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LarsTheo

Surfas Gourmet Food in peril

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According to this news article, which is continued on page two, Surfas may be going out of business soon, due to their warehouse being appropriated by imminent domain. I don't know why they don't use the vacant lot across Washington Blvd from Surfas. I would be happy to see more light rail, and that is a great location (although Culver & Washington seems better), but I think the public domain is better served by Surfas being allowed to stay in business where they are. I've written Huell Howser to enlist his help. Maybe he will be able to do a show on Surfas before it is too late.

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Just posting to say, click on my sig...


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Sorry, folks. I meant "eminent domain" instead of "imminent", although it seemed "imminent" to me at the time! Just another homonym mix-up.

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I don't know diddley about eminent domain, but I do know that Surfas is the greatest kitchen supply/food store I've ever strolled, and I've strolled a few. It was a high point of my last trip to LA.

This can't happen!


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I actually went to Surfas this afternoon, kind of on a "preemptive" shopping expedition. Made a sweep of the place, took mental notes, stocked up on a few items.

Anyway, they're not going anywhere right away, but I do think Les Surfas will bail on Culver City than put up with anymore of their crap. When push comes to shove, the City will take his warehouse, and then he'll move away.

To where, that remains the question...

(Please, please, please pick Torrance!)


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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I actually went to Surfas this afternoon, kind of on a "preemptive" shopping expedition.  Made a sweep of the place, took mental notes, stocked up on a few items.

Anyway, they're not going anywhere right away, but I do think Les Surfas will bail on Culver City than put up with anymore of their crap.  When push comes to shove, the City will take his warehouse, and then he'll move away.

To where, that remains the question...

(Please, please, please pick Torrance!)

Please please pick Glendale, an easy drive from my daughter's digs in Los Feliz! Did you stock up on frozen grouse? I'm in a mild lather: I told my husband that we'd go to Surfas the next time we're in LA together, and he's been salivating. I might have to change my Labor Day plans.

For my beloved eGulls in NYC, Chicago, Montreal, Atlanta -- Surfas is the Platonic ideal of this kind of shop. One place a foodie needs to visit before he dies.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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According to this news article, which is continued on page two, Surfas may be going out of business soon, due to their warehouse being appropriated by imminent domain.  I don't know why they don't use the vacant lot across Washington Blvd from Surfas.  I would be happy to see more light rail, and that is a great location (although Culver & Washington seems better), but I think the public domain is better served by Surfas being allowed to stay in business where they are.  I've written Huell Howser to enlist his help.  Maybe he will be able to do a show on Surfas before it is too late.

:shock::shock::shock::shock::shock:

Thank you Lars for letting us know about this!

I wouldn't mind Glendale myself ... The city of Glendale is quite business-friendly.


Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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Harumph! I'm putting in a vote for Orange County!  :wink:

Well, I suppose that would give me more of an incentive to go with my wife to Fashion Island, South Coast Plaza, etc... :blink:


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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There is nothing available at surfas that can not be found elsewhere cheaper and sometimes fresher. Compared to Sur La Table it is great but compared to REAL chefs supply they are weak and quite expensive even though they claim to be selling wholesale to the public. The forerunner was Flying Foods and they were the real deal. Many years ago. Having said that I think the situation sucks that they are in. For kitchen supplies try Amazon or just goggle up the names of some of the manufacturers for foods try any number of places including Guidi Marcelo or the web. Chocolates found cheaper, Italian imports such as pasta found cheaper, sea salt, herbs, imported peppers, olives, oils etc. all found cheaper than surfas. Sorry to be a surfas basher but if someone operates a business and claims WHOLESALE to the public they should live up to it. Furthermore the staff is hit or miss on their expertise and that can get annoying.


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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There is nothing available at surfas that can not be found elsewhere cheaper and sometimes fresher. Compared to Sur La Table it is great but compared to REAL chefs supply they are weak and quite expensive even though they claim to be selling wholesale to the public. The forerunner was Flying Foods and they were the real deal. Many years ago. Having said that I think the situation sucks that they are in. For kitchen supplies try Amazon or just goggle up the names of some of the manufacturers for foods try any number of places including Guidi Marcelo or the web. Chocolates found cheaper, Italian imports such as pasta found cheaper, sea salt, herbs, imported peppers, olives, oils etc. all found cheaper than surfas. Sorry to be a surfas basher but if someone operates a business and claims WHOLESALE to the public they should live up to it. Furthermore the staff is hit or miss on their expertise and that can get annoying.

David, I gotta agree... When I lived in SoCal, Surfas was my one-time-a-year Christmas present to myself. Yes, I could spend time surfing the 'net for the supplies, but it was great fun to give myself a budget and go to one store and peruse and choose and go home with a goodies bag. But there is nothing wholesale about it -- but it is fun to see what products they find and carry.

And, the parking can be a royal pain!

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I love Surfas and it is worth the 2-hour + drive for me. I can't even recall the first time I shopped there, it has to be at least 40 years ago.

I have seen far too many of these "redevelopment" projects end up losing money for the cities that force them through. The new businesses that take over the space formerly occupied by old, well established and successful business, often fail within a few months or years. Sometimes it takes a decade or more for a city to get back to the tax base level it had before the change.

I remember the "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" fiasco that took 20 years to repair. At one point there were so many empty storefronts the city "papered" the inside of all the windows with opaque paper with large senic photos like you would see on a billboard.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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There is nothing available at surfas that can not be found elsewhere cheaper and sometimes fresher. Compared to Sur La Table it is great but compared to REAL chefs supply they are weak and quite expensive even though they claim to be selling wholesale to the public. The forerunner was Flying Foods and they were the real deal. Many years ago. Having said that I think the situation sucks that they are in. For kitchen supplies try Amazon or just goggle up the names of some of the manufacturers for foods try any number of places including Guidi Marcelo or the web. Chocolates found cheaper, Italian imports such as pasta found cheaper, sea salt, herbs, imported peppers, olives, oils etc. all found cheaper than surfas...

I disagree also. I've shopped on line and at other stores, and I have not found the really good Balsamic vinegars for a better price than at Surfas. I have found them for twice the price, however. Please tell me where you can find 8 year old Fondo di Trebbiano Balsamic Vinegar for less than $55 - the price I last saw at Surfas. Also, at Surfas you can sample the vinegar before you buy it, which you certainly cannot do on line. I've also found lobster soup base for the best price at Surfas. You can match the price on line, but then you have to pay shipping, which costs quite a bit more than the sales tax. I have found chocolate that I liked cheaper at TJ's, however.

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There is nothing available at surfas that can not be found elsewhere cheaper and sometimes fresher. Compared to Sur La Table it is great but compared to REAL chefs supply they are weak and quite expensive even though they claim to be selling wholesale to the public. The forerunner was Flying Foods and they were the real deal. Many years ago. Having said that I think the situation sucks that they are in. For kitchen supplies try Amazon or just goggle up the names of some of the manufacturers for foods try any number of places including Guidi Marcelo or the web. Chocolates found cheaper, Italian imports such as pasta found cheaper, sea salt, herbs, imported peppers, olives, oils etc. all found cheaper than surfas...

I disagree also. I've shopped on line and at other stores, and I have not found the really good Balsamic vinegars for a better price than at Surfas. I have found them for twice the price, however. Please tell me where you can find 8 year old Fondo di Trebbiano Balsamic Vinegar for less than $55 - the price I last saw at Surfas. Also, at Surfas you can sample the vinegar before you buy it, which you certainly cannot do on line. I've also found lobster soup base for the best price at Surfas. You can match the price on line, but then you have to pay shipping, which costs quite a bit more than the sales tax. I have found chocolate that I liked cheaper at TJ's, however.

ya try made in france aka village imports now?

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ya try made in france aka village imports now?

Where are they? There is the French Market Cafe down the street from my house, which is where I normally buy French imports, but that doesn't help with Italian Balsamic vinegar.

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I agree that Surfas is fun but I also concur with dfunghi and Carolyn about the cons of Surfas. Service can be non-existent or downright rude. Personally, I don't like the new store layout. They seem have sacrificed some of their inventory in favor of their appearance. Disappointing. I do, of course, feel badly for their troubles...

I've ordered a few items from Bridge Kitchenware and had them shipped to California and the price was still better than Surfas. Bridge also carries items that Surfas does not (note: they do not carry food products).


kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

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Lars there are numerous web sites with aged Balsamic and beyond that there are tons of shops without websites located in other cities that just a little web surfing can turn up a phone number for. Furthermore try Guidi Marcelo for older balsamic or better yet order directly from Modena with relative ease. Now bear in mind Balsamic quality is all over the place so you may wish to consult the Italy forum for some opinions. I am not saying do not use Surfas. I am saying that calling themselves "wholesale to the public" is untrue. On cookware they are not even close to wholesale or even close to what can be found downtown or San Gabriel valley. On food they are good on some things and high on others. For instance Epoisse is actually cheaper at Whole Foods. Callebaut chocolate is much cheaper on line through bakery supply houses. Their tuscan oils are sometimes less than fresh and way over priced for the level of quality. When TJ's sold Grimaud farms duck products they were about 30% cheaper than surfas. And TJ's rotated the stock much faster.

Happy hunting

David


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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They seem have sacrificed some of their inventory in favor of their appearance.  Disappointing. 

Hmmm... I noticed that, too, although I can't provide specifics. It seems that there's not as much to tempt me since they moved.

Still enjoy shopping there, though, even though I always end up spending much more than I thought I would. :wink:

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I'll try Guidi Marcello (with two "L"s) - at least they are in Santa Monica - and let you know what their prices are like. I have not found balsamic vinegar on the web available directly from Modena, but perhaps I am not looking correctly. Please share the site where you order from. I seem to remember finding it a few years ago, but my recent searched have been futile. I speak Italian, and so the site does not have to be in English.

I generally shop at Sorrento Market in Culver City for Italian deli items, but they do not allow tasting of balsamic before buying. I've tasted some expensive ones that I didn't especially like, and so I don't think price is the best indicator.

BTW, I don't like the new layout of Surfas either - it reminds me of Rite-Aid.


Edited by LarsTheo (log)

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I love Surfas. Maybe if you're a pro and know exactly what you want, you can find it elsewhere. But for a committed amateur like me, it's great. I often know what I'm looking for but wandering the aisles at Surfas has also allowed me to stumble onto items I never would have thought of on my own. Also, I've always found the staff to be helpful. Of course, a busy Saturday afternoon or close to the holidays in December they are more stretched but that's true anywhere. I've found them generally more knowledgeable than at other cooking or gourmet stores available to the average person like me -- Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma, etc -- and certainly more helpful than other "restaurant supply" places that, while open to the public, are really more geared for the trade. Of course, I live on the Westside and commute back and forth on the 10 freeway so, geographically, they are easy for me to get to.

I've read all the stuff from the story in the LA Times last Wednesday to some of the other stories posted here. I'm also a little familiar with what's going on in Culver City. While I don't have any inside info, there are a lot of forces at play here. The vote in November has a lot of cities really scared. A lot of the statements and quotes in the articles sound like a fair amount of posturing to me -- on the part of the City and Len Surfas. Surfas has been in Culver City for a long time and the folks at the City know what they've got in terms of how it's been important to putting the City on the culinary map. I think that a solution will be found to allow Surfas to keep its store at its current location.

Just my thoughts.


So long and thanks for all the fish.

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Jf I agree with what you say about Surfas being better than most places :smile: . I said that in my original post. As to the quality of the staff I suppose it is a drag for me more than others and some may even really like them. I find they have at best a cursory knowledge of the items they sell and can regurgitate what they have been told. That is far and away much better than one will find at a Sur Le Table type of place where staff is unmotivated and would just as soon work at Borders or the Gap as work at SLT. It is also a much lower level of knowledge then I can find at the Cheese counter at my local Whole Foods or at Norbets. It is also lower than I will find at Harvey Guss for meat or Angin II for fish or Star on equipment. The web is loaded with high quality advice from PRO'S including right here on egullet. I will admit I am easily disturbed by those that know less than me when they profess to be experts. It is a problem with me. I admit that, I am picky to a fault. It is also why I try to know so much about my business but then again it is MY business not just a job. I also came up in the restaurant world of NYC where suppliers were really top notch and one could learn from them. Surfas fits a need and does an admirable job at being diverse and well stocked. I am not anti Surfas. I just have places I like better. Either way NO BUSINESS should have the Govt. destroy the hard work they put into building a successful business. :angry:

Lars try this link for Modena http://www.italtrade.com/ you can contact business' directly.


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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"The government" is not going to destroy Surfas. As I already said:

I've read all the stuff from the story in the LA Times last Wednesday to some of the other stories posted here. I'm also a little familiar with what's going on in Culver City. While I don't have any inside info, there are a lot of forces at play here. The vote in November has a lot of cities really scared. A lot of the statements and quotes in the articles sound like a fair amount of posturing to me -- on the part of the City and Len Surfas.  Surfas has been in Culver City for a long time and the folks at the City know what they've got in terms of how it's been important to putting the City on the culinary map. I think that a solution will be found to allow Surfas to keep its store at its current location.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

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Surfas probably contributes a fair amount of taxes to Culver City so the gov't is probably going to be more sensitive.

As for Surfas' prices, there are certain things you can purchase there at reasonable prices and for other stuff (especially Asian ingredients), you ought to head to a specialty grocer. The caviar prices have always been fabulous. And the cooking gadget price are consistently reasonable.

I don't enjoy their splashy new digs but shouldn't a business grow?


Andrea Q. Nguyen

Author, food writer, teacher

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, Oct. 2006)

Vietworldkitchen.com

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