CULVER CITY, Calif. — The corner of Washington Boulevard and Duquesne Avenue has historically not been the most successful location for businesses in Culver City.
To start, the conditions for opening set by the city’s planning commission limited what could be put in. At least two businesses — a French market and restaurant and a short-lived vegan restaurant — have come and gone in recent years.
What You Need To Know
- The corner of Washington Boulevard and Duquesne Avenue has historically not been the most successful location for businesses in Culver City
- Village Well owner Jennifer Caspar opened her bookshop and coffee store with the goal of creating a place to create a community space
- Half bookstore, half cafe, Village Well is a hybrid business designed to give people as many reasons to come in as possible
- The store’s mission also includes dabbling in progressive causes and moving community forward
“People called this a cursed corner,” said Culver City Mayor Alex Fisch, sitting outside of Village Well bookstore and coffee shop, which opened amid the pandemic on New Year’s Eve 2020. “And this has been a blessing.”
The name Village Well evokes the center of a community — the place where people come together to get their necessities but also ends up becoming the central meeting point. It’s the place where folks go to get their water, sure, but they end up meeting neighbors and friends.
Village Well owner Jennifer Caspar opened her bookshop and coffee store with the goal of creating a place to create a community space.
“It’s just what I’m compelled by, this desire to facilitate connections for other people the way that facilitated connections have helped me in my life,” Caspar said.
Half bookstore, half cafe, Village Well is a hybrid business designed to give people as many reasons to come in as possible.
Coffee, tea, pastries and sandwiches are available throughout the day. If you take your lunch at the communal table in the center of the space, you can either gaze out the window or stare into stacks of art, design and food books.
On the other side of the central bookcases are the ever-growing fiction and nonfiction sections, with a children’s book corner tucked into the back.
Throughout the day, you’ll find people quietly tapping away at keyboards, scribbling in notebooks, chatting with friends. In the evenings and on weekends, the shop comes alive with book talks, open mics, poetry nights, and craft workshops.
The store’s mission also includes dabbling in progressive causes and moving the community forward: Earlier this year, Village Well hosted a virtual conversation between Fisch, Los Angeles Councilmember Nithya Raman, and Long Beach Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, entitled “Reinventing the City in a Post-Covid World,” a discussion of issues they believe the Southland will soon face.
For Fisch, the future involves transit, housing, and the ongoing evolution of downtown as mega-corporations carve out campuses in Culver City. To his mind, Village Well and its role as a third place — the space that is neither work nor home, but a place where people gather to relax, to talk, and to have fun — is something that previously didn’t really exist in an area most recently known for a glut of nice restaurants.
“For long before that, it was nothing, just a drive-thru. Then it was restaurants — every celebrity chef’s third restaurant was in the city. That’s great, and we still have that, but now we’re trying to have a more complete experience,” Fisch said.
Village Well appears to be providing that thus far, judging by the consistently filled space. Regular customers have even become instrumental in helping with event programming and hosting.
“People crave connection. Even before the pandemic, people have been feeling alienated and craving connections. The pandemic really undermined that for everyone, and pushed people to their limits,” Caspar said. “It’s been wonderful for me to bring this out to people who are like yes, I like this idea, I resonate with it too, and I want to participate in some way.”