With the new Trader Joe’s quickly rising on Honolulu Ave. and Orangedale Ave. in Montrose, one smaller, independently-owned market is preparing for the competition.
Down a few blocks west at 2931 Honolulu Ave. is , a privately owned, community-centered and very different style supermarket featuring worldly products, daily fresh produce and prime butcher-cut meats.
“So here we go: 'the big' and 'the small.' The small struggles to survive and the big struggles to take over,” said Cordon’s owner Gus Malouf. Malouf had initially opposed Trader Joe’s construction in such close proximity to his store, but these days he feels he could benefit from their presence and the new customers who might come in as a result. Malouf has stepped up his game in order to compete, and plans to open a new restaurant on his supermarket site.
“The personal touch is what separates us [from Trader Joe's], and we’ll continue to do that with a new restaurant I’m planning to add to this property," said Malouf. "We’ve been going through the permit process and hopefully we’ll be opening in a few months.”
The restaurant menu will be a fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean food. Malouf said the idea came from his findings that Californians favor Mexican food and Armenians enjoy Mediterranean fare.
"We’ll have our own bakery and my own secret recipe for ‘Hawa Chicken,' grilled with a little olive oil and onions and some other ingredients," said Malouf. "This is a dish I found in Europe a few years ago which they’ve never had here. It’ll be better than Pollo Loco. Hawa ... means 'open air" or fresh,'” Malouf said.
Malouf will also continue to cater to his regular customers' diverse preferences, even if it means using several different suppliers to get the same product on his shelves.
“The Armenian community that comes in here comes from a lot of different areas: Iran, Russia, other parts of the Middle East, all with different ethnic backgrounds, different tastes. And that means [using] different suppliers," said Malouf, who has developed a network of suppliers that cater to different needs.
"So we have to deal with all these suppliers–five different suppliers, perhaps, for the same product to please everybody,” said Malouf.
Malouf is also focusing on keeping his shelves stocked with a fresh variety of food that is replenished almost daily. Malouf said that fruits and vegetables are delivered daily, while meats are delivered every other day.
Codon's produce section contains pesticide-free and hormone-free chicken and beef at the lowest prices in the area. And customers can select their own meat cuts and take them home in their very own bag.
Cordon's will also continue to offer low prices. Malouf pointed out his weekly printed flyer which is inserted into the Penny Saver or can found stacked in front of his store. Among other specials, it offers fresh tomatoes for an amazing $1.00 for 4 pounds or about .25 cents each. Typically tomatoes sell for $1.99 a pound in this area.
Malouf has owned Cordon's for just over a decade and has 25 years of experience in the supermarket and restaurant business.
According to a Trader Joe's spokesperson, the small Trader Joe's up the hill at 3433 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta will be relocated into the newly built 14,670-square-foot location at the base of the Montrose Shopping Park, complete with 60 parking spaces. Construction is set to be completed by the early fall, with doors opening in October or November.