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High-end grocer opens its doors

Posted: November 12, 2008 10:57 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2008 4:59 a.m.

Nora Papp, 5, eyes desserts for sale at Bristol Farms, which opened in Valenica Wednesday. Papp's mother Liz said she loves the proximity of the grocery store to her home.

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Kerrina and Michael Cragun'Rehders of Stevenson Ranch enjoyed a "European picnic" of gourmet cheese and wine Wednesday afternoon. It was their way of celebrating the opening of a store they've been waiting more than a year for.

"We used to live in Westchester and shop at the Bristol Farms there, so we've been waiting, waiting, waiting," Kerrina said.

Streams of locals strolled the new aisles of Bristol Farms in Valencia, tasting samples of fresh sushi and mingling with bakers and store workers.

Numbers of customers like the Cragun'Rehders welcomed the new market that steers far from the average grocery store.

"I'm shocked," said Lani Kim of Valencia. "I thought Bristol was for upscale areas like Beverly Hills. It's nice to have it around here."

Hand-painted murals that depict picturesque scenes of Santa Clarita Valley sprawl across the walls. The smell of freshly-brewed Peet's Coffee wafted through the store as shoppers browsed through sections of fresh foods - chopped, baked, cut, sliced and diced on the spot.

Bristol Farms is known for its assortment of specialty foods and fresh products combined with a warm atmosphere, a reputation that reflects its mission statement.

Bristol Farms operates on a "passion for food" and a desire for customers to "experience food," according to Kevin Davis, president and CEO of Bristol Farms.

"It's very nice," said Mike Carey, 53, of Valencia. "They have a lot of specialty items. The atmosphere is very calming."

Davis was not surprised by the large turnout.

"We're happy to be here," he said. "We'd been getting more e-mails than almost any other area asking, ‘Will you please build a Bristol by me?' It's exciting when you have people begging you to come out."

One local couple agrees.

"I think it's long overdue," said Dean Bowen, 67, of Valencia.

"He must like it; he's already been here twice today." said Corina Bowen, 64, referring to her husband.

Store officials take pride in the customer-employee relationships.

"We allow them time to interface and interact with the customers," Davis said. "It's not just about production and getting the customers in and out."

Store managers hired 98 employees, most of whom live in the Santa Clarita Valley.

"It's a family thing," said employee Judy Lopez of Sylmar, referring to the work atmosphere. "The store director, Mike, said his most valuable asset is his employees."

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