It’s a winter Sunday, and Jim Miller is with his family at Bob’s Market. The Santa Monica resident buys some Chicago sausages and giardiniera and grabs a hot dog from the outdoor barbecue. His wife, who is shopping at the neighborhood grocery store on Ocean Park Boulevard for the first time, takes a liking to the pre-made salads. And their 3-year-old son has a ball on the coin-operated horse ride outside.
“It is a lot like stepping back in time,” said Miller, a regular at Bob’s. “That’s one of the reasons we go there.”
It’s an atmosphere by design at the longtime market, a fixture at the southwest corner of Ocean Park Boulevard and 17th Street since 1979. Its owner, Bob Rosenbloom, has been operating grocery stores since 1965. But even after 50 years in the business, Rosenbloom said he hasn’t entirely figured out how he’s been able to keep the local market alive this long.
“To be honest, I don’t know,” he said. “I run it like an old-time neighborhood store, and I think that’s missing in this area. There aren’t too many independents left. I’m trying to be as competitive as I can and giving the service that people like. I’ve got people coming in that used to come in when they were kids, and now they’re coming in with their kids. It’s been a good ride.”
It’s a ride that began at a young age for Rosenbloom, 83, who helped out in the grocery stores his father owned: Ritz Market in Venice in the early 1940s, another location in Crenshaw after that and Food Palace near the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Bundy Drive starting in 1949.
Those experiences gave Rosenbloom the confidence to launch his own markets on the Westside, opening near the intersection of National and Exposition boulevards five decades ago this year. He later expanded with three other stores, including one at Palms and Sepulveda boulevards and another near Pico and Barrington Avenue. But the Santa Monica location is the only one that remains.
“It was the larger of the stores, and I sold off the others,” he said. “This is more like a retirement home for me. It’s a good place to be.”
Bob’s Market, which offers meats, produce and a curated wine selection as well as a full-service deli and home delivery, has attempted to maintain its yesteryear sensibilities while competing against large chains. It closed for six weeks in 1994 for major renovations, and Rosenbloom has upgraded store equipment over the years.
“I try to keep up with the times,” he said.
If Rosenbloom hadn’t purchased the property a few years after moving in, he said, he probably wouldn’t have been able to keep the market afloat. But at least some of the company’s longevity is due to its focus on customer service. His approximately 60 employees, including Richard Schwartzberg in the meat department, Jim Jaffe in produce and his son Rick in wine and liquor, bring decades of experience to the market.
Bob’s Market has also maintained a strong presence in Santa Monica by donating to numerous nonprofit groups, religious institutions and schools, including Westside Family Health Center, Santa Monica YMCA, the local Little League, the Church in Ocean Park, Mount Olive Lutheran Church Preschool and Santa Monica Synagogue as well as Santa Monica High, John Adams Middle and Grant Elementary schools.
“We like to support the community because they support us,” store supervisor Lafayette James told the Daily Press earlier this year. “We are an anchor for the community in Ocean Park and [Rosenbloom] has always believed in giving back. We are community-based and there is growth in supporting local.”
Asked about the future of the market, Rosenbloom admitted that he hasn’t given it much thought. He and his wife have eight children combined, but he said they haven’t shown much interest in taking the reins of the business.
For now, though, it appears local residents will continue flocking to the market for their grocery needs. As Miller, the regular, wrote in an online review: “Don’t ever change, Bob’s.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.