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.
(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 whats 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 didnt 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.
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.
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 marketalong with the juices, smoothies and saladsare 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.
Meals like this vegan brown rice and walnut sandwich are so delicious you won’t miss the meat.
We dont have a set menu, Sulami said. Its a spur-of-the-moment thing that depends on whats 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 markets 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 theres too much [to where theres a] need or desire.
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 Topangawe want to help promote the local crafts people, Rocco said.
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 stores jukebox proceeds to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a childrens music program.
We give back to the community and the community gives back to us; its 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. Its 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 .