November 27, 2014

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

 

Topanga Fresh Market creates soulful food and community support.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2013

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

Susan Sulami (L) and Teal Rocco (R), owners of Topanga Fresh Market, proudly show off organic produce which, along with other specialty items and made to order meals, helps them promote their healthy world view.

Walking into Topanga Fresh Market, customers are immediately greeted with warm smiles and unbelievably wonderful smells coming from the kitchen.

“We like having our atmosphere feel warm and comfortable for everyone,” said co-owner Teal Rocco. “People often run into friends here and when they see people that they know it feels very friendly.”

Built in the 1920s, Topanga Fresh Market was once a small grocery store, then a bar (nicknamed the “Stop and Fight”) and then a pizza parlor. After lying empty for many years, it was renovated in 2012. Rocco and owner Susy Sulami took over Fresh Topanga Market on January 15 of this year.

“Everyone had been driving by and saw it was empty and residents would wonder what it would be transformed into,” Rocco said. “Topanga needed a place for organic foods for a long time and this location needed us.”

Rocco and Sulami, both approaching their 50s, were stay-at-home moms and former career women looking for a business project to generate income.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2013

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

(L-R) Erika Pereda, Skijah Indigo and Sarah Yocom cook-up delicious tasting (and smelling!) fare like roasted sweet potatoes and vegetarian sandwiches. Topanga Fresh Market features daily seasonal specials, such as vegan creamy green soup, coconut curry, zesty black bean and their famous red lentil soup.

“Teal and I both come from entrepreneur families,” Sulami said. “We had done other projects together in the past and we always wanted to start a business in the Canyon. Originally, we thought about selling ice cream in Topanga.”

The women learned that starting a business takes time, dedication and nurturing.

“Part of what’s making us work well is that we started off with the right amount of capital,” Rocco said. “It created a foundation of what we had and we didn’t drown. Starting a business is like having a baby; you need to give it so much energy and attention.”

Sulami agrees. “You need to be a constant learner,” she said.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2013

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

Brother and sister John and Tina Cruz are proud to serve and are hand to answer any questions about the menu which is constantly changing.

With Sulami having a cooking thumb and Rocco with a background in design, the business partners jumped at the opportunity to create a market, not just to sell and create organic foods but a place for the community to come together. The women had been raised with a health consciousness that increased dramatically over the years and went into full bloom while raising their children.

“In the end, all we have is our health and it is the most powerful thing we can give our children and ourselves,” Sulami said.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2013

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

These whimsical carrot cakes definitely taste as good as they look.

Topanga Fresh Market carries a variety of products, from vegetarian to animal, gluten-free to raw and vegan. All produce in the market—along with the juices, smoothies and salads—are organic. With their soups, salads and desserts, they aspire to be 100 percent organic whenever possible and strive for local and sustainable ingredients.

“We follow whatever fits into our general aura of health, nutrition and well-being,” Rocco said. “We are across the board for people and their different needs. Our customers can taste the different samples of what we offer.”

Topanga Fresh Market features daily seasonal specials, such as vegan creamy green soup, coconut curry, zesty black bean and their famous red lentil soup. Their head chef, Arielle Goldwrath, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, is a professionally trained Cordon Bleu chef and recently came back from a month-long cooking program in Europe.

SPUR-OF-THE-MOMENT MENU MAY DEPEND ON THE WEATHER

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2013

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

Meals like this vegan brown rice and walnut sandwich are so delicious you won’t miss the meat.

“We don’t have a set menu,” Sulami said. “It’s a spur-of-the-moment thing that depends on what’s in season, what the weather is like and what we are low on. I like collaborative cooking and there is a lot of input amongst us.”

The market’s most popular items include their homemade organic hummus, raw chocolate treats and freshly brewed Kombucha. Organic coffees and teas, coconut water, pistachio nuts, local raw honey and grass-fed beef sticks are also sold, as well as a unique, hard-to-find Jun tonic, a Chinese herb-infused fermented green tea drink.

“The culture is hundreds of years old and a garden secret,” Sulami said.

The women also pick their own produce that grows in the front of the market, such as kale and tomatoes, and use it in the soups and salads. They also grow passion fruit, apricots and guava. At another end of the market are thyme, rosemary, basil, chives, jalapeños and the edible borage flower. Even more amazingly, the community brings in their own produce from their back yards to the Market.

“They give it to us for free, so we give it away for free,” Rocco said. “We are a conduit and distribute food from where there’s too much [to where there’s a] need or desire.”

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2013

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

This sign points the way to the canine friendly al fresco area.

Topanga Fresh Market currently gets about 100 customers a day and dogs are welcome. “We get lots of interesting people here and we love every single one of them,” Sulami said.

The women also sell art works from local artists, which include paintings, jewelry, crafts and many books ranging from sustainable living and gardening to nutritional and craft books for kids. In addition, the market sells CDs from local musicians, including employee Terin Ecto; and hosts several live acts out on the back patio.

“Anyone who makes things in Topanga—we want to help promote the local crafts people,” Rocco said.

LONG-TERM COMMUNITY SUPPORT

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2013

Topanga Fresh Market — Never the Same, Always Fresh

Although it had great music and a place in Topanga history, the new store is a far cry from the dark honkytonk that was sometimes referred to as the “Stop and Fight”.

The business partners also believe in giving back to their community. They recently donated food to the Topanga Film Festival, Topanga Creek Watershed Committee, Topanga Elementary School and Cleveland Humanities Magnet. They also plan on donating their store’s jukebox proceeds to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a children’s music program.

“We give back to the community and the community gives back to us; it’s very symbiotic,” Sulami said. “We have a mutual need to fit in and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.”

“We don't want to be like Whole Foods or part of a chain of stores; we just want to be a place where the community can be supported,” Rocco said. “The community supports us and we support it. It’s really important to us. Feeling connected is so important to everyone.”

Topanga Fresh Market is located at 1704 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Hours are Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. For more information, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/TopangaFresh .