It’s probably been 30 years since I first met Jay Handal. He was the owner of two well-known Italian restaurants. One was in Brentwood Village and another in Culver City. Besides managing his restaurants, Jay had a desire to improve the quality of lifestyles for other business owners and residents in the areas where he lived and worked.
With his innovative ideas and sense of determination, he became involved in the political operations of these areas. He became active on the West Los Angeles Community Council and the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Fast forward to last year when Jay called to tell me he owned a store on Pico and Centinela called Erba. As you might imagine, I wondered how he went from owning restaurants to owning a store that appeals to a different type of appetite. When we met, he explained that he had retired, but was doing some consulting on land use. One of his clients was in the cannabis business, and he asked Jay to work with him. Jay agreed, but wanted to be sure they would plan to open more stores.
“We have nine in construction,” Jay described. “They are located from West Hollywood to Oxnard and Brentwood to Gardena.”
The rest, as they say, is history. When you drive by the store, there are people going in and out as if they were going to a sale and didn’t want to miss out.
I wondered how Jay found the vendors he wanted to work with. He said many of them came to him. There are 10 booths, or counters, where vendors can display their products. They do pay a fee to have a booth. His store is one of the top three in the state, he added.
“We have over 800 people a day coming in,” Jay noted. “We do 200 deliveries a day,” he continued. “It’s like delivering pizza,” he smiled. “No different than the restaurant business. It fits right into my whole background.”
Jay and his staff of 89 are well trained and very knowledgeable about the products they are selling. As I walked by the various booths I could hear conversations between customers, of all ages, incidentally, and the staff behind the counters.
I felt like “Alice in Wonderland” at Erba, as it was my first visit and realized this was a whole new culture and that there is a great deal of information to learn. The store carries thousands of cannabis products for customers.
It is obvious that Jay enjoys talking with his customers. “I’m having fun at work,” he concluded, “and am looking forward to having fun with my grandchildren who are coming to visit soon.”
When I had first entered the store and greeted Jay, a tall young man with a beard came up to him, smiling, and told him how much he liked the store. That comment and the number of customers who were streaming in and out is an indication that Erba (weed in Italian) is a business that knows about good customer service.
Erba is located at 12320 W. Pico Blvd., just east of Centinela. Curb side pickup and in store hours are 8 a.m. to 9:50 p.m. Free delivery is from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more details, call 310-207-1900, or go to Erbamarkets.com.
By Diane Margolin
Publisher, The Santa Monica Star