A little shop built in 1930 on Highland Ave. has been reborn as Nick and Sons Gourmet Market, the newest incarnation of a nearly century-long local market tradition in North Manhattan Beach.
Nick and Sons Gourmet Market
officially opened at 3307 Highland Ave. last month to a warm welcome from neighbors and fellow merchants. The former Moon's Market, it is now owned by longtime restaurant professional Nick Nahigian (and his sons, technically, although they are just two and four years old).
Nick and Sons features a deli along with carefully curated cheeses, charcuterie, wines, beer, liquor, and other grocery items. Most days you'll find fresh flowers there as well.
"Ever since we've opened up, everyone has just been super excited," said Nahigian. "People come in and say, 'We've wanted this for years... We’ve really needed a place for provisions, a great wine, and grab-and-go food.'"
Preparing the market for opening was nearly a history lesson in itself, said Nahigian.
According to Jan Dennis in her book, "Images of America: Manhattan Beach History," builder Howard Zahn started construction on the brick-arched building in 1929 to provide quick and easy access for shoppers to pull in and park. Completed in 1930, it was known as the "Camp and Clark Drive-in Market," and housed a grocery store, barber shop, and radio store. The 13-inch brick walls were later covered in stucco.
Clearing out the 3,000-foot space was "an adventure" that brought along a few discoveries along the way, said Nahigian. The crew uncovered the original brick arches, a 90-something-year-old floor, a series of windows that had been covered up by shelving and walls, and old-time floor safes.
The team uncovered what had been a window in this spot
The building's broad brick arches are once again visible.
"Exposing the natural architecture was really cool," Nahigian said.
Coming from the more recent past, he added, the crew found a baby footprint from the 1970s in the cement. The footprint turned out to be from the young daughter of the Moon family, the market's previous owners.
Even though the renovation was a lot of work, he said, "it was a lot of fun, for sure."
Neighbors Show Appreciation
Nahigian himself is no stranger to Manhattan Beach. He spent years working with the Simms Restaurant family.
In fact, he and his wife own a winery (whose wines are featured at Nick and Sons) called Table 11 - which is a reference to Table 11 at Tin Roof Bistro
, where they first met.
Nahigian also prides himself on having good relations with his Manhattan Beach neighbors and fellow merchants.
Nahigian said he has told the Sea View Inn
, "Anything you want for your guests, we’ll make it happen."
"It’s always about the community - I see it as, it’s not 'your guests;' it’s 'our guests,'" he said.
Meanwhile, Nahigian worked with Berit Johnston, owner of North Manhattan's Art of Summer
, to create special coloring pages for a scavenger hunt for the market's grand opening party. The colored pages now decorate the market.
"[Nick's] son had a birthday party at Art of Summer, so it was really awesome of them to support us and also offer to showcase the studio as part of their grand opening," said Johnston. "I really appreciate how they have brought local artisanal foods into the market as well. Small businesses supporting each other is part of what keeps the vibe of El Porto so inviting."
Nahigian already has a stream of "regulars": the three-times-weekly grocery shoppers, the couples who come in on the weekend for coffee or wine, and what he calls the "Prime time" kids who come in the afternoons for their Prime energy drinks.
"A lot of people say, 'I used to get candy or ice cream here when I was a kid; and now I have kids of my own who come in here,'" said Nahigian. "The memories that come from this store are really special for a lot of people."