Local Businesses Test the Waters

By Kait Leonard
Kait LeonardBy Kait Leonard

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Local Businesses Test the Waters
As Los Angeles County attempts to get back to normal, or something like it, Topanga businesses explore this new phase. While not everyone has emerged from hibernation, some business owners have opened with limited hours, others offer sales, and some are introducing new product lines. They all share an optimistic spirit and sense of gratitude for their customers. A “50% off” sign adorns every shelf and tabletop at the Topanga Candle Company. This is owner, Tom Vogel’s way of building excitement for candles. “I just want to give people a reason to come in,” he explains. Customers are also invited to schedule friends-and-family candle-making parties. “Bring a bottle of wine. We’ll play music and make candles,” says Vogel. On top of all this, a significant renovation is underway. The new version of the shop will be revealed at a grand opening planned for July 1.
Across the walkway, the owners of the Sassafras Shoppe, a garden and nursery store, are currently hammering out details for their second grand opening celebration. Co-owners Ronnie Corbett and Pami Ozaki haven’t set the date yet, but they’re excited to be working on it. Sassafras hasn’t been hit as hard as some businesses, perhaps in part because “the film industry is sitting home looking out their windows at their yards,” says Ozaki who is ready to beautify that long neglected green space.

On the other side of the street, Flower Power’s summer blooms offer hope and happiness to anyone passing by. Owner, Abigail “Gidget” Zapata, didn’t take the onset of the pandemic lying down. She immediately alerted her customers via social media that she would be taking orders and making deliveries. Zapata was able to keep her own business going and support farmers in Ventura who supply her shop. At this point, she plans to continue creating in the morning and delivering in the afternoon. “I am extremely grateful for my community. They supported me through these strange and sad times,” says Zapata.

As an essential service, the Canyon Gourmet wasn’t hit as hard as some. Even so, they have exciting plans to usher in the new era. They are currently adding daily fresh seafood to their offerings and expanding their meat section. But perhaps even more exciting for the season, ice cream is coming back. The Canyon Gourmet welcomes summer.
A development that is exciting to everyone tired of eating in front of the television, restaurants are once again offering on-site dining. The Canyon Bistro reinstated the option to eat-in on June 1. Waiters serve customers on the patio and in a limited indoor area. Safety precautions remain in place, but it only takes a few bites to master the strategy of eating around a mask. Customers seem happy to make the effort.

Next door business neighbors, Monica Zaidman of Moona Star and Ann Lombardo of Pebbles, have both thrown open their doors. “I’m just grateful to see people again,” says Zaidman. Lombardo agrees. “It’s just wonderful hanging out with my amazing customers. They’re all so sweet,” she gushes. Both shops opened with limited, trial hours, and both are already expanding their schedules.

No one knows how long a complete reopening will take. Right now, face masks and respect for social distance are still required. Will there be a second wave to deal with at some point? If so, will businesses be asked to limit services again? So many questions persist. But one thing members of the Topanga Canyon community know beyond any doubt—the spirit of the Canyon is strong. It will survive whatever this virus dishes out.

“Topanga businesses reopen, proving the spirit of the Canyon survived the first phase of the pandemic.”
Kait Leonard

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June 26, 2020