By Mary O’KEEFE
Gelson’s Market will open its doors on March 27 at 635 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge. The location was previously occupied by Vons market, but the remodeled store leaves no trace of its past, only a bright future.
Gelson’s has been in Southern California since 1951. The first store was opened in Burbank and, although that location is no longer around, its history is passed down to a new generation.
“My grandmother opened the Burbank store,” said LCF store director James Dahlia.
The respect for history and family is evident in the LCF Gelson’s Market. On the back wall of the store are pictures of La Cañada from the late 1800s to the early 1900s from when the city was open fields up to the construction of the Foothill (210) freeway.
CVW was invited to walk through Gelson’s as the crew gets ready for their opening. As Dahlia walked through the store, calling attention to Wolfgang Puck Express and the Renaud (French) Bakery, it is obvious he is not only proud of his store but is also excited about being in La Cañada.
Dahlia grew up in Burbank and knew La Cañada well; his grandfather had volunteered at Descanso Gardens. He also is familiar with Crescenta Valley and Montrose.
“Our wedding cake was made at Montrose Bakery,” he said.
And later, he and his wife returned to the bakery for their baby shower cake.
Familiar faces will greet Gelson’s shoppers; locals have been hired and are working to get everything ready for their store’s grand opening.
Dahlia, who received his degree in the culinary arts in Santa Barbara, worked at several restaurants and hotels and owned his own restaurant and catering company before joining Gelson’s as the head of the deli department. In the wine department, a sommelier knows every bottle of wine, from the expensive to the more reasonable vintages. There are also a variety of craft beers. Specialists are on hand to pair wine with recipes and cheese choices.
“We have a nutritionist who [creates] our recipes,” Dahlia said.
The nutritionist is already working with the Crescenta Cañada YMCA on projects to help educate kids on the proper diet. The store, on occasion, will offer customers body composition tests for free.
“Our nutritionist, Jessica Seigel, will lead local school tours,” he added.
Their store also has a sushi chef and a large variety of fresh fish.
“And we are different than other stores. [Customers] will find we have a full store staff during the day,” he added.
Everyone, including the clerk helpers and baggers, are educated about to the many varieties of items in the store so they can help customers.
There are some features in the La Cañada store different from other Gelson’s stores. This store, and the one in Long Beach, have a smoker, or barbecue, that serves brisket and tri-tip sandwiches. They will also have a pokē salad bar, which is a Hawaiian specialty that often features ahi sashimi.
Gelson’s will be a place where customers can not only shop for their staples but can get specialty items as well, said Yvonne Manganaro, senior director of marketing.
Though the store feels high-end, with a full deli, salad and juice bars and meat without antibiotics or growth hormones, there is still a friendly, neighborhood feel to the market. Dahlia said that Gelson’s also strives to use sustainable products such as cardboard containers in their deli department. They prioritize buying locally to reduce their carbon footprint, too.
It is hoped that this store will fill a void after the Gelson’s at the Paseo in Pasadena closed.
“We had a store in Pasadena we closed in June 2013. Unfortunately it never received [much] business,” Manganaro said. “We had a lot of people that [came to that store] from the foothills area.”
Store representatives had heard that Vons was preparing to close its doors in La Cañada, so they made a few calls and a lease was negotiated.
All are invited to the store’s grand opening at 9 a.m. on March 27. Normal business hours will be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday.