From food to sporting goods, there are changes in who is doing business in the foothills.
By Jason KUROSU
The past year has seen a number of businesses in the area emerge, disappear, change ownership and change location. Montrose Shopping Park Association President Andre Ordubegian said that the MSPA has worked to get a “good mixture of businesses” into the area, but acknowledged the difficulties of operating a new business, particularly in the case of restaurants.
Some have yet to get off the ground such as Bluejeans, which has been in the works for years at the former locale of Rocky Cola Café, and Benitoite just across the street. The intersection of Honolulu and Verdugo remains in a bit of limbo, though both restaurants are still expected to open … eventually.
Benitoite, on the southwest corner of Verdugo Road and Honolulu Avenue, has been under construction for some time; however, owner Armen Rostomian said the wait would be well worth it. He was hoping to be open by Valentine’s Day but he is still waiting on equipment deliveries.
For years the location was the site of the Slender Sweet Shop and, most recently, Polkatots Cupcakes. Rostomian said a lot of renovations needed to be done.
The kitchen is entirely new, with equipment being custom designed.
“The only thing original [at the location] are the four walls,” he said.
Rostomian moved to the Montrose/Glendale area when he was 17. He knows the area well and knows the restaurant business inside and out. He is not only the owner but the chef as well. He is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu and has worked for several restaurants, including Mercato bi Vetro and Wolfgang Puck’s catering.
The food at Benitoite will be modern, American cuisine. Rostomian said he wanted to bring the cultural foods that everyone eats at home then add his own twist. In addition to a California fresh menu, he will also be serving California micro brews and wines. Knowing the community as he does, he said he will offer affordable prices, fresh cuisine and a relaxing place to have lunch or dinner.
Others have already opened and/or transitioned into new businesses, such as Cracking Crab, a new seafood restaurant that opened this past summer at the former site of Three Drunken Goats. Etc… Gourmet Kitchen is another recent opening, taking over the spot where Baked formerly resided on Ocean View Boulevard before closing in late 2014. Cucina Rustica on Honolulu Avenue was recently sold and will re-open as Town, owned by locals Jim and Angela Collins.
Jim started a food blog, chickmagnetcookingschool.com, about five years ago. He said he did this primarily for his college-age son and his friends. The tagline for the blog? “When all else fails, cook for her.”
“If you are a teenage man and you know how to cook you are a chick magnet,” Jim joked of the theory behind the blog.
The blog opened his eyes to a new world of cuisine.
“That [blog] grew into a larger desire to want to turn it into more of a profession,” he said. But he and his wife Angela did not want to buy a restaurant just anywhere.
“I have lived in Glendale since 1968. We love this area, it is our ‘Town,’” he explained. “If I open the door and stand there for just two minutes someone will ask when we are going to open,” he said. “I love that [about Montrose]. I have always loved that, having a place that the community feels is their place.”
The couple knew that the owners of Cucina Rustica wanted to sell their business and it seemed to be the perfect time for the Collins to start their restaurant.
The Collins hired Chef Corey Kelso who comes from Mastro’s restaurant in Beverly Hills.
“Most of my recipes are five ingredients, tops. But they’re all great ingredients, and I let them speak for themselves,” said Kelso. “And it’s a lot of cross utilization. To get your mashed potato, it’s going to be a smashed potato where we’re taking our roasted [potato] and reducing it down with some cream. We’re not making this batch of mashed potatoes at 4 p.m. for night service that sits on the burner all night. Every single side is getting prepared to order a la menu.”
This philosophy sounds just fine to Jim.
“A great restaurant shouldn’t need more than 25 things on the menu because what that really means is that you’ve developed those things and trained the kitchen on how to prepare those things, so that when they come out, they’re great,” he said.
But there have been some culinary casualties as well. KFC in La Cañada has closed after 40 years of operation. Information hasn’t been released as to what may be going into that location.
A number of other restaurants have opened up in the last year, including La Fleur Pastry for baked goods and Seasoning Alley for Mediterranean cuisine. Kebab Daddy has been in business for the past six months at the corner of Ocean View and Honolulu, offering Mediterranean food offering 100% certified Angus beef, as well as catering services.
Other local businesses will merely be undergoing a regime change.
Landry’s Sporting Goods owner Paul Roberts will be retiring after working in the family business since 1973, but Landry’s will live on. Billy’s Boardshop underwent an ownership change as well, with Christian and Jackie Cuesta taking over in December 2014. Jackie said in just under a month of ownership, she has enjoyed seeing families frequent the store, with both parents and kids finding things to enjoy and some kids even bringing the owners pizza.
Izzy Cycles will be undergoing an unfortunate change, moving from its current location on Foothill Boulevard to Pennsylvania Avenue, due to a series of break-ins at its current location in the past few months.
Mary O”Keefe and Charly Shelton contributed to this story.