Mom and Pop Grocery


One night in July, my friend Gabri started waxing poetic about summer fruit.  It’s sweetness, color, all of it.  I chimed in, even though he hadn’t directed the conversation towards me:  “I know, isn’t it great?  My favorite thing is walking into Gelson’s and–”  He finished my sentence.  The gist of which is that we both go into our own Gelson’s (we live in different parts of town) produce section, ask what the freshest fruit is, and the guy there will grab an amazing fuzzy peach, slice it just so, and offer you more than a fair sample to taste.  Oh, my God, some of us will gather around, sampling our quarter-to-half peach, then grab a paper bag to stock up.  Is that why we love this neighborhood market so much?  Or is it because it harkens back to a simpler, smaller, safer, slower, time?  Probably.

I love old-fashioned, small markets.  I was about to leave for my two-week holiday in August to a small town in Quebec when my friend Lynne asked me if there’s a small market there.  I thought I was the only one obsessed with them.  I love to photograph small markets or drive by slowly just to take them in.

I miss the one I grew up a block from in Beverly Hills – Haig’s Market — at the corner of Bedford & Olympic.  Owned by Eddie and Bea.  Each day after school I would stop there, right after dropping my books off at home.  Ha, drop off my books!  I barely went to school. I went to Haig’s market much more.  (Later on, when I moved out of my mother’s house — the second I turned 18 — Bea and Eddie kept a signed headshot of me on their wall of fame, with other locals like Michael Lembeck.)  During that period of time I had an addiction to their fresh Kaiser rolls.  I would bring one home every single day and glob butter onto it.  I’m not even sure why it was so compelling since Kaiser rolls are rather dry, but it was my of-the-moment-heroin.

My whole life, I’ve jumped from one food addiction to another.  But I have to eat the thing I’m into every single day.  For a two-year period in my 40’s, it was biscuits.  Everyday I made them from scratch, ate them only at the precise moment they exited the hot oven with, you guessed it, a ton of butter.  I did get the memo on butter, but I pulled a Watergate and shredded it.

For a shorter period of time, about six months, right after I fired Kaiser rolls, I would get, at Haig’s, a large almond cookie with the big dot of chocolate in its center.  Do you know the one?  They have it at deli’s like Greenblatt’s or at bakeries like the one I’d drive to every day after school — Beverlywood Bakery on Pico — to get my fix of chocolate or colored sprinkle small butter cookies.

Another small neighborhood market that is actually still there in my old Beverly Hills hood is on the corner of Pico and Roxbury — Owens Market.  I’ve written about it before.  I used to go there for lamb chops and because they always had the best and sweetest grapes.

A local market I totally miss, though it was over-the-top expensive, was Jergensen’s Market across from Nate ‘n Al’s on Beverly Drive.  And another one I frequented, when my kids were small, to buy cooked chicken, was Carl’s Market in West Hollywood, a location that now sadly houses a Petco.

Each night, the air is starting to get that brisk autumn feel, and at Gelson’s I am enjoying the last of the sweet summer fruit.  I picked up my final batch of cherries over a week ago, although there are still some delicious plums.  When summer comes to a close, I feel that winter depression coming on — which sounds wacked to an easterner, because this is sunny southern California.  You have to be a native to even notice the subtle difference in our seasons.   Fall only started yesterday, and I can hardly wait for next summer.

Here are some charming markets that still do exist around the Los Angeles area. I love them because of the helpful staffs, no lines, fresh food and manageable size.

The Farms on Montana & 21st Street in Santa Monica.  They make great fresh-to-order sandwiches.  The Farms also has a great selection of fresh, homemade-style tortillas, and a meat department with a butcher everyone raves about.

Owens Market at Roxbury & Pico.  They also have a butcher with an excellent meat department. Incidentally when Bea and Eddie sold my local small market, Haigs in B.H. –Bea went to work for Owens for years until she retired.

Bob’s Market on Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica, between 16th & 17th Street.  This family-owned market is one of the best in Los Angeles. Its fully stocked with everything you might need.  Bob’s also has a deli making fresh sandwiches.  And, they deliver.  This place makes me want to move to the Sunset Park neighborhood so I can walk here each day to pick up fresh fruit and groceries I need to make dinner.  It’s magical, harkening back to the time of our youth.

Bay Cities Deli is a gem if you have not found your way here yet, go now.  It’s an exclusively Italian market with quite possibly the best sandwiches in all of Los Angeles, ask anyone.  I buy the fresh pasta they keep refrigerated made daily.  I pick up cans of imported tomato’s, anchovies, sardines and jars of capers or marinated peppers.  They have an assortment of the best olive oil.  Also, pick up a baguette of the bread they make which is so crusty and perfect on the outside, soft on the inside.  I love making garlic bread with Bay Cities bread.

One place I keep hearing about and haven’t tried (too far across town, traffic is hell) is a French Market called Monsieur Marcel.  Mr. Marcel is supposed to have an exceptional selection of cheeses and imported and private label artisanal products.  You can sit and dine in at Monsieur Marcel located in the old Farmers Market.  I just read online that they are also located on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica (I can go now).  And also on Canon in Beverly Hills.

I only named a few, all on the west side of Los Angeles.  Feel free to write a comment about a local market you once loved or one that is in your hood that we should know about.

Head shot of me that hung on Bea and Eddie’s wall in Haigs Market

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13 Responses to “Mom and Pop Grocery”

  1. David Miller-Engel says:

    Seeded rye from Beverlywood tops my list from them… the memories of the markets….

  2. I moved out of Beverly Hills to Bakersfield forty years ago. A small locally owned grocery store named Fike’s helped me keep my sanity while making the transition from single to married. Fike’s is no longer in around. but my memories of daily grocery shopping still makes me happy. I had no car when I got married so even my social life was inhanced by Fike’s Finer Foods! They had a fabulous bakery where I bought “all chocolate doughnuts” that are unsurpassed in bliss quality. When my oldest daughter got married the church was right around the corner from Fike’s and when the janitor did not open the church bridal room in time for her to put her wedding dress on we hurried over to Fike’s where my daughter got ready for her big day in the powder room of Fike’s. After her veil was in place we rushed past the meat counter being cheered by the ladies that ran the bakery. Ah, the memories of a perfect small town grocery store!

  3. robin says:

    great memories, fred. i remember libbie and i ordering our favorite cookies and jarlsburg cheese from jurgensen’s and sandwiches from nate ‘n al’s. we would have beverly hills taxi pick up all of our food and deliver it to us up in bevery glen canyon, where we would lie topless in the sun with unshaven legs and pretend we were hippies….(or were the cookies from premier?)

  4. Peter Hoover says:

    Yes my rents shops at Jergensen’s Market … I would assume (How to make A Ass Out of U and Me:) that everyone one time or another shopped at Jergensens Market who lived or went to the BH school system. The bakery was my hood. There was a bakery in Brentwood right next to Brentwood Academy where i went to school from 4th until HS grad and that had the best chocolate danish and to this day I have never found this danish. G__ they were great. There was a market on 3rd and Arapaho in Boulder where I went to college. No one even stop there. Why? Because it was a meat market but too all that knew the place it was heaven for simple items and the meat; there was no better. Oh well how times change and now Safeway, Ralph’s ( yes I had a huge crush on Chris the grand daughter of the family and she passed a few years ago) and not sure if any small one are here in Maui except in the tiny towns (Paia, and others) Great mem of shopping for my family in the once every 6 weeks program that would take you over 3 hours at Bishops Market and I only volunteered once for that duty. Oy as Fredde says. Cool story Wakko.. Aloha Hoov.

  5. pauli says:

    I remember shopping with my grandmother at Juergenson’s when I was six – she was so amazed at being able to get raspberries in December as they were “out of season”. My first lecture about eating food in season whenever possible came that day. Especially when raspberries cost “more than the moon”. I love Gelson’s and appreciate your tribute, Fredde! Great head shot by the way.

  6. Carole White says:

    Really enjoyed reading your article on small markets. I suppose the mom and pop feel to these places was part of the charm for me. Coming into a store and being greeted by someone who knew me. Personalized service that doesn’t exist today. A sweeter and slower time certainly…
    Fredrica, I’d sure like an invite when you cook up all those yummy things from Bay Cities Deli!

  7. Victoria Soss Hawthorne says:

    Great memoirs. But so many more and so little time. Jean Paul’s Goodie’s in North Laguna..fresh quiche large and individual every day Brioche,cheeses, torts, danishes and everything you would expect in a small French Bakery/Grocery store.
    Sausalito fresh crab striaght from the boats during season.
    Agree with Boulder markets..early organic products circa 1970. 24th street market in SF..then down to the local chinese from berkeley.
    enjoy the local guys..they try so hard and need to be supported.

  8. Victoria Soss Hawthorne says:

    Oh and 3 cheers for the fruit and vegtable man that worked the streets of BH and Westwood in the 60’s. Great snow peas and peaches.ummmmmmmmmmmmm and the grapes..touche’ to him before local farmers markets…

  9. Adrianne Conflenti Neri says:

    Boy did you bring back memories – Bea & Eddie – I remember we had a charge account there – only our Mom had a rule – we couldn’t charge candy or soda and Bea and Eddie would sometimes write it down as something else! Remember that was the day when they still wrote out receipts! Love reading your blog!

  10. Ellen B. says:

    Oh yeah…Owens Market. Mom would ask me to walk down there for a quart of milk when I was a kid. In those days it was called Norm’s Market because Norm the butcher owned the meat counter. Later, he sold the grocery store to Owens.

    One of my fave smaller markets on Pico’s “Kosher Korridor” is the Elat Market, Pico just east of Robertson. They have the most wonderful Middle Eastern cheeses, fig jams, freshly made pita bread and more. Of course, parking is a nightmare. The parking lot is filled with screaming bad drivers who will run you down for your parking spot. Beware.

  11. gari says:

    i loved this article fredde~i used to live in bea and eddie’s market as i lived across the street~we also had a charge and what fun to go in there after school~i loved their chocolate chip pastries~eddie after he retired used to drive my dad when his eye sight got so bad and he could no longer drive to his business and he and bea became like part of the family~i also loved owen’s~it was so nice when i went into either haig’s or owen’s they always said “hi” and made me feel very special~this article made me remember some really nice memories~thank you fredde for another wonderful and very special story~

  12. Janet Petkin says:

    I try to shop here 2 times a month ( time constraints or I would go more)

    They have great deals on fruits and veges and Middle eastern flat breads, nuts, dried fruits.

    I believe Mindy Weiss owns Owens market now. Heard very gourmet.

  13. Debbie Schellenberg says:

    Great article Freddie…as always. Try the Cheese shop next time your in BH across from Nate n Als. There are amazing varieties of illegal cheese from all over Europe that somehow they get into the US.


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