'm not sure what's gonna be open, what's NOT going to have a long wait time, where I can grab a quick bite before going to a show, etc.

                                However, I do agree that some parts of their business model may need a bit of tweaking (I can't imagine myself going *there* to buy high-end teas or personal hygiene products) - but I personally hope that it generally comes out successful.

                                PS to previous comment about undercooked baos, they've worked out the staeming issues with that machine now -- and their buns, while not the best, are consistently cooked and not half-bad.

                                ~AquaW

                                http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/

                                1. No way is this chain gonna make it. It's ridiculous. Oooh, overpriced pencils and pork buns! I'm so there! Maybe on Sawtelle, but on Hollywood Blvd? So sorry.

                                  Hey, as long as they're importing iffy Japanese retail concepts to the US, how about a 7-story-tall electronics boutique jammed full of pirated software and tube amps like they have in Akihabara -- now THAT I'd be into.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: jesuswept

                                    Because that will be outright illegal.

                                    If people have money to spend, and they think the items are novel to them, they'll buy it.

                                    1. re: jesuswept

                                      You're just not understanding the convenience concept, are you? Not everyone wants to drive all the way to Sawtelle or Little Tokyo to get their "Asian fix". I get my soba and ramen there so I don't have to waste time driving.

                                      Also Famima is one of the VERY FEW PLACES in LA that are open late, thank God! I wish there were more places open past 5 or 6 pm in this town...

                                      1. re: Liquid Sky

                                        exactly liquid sky - i don't love it b/c it's either authentic or exotic, but b/c it's convenient!
                                        And also slightly healthier than other food you can get fast.

                                        ** Note - tried the philly cheese steak yesterday - not that great, but very nice onions. have now had the ikura handroll twice and am pretty damn pleased with that item: sweet mint, seaweed, little bit of rice and salt explosion from the eggs.

                                        1. re: mr mouther

                                          Speaking of Famima!'s sushi, I was delighted to find it very fresh and generous. They will have both masago and salmon roe, and at least five other types of fish.

                                        2. re: Liquid Sky

                                          "Also Famima is one of the VERY FEW PLACES in LA that are open late, thank God! I wish there were more places open past 5 or 6 pm in this town..."

                                          LOL, you either live in Santa clarita or don't get around much, do you?

                                      2. When I saw pre-made white bread sandwiches (much nicer than gas station sandwiches) in every drug store in London, I thought- why don't they have this in the US?

                                        Gotta say, I really, really like this place for grab-and-go lunch. Friendly and smart staff, too.

                                        Only thing is, and this may not be a bad thing, I can't get a diet coke wih my soup and sandwich.

                                        Had roasted garlic and tomato soup the other day- chunky yumminess!!

                                        1. does anyone know when the Culver City (Overland and Venice) will open????

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: miffy

                                            it's been open for awhile. had soup there the other day as previously mentioned.

                                            it's in the shopping center with tuesday morning, bally's, and the best buy, right next to the impossible-to-get-parking starbucks.

                                            1. re: julietg

                                              Thank you Julietg! I have to go by there soon~

                                          2. I was surprised to find that Famima is Japanese. I had always thought it was Persian, since it sounds more Persian than Japanese, and the first one I ever noticed was the one on Westwood Blvd.

                                            1 Reply
                                              1. One just opened in Long Beach (intersection of Los Coyotes, Clark, and Stearns) and I was wondering what it was. Now after reading all these posts I'm definitely intreagued enough to give it a try! Thanks!!

                                                1. It's just an overblown ABC store from hawaii.

                                                  1. I've been by 4 of their stores and from someone who has built retail stores, they have wasted selling space, Torrance store. Don't think that they're making any money. Their food is O.K., but pricy for what it is. If it's near you, within walking distance, then it's great. I wouldn't drive to one, not worth it. But for a late night package of premade sushi or pastry, it's not bad.

                                                    1. I really dont get it either, its cute and I dig the convenience except well parking for the 2 stores closest to me really arent, so I'd rather just stick to Nijiya where I can get the same items and more variety.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: bassbiz

                                                        It's not supposed to be a Nijiya replacement - it's exactly like a 7-11 - for when you don't want to wait in line at the supermarket, or the supermarket is closed. After reading about Famima on this board, I just stopped by the Westwood one for the first time after a late evening at work (Nijiya was long closed).

                                                        I say thumbs up. Larger and more upscale selection than 7-11, with lots of Asian selections not available on 7-11. I even saw decent packaged tea (try getting that at 7-11). I bought a mini-chocolate bundt cake (some brand I've never heard of - perhaps a house brand?) and it was actually decent for packaged food. Also picked up for general storage some mini-containers of green tea and azuki bean ice crean (again, try getting that at 7-11). I have to agree on the parking - there isn't any at the one on Westwood.

                                                      2. No one ever went broke in America by doing a high end version of something that already existed.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                          The one in WeHo makes a great mini mozzarella wrap with fresh mozzarella. Had a nice Brazilian iced coffee in a bottle. Yes, if you live close to the bigger Japanese markets, you wouldn't need to come to Famima, but most of us don't live close to one of the bigger markets!

                                                        2. Im only feeling its not as convenient for me because of the parking situation at the Westwood and Culver City location, I find the hunt for parking much more stressful then Nijiya. I'll just consider myself lucky for being so close to Nijiya :)

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: bassbiz

                                                            I happened to hit the Westwood Famina at 10:30 p.m. and found a place to park nearby. Otherwise, I agree, I don't see how you would ever park there. I am wondering if they are somehow depending on walk-in traffic from nearly apartments/condos. They are only open until 11:00 p.m., so they can't be depending on the really, really late night drop-ins.