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‘An authentic take on LA’: Westwood businesses look back on a year of expansion

Community members walk around Westwood Village. The Village saw many new businesses open over the past year, offering new places to eat, shop and exercise for Westwood’s community. (Zimo Li/Photo editor)

By Leyton Breese

June 10, 2024 4:02 p.m.

Several new businesses opened in Westwood during the 2023-2024 school year, providing new opportunities for dining, recreation and other services to the Westwood community.

Michael Russell, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, said there was a significant increase in new businesses opening in the last year and a half. Sender One, Mighty Pilates, The Poke Co. & Wings, House of Mandi, 99 Ranch Market, Honey Krush, TK Nails, ixlb DimSum Eats and Pret A Manger all have opened Westwood locations since the end of the previous academic year.

“We’ve definitely seen a pretty healthy increase in the number of businesses that have opened in the last year and a half or so,” he said. “We’re definitely seeing a lot of fast casual-style places, things that seem to cater to both (the) student audience and surrounding community.”

Sender One, a climbing, yoga, and fitness center, opened in Westwood in February after planning the launch since 2019. The center’s co-founder, Alice Kao, said in an emailed statement that opening the gym’s Westwood location was important to her because she is a UCLA alumnus.

“I graduated from UCLA in 2001,” she said in the statement. “I watched movies in the festival theater and spent lots of Friday nights hanging out in Westwood Village. It was my way of reconnection with the UCLA community.”

Kao said in the statement that her business has become increasingly popular among Bruins. The business offers discounts for students, according to its website.

“We partner with the UCLA climbing club as well as many other campus organizations,” Kao said in the statement. “Half of our staff are UCLA students!”

Russell said many businesses also offer discounts for students who show BruinCards, as well as partnerships with student organizations – something which helps get business through the door.

Splatterz!, a pottery painting studio in Westwood that opened in 2023, has made efforts to co-sponsor events with several UCLA staff and faculty groups, Russell said.

The Mighty Pilates studio also opened in Westwood in January. Studio Manager Gina Friedenberg said she was drawn to Westwood as it is an appealing destination for a business.

Freidenberg added that UCLA students take advantage of walking distance, the Broxton Avenue Public Parking Structure and bus transportation to reach the studio’s Westwood location.

Another business that opened recently in Westwood is The Poke Co. & Wings – which held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, said Anthony Sou, one of the chain’s managing partners.

Sou added that the business’s model fits very well with college communities.

“A lot of college kids tend to gravitate towards our brand,” Sou said. “Slowly but surely, we’re getting a lot of that (business) and seeing it grow day by day.”

Even though it is not in the Village, the opening of a 99 Ranch Market in Westwood also has the potential to attract more people to the area, since it is a large store so close to the neighborhood, Russell said.

[Related: 99 Ranch Market officially opens doors for business in Westwood]

Russell said the WVIA encourages students to come down from campus and explore new businesses. The North Westwood Neighborhood Council endorsed a specific plan amendment ordinance in 2022 to make the process smoother for new businesses to open in Westwood.

“We hope the Village offers an authentic take on LA,” Russell said. “It has a lot of history, and the streets are nice and (there’s) a lot of historical architecture – and a vibrant little community corridor in LA that’s something that the campus doesn’t really offer.”

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