Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

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By Bonnie Carroll

Bristol Farms Market opened in La Cumbre Plaza Santa Barbara on Thursday with a warm welcome to area residents who were happy to shop and peruse the large gourmet grocery and enjoy the many organic and health-conscious options the market is known for. 

In the mid-90s I was a reporter covering the Beverly Hills Bristol Farms opening in the former Chasen’s Restaurant location. I was thoroughly impressed with the quality products featured in the sophisticated market that had once been a favorite haunt of major celebrities and political personalities when Maude Chasen was the hostess with the mostess in her renowned dinner spot on Beverly and Doheny Boulevards in West Hollywood.

Every year President Reagan and George Burns would hold their February 14 birthday parties at Chasen’s, and it was rumored that Elizabeth Taylor once paid a fortune to have Chasen’s chili delivered to her at the set of Cleopatra in Rome. People in Beverly Hills embraced the quality food and service of the new gourmet market, where a small section still contains original booths with nostalgic photos of the old Chasen’s where patrons can eat lunch. This market continues to be one of their most successful store locations.


Bakery section

The market in La Cumbre is the very latest design of the company, it is quite large and includes unique food stations, along with a huge inventory of fine wines and liquor products. Everything I saw during my visit looked delicious, and the staff (all in masks and in compliance) could not have been more pleasant.

Denis Lacey, General Manager of the new location, gave me a tour and explained the many take-out food options being offered due to the pandemic. The bakery has an assortment of gorgeous cakes, but I appreciated that you could buy just one piece if you liked, and their beautiful pies can also be purchased in half portions. 

The Sushi & Saki area was overflowing with fabulous sushi combinations, and the sandwich bar had people waiting in line at 10:30 a.m. Lacey explained, “we have created a special to-go section for entrees with a manager to facilitate patrons requests during the pandemic... essentially, it is a take-away menu of delicious lunch and dinner dishes.” 

To celebrate the opening their steaks were 40% off and people were buying them, including me. Bristol Farms carries so many gourmet and organic choices in just about every food and beverage variety you would want which makes shopping there an exciting learning experience. Everything from gourmet Prosecco Bear candies to exotic cheeses to unique gift items can be found as well as all the usual grocery items people are looking for. I was impressed to see a section spotlighting locally produced products and an exquisite wall of Margerum Wines had been created to highlight the Bristol Farms amazing wine section.


Margerum wine wall

Shoppers who are searching for that elusive ingredient that will complete a culinary recipe and create a masterpiece know they can get it at Bristol Farms. It is the gourmet grocery store that has what chefs and cooks look for. Lacey, who was a manager at Lazy Acres in Santa Barbara for many years, and his staff are welcoming area people to stop by and get to know them and become familiar with their special inventory. 

Bristol Farms opened its first store in 1982 in Rolling Hills Estates and was started by Irv Gronsky and Mike Burbank who had worked together in the food industry for almost twenty years. Their vision was to combine the service and food quality of a corner grocer, butcher, and baker with the theatre of Harrods in London. The first store was an overwhelming success. The company added further stores in California. In June 1999, they acquired a famous landmark, Chalet Gourmet in Hollywood.


Local foods section

In 2004, Bristol Farms was purchased by the Albertsons chain and in October 2005, Bristol Farms purchased Santa Barbara-based Lazy Acres. Many believe the independently owned single store Lazy Acres sold to Bristol Farms as a defensive move against Whole Foods' pending arrival into Santa Barbara. While this is Bristol Farms' first and only location in Santa Barbara, the 28,000-square-foot Lazy Acres store itself continues operating under its original format. The Long Beach Bristol Farms was converted into a second Lazy Acres in November 2012. 

Four former Albertsons locations have been converted into Bristol Farms: One in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, the second location in Palm Desert, which originally opened as Lucky, a third location in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles, and a fourth in Santa Monica. 

Shoppers seemed excited about experiencing the new Bristol Farms, and I know that I will be going back soon.

More information about Bristol Farms at the La Cumbre Plaza can be found here.


Bonnie Carroll is a veteran journalist specializing in food, travel, and health. Learn more at lifebitesnews.com.

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REX OF SB Aug 22, 2020 03:23 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Judging from this self-aggrandizing puff piece, Bristol Farms appears to be even more expensive and pretentious than I thought it would be. Too bad there isn't one "family priced" supermarket anywhere on the Northside. But I guess we've covered that.

a-1598139490 Aug 22, 2020 04:38 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Rex, some people move when their neighborhood gets too run down. Others move, when it gets too upscale. The Goldilocks Equation.

a-1598144555 Aug 22, 2020 06:02 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Grocery Outlet, Trader Joe's and Target are lower-priced grocery store in the Upper State Street area (north side?) Grocery Outlet is a monthly treat among foodies, who swap finds online for their best picks. Enjoy the sense of discovery this store offers.

oceandrew Aug 22, 2020 06:11 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

REX, you clearly didn't note who the author of the piece was. This is just the way Bonnie writes, a gossip columnist who tries to venture out into boosterism in a market pretty much dominated by John "The Palm" Palminteri. Personally I got bored at the telling of Reagan and Burns cavorting at Chasen's as Beverly Hills' "Who's Who" is not my cuppa tea. Kudos to anyone with the fortitude to read on from there.

SBSand Aug 23, 2020 07:56 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Rex, Smart n Final is one block away and Vons and Ralph's aren't far either at Turnpike... seriously in this city we have it all and people still aren't happy!!

REX OF SB Aug 23, 2020 02:48 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

SBSAND: Not that it's really any of your business, but while I technically live in the Alta Mesa area, I do a lot of business at and around the Northside. I like Vons on the Mesa, but it's tiny and has limited selection. Smart & Final isn't great if you want non-industrial sizes of things like frozen peas or regular -sized jars of mustard. I usually now shop at Ralphs, just because it's the only option. Living in a particular neighborhood doesn't chain you down to having to shop there. Unfortunately for Northsiders, though, the only choice they now have at all involves three of the priciest markets in all of Southern California.

SBSand Aug 23, 2020 04:01 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Smart n final has plenty of normal sized portions and they can drive a short distance to get to Vons or Ralph's. This city is pretty easy to navigate in, I'm sure that people will continue to use the same stores that they were using before the opening of Bristol Farms.

a-1598244840 Aug 23, 2020 09:54 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

This. Give us a break, it's been a difficult adjustment to lose the Ralph's on De la Vina & then Vons in La Cumbre. When I was caring for my parents, Ralph's was in between my place and theirs, which made all our lives easier. And I grew up a few blocks from La Cumbre Plaza. I don't remember the dairy, but I do have a memory of being on the dirt lot that is now Robinson's. Oops. I mean Mays, or whatever the heck is the correct name. I don't care how you belittle complainers. If you were in our shoes, you'd probably say something about it too. $3 avocados? HAH! never. I'll find a tree and buy some from the resident owner.

SBSand Aug 24, 2020 07:13 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

All these special names for pieces of the Westside and Upper State, etc. You live on the westside and are closer to downtown stores than to this one, it shouldn't even IMPACT you at all so that doesn't explain your strong criticism.... but if it is within your routine to drive that far to shop then you will not limit the folks in that area to shop there, you should also give them permission to shop outside their own neighborhood and frequent one of our many other wonderful stores. You crack me up.

REX OF SB Aug 24, 2020 09:33 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

SBSAND: Thank you for trying to regulate where I shop, based on my neighborhood. You have ZERO idea why I prefer shopping on the Northside, and your deductive reasoning is beyond ignorant. I suggest you stay in YOUR neighborhood, because I don't think you're ready to venture out into the real world any time soon.

SBSand Aug 24, 2020 10:27 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Haha do you NOT see that is what you said about the people that live in that neighborhood? I was just reversing it to apply to you. That is why you are hysterical, well part of why...

RHS Aug 22, 2020 06:37 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Rex is spot on here. The idea that we (the special ones) need a special market is anti-egalitarian and snobbish at the end. What is worst is that places like this and Whole Foods and others are exploiting working people to cut their overhead while charging top end prices. Too many of the liberals and progressives I know (as I think I am one of them) refuse to recognize this conflict with their own values. They are willing and even excited to patronize these sorts of businesses (Amazon, Lyft, Uber, Tesla for example) in order to have "the best" for themselves. It is embarrassing.

letmego Aug 24, 2020 08:59 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Eh I think it's good to have choices. I rarely shop at WF (the parking lot sucks). I have, however, found them to have good quality food and SOME of their foods are very affordable. There are a handful of things that I like to buy there because I can get a better price than elsewhere (some items from the bulk bins, back when we could do that? and jarred tahini...) A jar of tahini, however, lasts me 6 months, so I don't go often.

With COVID, my normal "shop around for the best prices" is out the window, anyway. So it's 60% my local Vons, 30% Costco, and 10% "other" (Target, Trader Joe's). I get my produce from the farmer's market via Local Harvest Delivery.

420722 Aug 22, 2020 07:06 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

2 for $7 for avocados make me appreciate the free organic avos in my backyard a lot more. 3.50 is outrageous for 1 avo, organic or not so I won’t be buying those but the cookies and specialty cheeses are calling my name though. I’ll give them a try, even the “high end” grocery stores have good deals sometimes.

a-1598421611 Aug 25, 2020 11:00 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

I think it's safe. But this is interesting:
"KB US Holdings, the owner of Kings Food Markets and Balducci's, has filed for bankruptcy.
In court papers, the company said the pandemic has boosted grocery sales but "will not persist indefinitely and has created uncertain and unprecedented circumstances." https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/a-regional-supermarket-chain-just-filed-for-bankruptcy-despite-surging-grocery-sales/ar-BB18mTN6?ocid=st

fewtile Aug 23, 2020 07:48 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

RHS I don't know how you equate Amazon and Lyft etc. with Tesla and this store. You're sounding little intolerant. Don't patronize the businesses with whom you have a problem. And Rex, back in the day, my wife and I used to drive, regularly, to Ventura when there was no Trader Joes in SB. And, 420722 a $2.00 apple at Trader Joes is better than a gaggle of Galas at Smart and Final, in my opinion.

RHS Aug 24, 2020 11:55 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Lyft and Uber and Amazon and Tesla make their profits by hiring people at low wages and without benefits. Sometimes they do this by claiming the workers are not "employees" and sometimes they do it by limiting their hours to less than 40 a week to preclude benefits. High prices for food at these grocery stores is not passed on to the employees in better salary or benefits but goes to the owners who want to maximize profit for stock growth and potential flip. Musk for example is the CEO with probably the highest ever salary/compensation package as compared to the salary of the workers in "his" company who are notoriously underpaid and stressed in the production of the Tesla cars. And so forth.

CelesteBarber Aug 23, 2020 08:01 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

What nastiness. And of course, all you naysayers hide behind monikers. First, I enjoyed the long review. But then I like reading substantial well-written articles, something that allows me to take a stroll through the prose, rather than a quick scroll down. Second, we should all be celebrating a store OPENING just now. We are still in the midst of a state-wide shutdown. Many of our beloved stores and restaurants are closed, gone permanently. La Cumbre Plaza is a ghost town, so the addition of this beautiful store should have us all thrilled to welcome her here. At a time when many of our friends and neighbors have lost their jobs and are challenged getting through to the state's unemployment site, we have a new business with jobs, good jobs. (And for those who snub entry-level, I have this to say: Work hard, learn and go beyond the job description. You will be moving up within 6 months with pretty much any employer. That includes McDonald's.) I actually visited the store on Friday. It was safe enough that I took my 92 year old husband. It was beautiful and the staff was well-trained, including in their hospitality. Yes, it's pricey, but not everything. But we do have choices here in Santa Barbara, don't we. I like to mix-n-match. For me, it's my weekly treks to Tri-Counties Produce where we all support a local business; as well, our beloved Trader Joe's. As far as the chain markets -- the hell with them. I have avoided them since the union strike of about 15 years ago or so. I recall clearly one statement from an owner, I think the man who owns Kroeger's. When asked during the strike how he would feel if one of his kids worked in a supermarket and under those conditions, his response: "My kids don't work in grocery stores." That ended it for me. I imagine this post is too long for some among you, but frankly, I'm sick to death of the nastiness. The Pandemic has brought out the worst in people. Right now, we must strive to restore civility in the public sphere again. Be kind to others, and stop looking for ulterior motives to suit one's own political agenda. Amen on this Sunday morning. And welcome to our town, Bristol Farms. I'm happy to call you "neighbor."

SBSand Aug 23, 2020 08:02 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

It won't be my go to store but it will be for Hope Ranch and many others. I don't shop at Whole Foods either, unless I want special cheese or gluten free dessert, Sprouts for certain things like produce and good steak, Costco for eggs, tp and snacks,,TJs for frozen food, smart n final for frozen veggies and this store will be good for certain things, like top of the line meat I imagine. We seriously do have it all here but not all in one place. Which is ok, variety and choices are good to have. I do miss Vons there but the one at Turnpike is fine.

MaxPilot Aug 23, 2020 08:06 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Great store and when I shopped prices on my routine stuff it is the same or better!!! The choices are amazing and the setting is great. I grew up near a Bristol Farms and yes it is not Smart and Final but if you want quality goods, look no further. Bristol Farms will be a great success here in SB because it feels as though you merged TJ’s, Lazy Acres and Whole Foods together in one central location with great parking. Welcome to SB Bristol Farms!

a-1598422115 Aug 25, 2020 11:08 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

I wonder about your routine stuff, would love to know! When I shopped at Gelson's as a last resort, due to odd circumstances, it seemed every food was 20 to 50 cents more expensive than at Vons. Things like S&W or other brand canned beans, canned soup or tuna, canned cat food, dry goods like TP and tissue. I did thankfully indulge in the cast-aside turkey drumsticks and thighs at the cutting board, and eggs, tofu, and cabbage were affordable - but still more than a "regular" grocery store. Haven't been there since early this year. And before I actually shopped there, though very limitedly, I only went in to buy dry-cured black olives from their olive bar.

sbdude Aug 23, 2020 08:16 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Upper State has Gelson's, Whole Foods, and Bristol Farms all competing for the same limited demographic of upscale customers. One of them will not survive.

a-1598196422 Aug 23, 2020 08:27 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Looks like a nice store. My only complaint is about the clean up that will be needed when those bottles of wine that are so nicely shelved so high tumble after the next earthquake.

angryjoe Aug 23, 2020 08:42 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Look sheeple, it’s another chain store selling the same waxed and gassed fruits and veggies. Be thankful we have the farmers markets to shop for real food. No need to hate on em. Just git up off yer duffs and support the farmers and get the benefit of real food, not factory food.

SBTownie Aug 23, 2020 09:18 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

A remarkable amount of negativity and nastiness in this comment section. I love the new market and am so glad to have yet another wonderful place to shop for food in town. Cooking at home is one of the few activities we can still do during COVID so I am very happy to have another option for sourcing ingredients. I will continue to buy my produce and even some of my meat from our local farmers via the farmers market, but the naysayers should also be aware Bristol has made a point of carrying local products, too. We got some lovely Robitaille's mints from the store. They carry Santa Barbara Pistachios, and many other local brands. The interior is light and bright and makes shopping a joy. We have dozens of new jobs staffed by wonderful and friendly people and it's a new option for those who want high quality and organic food but don't want to support Jeff Bezos. If you don't want to shop there, then don't shop there! No one is forcing you!

m-cubed Aug 23, 2020 09:20 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Look at that wine display! Come on it's just booze! How much am I gonna owe them if I stumble in there blacked out drunk and stumble headfirst into that thing?!

CGinSB Aug 23, 2020 09:30 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

In the past Couple of years I've "rediscovered" the SB Farmers markets. The produce sold there is fresher than any of the supermarkets, and less expensive than the higher end stores (WF, Gelsons, Lazy A, and apparently Bristol Farms). Buy fresh fish directly from fisherman and fisherwoman at the harbor on Saturdays 7-11 am or from local fish markets, Tri-County has a good selection of produce and wine with lots of locally produced items and bulk goods in a nice, low key smaller building. The IV Fud Coop is a delight, with brands and products you won't easily find elsewhere, as is the Montecito Village Grocery (in the shopping center where Tecolote Books is located). I haven't been to Lassen's in a long time but that's another health-oriented grocery store. Even smaller and more specialized are the Metropoulos (has been in the funk zone Since before it was FZ), Tino's Italian Grocery on W Carrillo, the European Deli Mkt at Hollister x Modoc, and the myriad Asian grocery stores -- Nikki in Goleta near TJ's (Japanese), Indo China (Hollister x Storke) has Asian, South Asian and middle eastern items, Choi's Oriental Mkt (Hollister x Patterson), the Oriental Mkt (Hollister x Magnolia Ave) has Asian and Indian and other eastern foods as well as some British foods (e.g., Lyle's Golden Syrup), the small Pennywise Mkt across from the Eastside Library is largely Indian foods, the Santa Cruz Mkts and Chapala Mkt (on Milpas!) and many "corner stores" have Mexican / Hispanic products, then there are all the chain stores. Including the Sprouts, due to open in the former TJs location on lower Milpas. I've missed a number of other food purveyors but my points are 1. Get your produce and other local items (meats, cheeses, honey, olive oil, nuts, jams, beer...) from the Farmers Markets and local fish markets; 2) there are scads of smaller markets around town. Just google 'Santa Barbara grocery' and scroll. If you have the time and money and mobility to visit a few different stores you might enjoy seeing the variety and find something unexpected.

a-1598201544 Aug 23, 2020 09:52 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Indo-China Market (old K-Mart-Target now) has even more than British items, they have Swiss, Italian and Dutch treats too. Anyone who misses some fun foods they find from prior world travels can take a stroll down memory lane at the Indo China market: Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian .... plus very nicely curated international selections, and they will try to get what else you want too.

SB Barbarian Aug 23, 2020 07:00 PM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

I'm pretty sure the bus goes to all those places. I'm going to have to get to the maps to see how many of those I can visit in the next month and how much my life will be enriched.

M38 Aug 23, 2020 09:46 AM
Bristol Farms Market Opens in Santa Barbara

Full disclosure! Thought locals should understand this informative tid-but:
Good Food Holdings, the California-based holding company of upscale grocery chains Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres Market, and Metropolitan Market, was acquired by Emart in 2018, South Korea’s largest retailer, for $275 million.[8]

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