CARDIFF BY THE SEA — If your shopping list includes organic salad fixings, wild Alaska sockeye salmon, 18-year-old scotch and a scented soy candle you can find it all at Cardiff Seaside Market.
Vegetarian? The deli features homemade teriyaki grilled tofu and zucchini protein pancakes.
“If a customer asks for something we don’t have, we’ll always try to get it for them,” said store owner John Najjar.
Najjar and his brother, Peter, opened the market in June 1985. About 10 years ago they were so successful that they were able to buy the building that houses the entire Cardiff Town Center.
By staying in business, even thriving, they’ve beaten the odds by doing what previous tenants such as Vons and Farmers Choice were unable to do.
Their formula is simple. They are invested in the community by living in Cardiff and being responsive to their clientele.
When they acquired the Cardiff Town Center they launched a revitalization program that included donating money to the Cardiff library and the Cardiff Schools Education Fund, or SEA. The first Friday night of every month the store hosts a Family Movie Night on their patio. Profits from food and beverage sales benefit Cardiff SEA.
Najjar also supports fellow business owners through the Cardiff 101 Main Street.
“We have a philosophy that you should support local merchants because they will keep money in the community,” Najjar said. “People are attracted to the coast because businesses are independently owned. They are the lifeblood of the community.”
The Najjar brothers know something about business. They were raised in a family grocery store in Michigan.
Now they’ve had the opportunity to participate in their own community’s growth.
“If you’ve been in business for 25 years, you’ve watched kids go to school and later work here at the store,” he said. “Now they have families of their own and shop here.”
Consumers find a whimsical mix of products, from the mundane to the exotic. For example, the store offers a choice of daisies or Hawaiian protea flowers, Pedigree or Organix brand dog food, Marlboro cigarettes or handmade cigars.
There is berry pie and crème brulee made onsite and gourmet desserts imported from The Cheesecake House in Lake Elsinore.
The meat department boasts quail, apple wood smoked bacon, Cordon Bleau, veal scallopini and a variety of fresh sausage links.
“No one can touch our tri-tip,” Najjar said. “We may seem more expensive because we carry better meat but our prices are comparable to Vons and Albertsons.”
The market offers their own line of condiments such as cherry merlot wine sauce and demi glace.
“If a local person has their own brand of barbecue sauce, we’ll carry it,” he added.
Najjar is planning to “push out the walls” to make room for new product lines and is deliberating on a number of ideas.
“A lot of people who are under 50 travel a lot,” he said. “When they return they have drink and food flavors they want to recreate but can’t find. We want to carry it for them.”
Word-of-mouth has proven to be the most effective advertising.
“Our best PR is from a cashier at another store who is asked, ‘Where can you get this?’” Najjar said. “He’ll respond, ‘Seaside Market.’”
Despite the store’s success, Najjar has no plans for expansion.
“We’re staying in one location,” he explained. “When you live and work in a community, you’re tied to it. Cardiff businesses really support each other. Everybody is friends and neighbors.”