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Groovy Grocers: Piggly Wiggly Continental and Bestway markets

Back in the '60s, these two Encino mainstays were great places to shop, snack, buy records or just hang out.

One of the most enduring, happy memories of my childhood in Encino in the 1960s are those of my family's many visits to Piggly Wiggly Continental Market and, down the street, the little Bestway convenience store.

Piggly Wiggly, as it was called before shortening its name to Continental Market a few years after opening, sought to compete with the recently opened market in Encino and Jurgensen's market (both in Encino and Beverly Hills) as a gourmet food paradise, featuring top-grade meat and produce, an international cheese section ("The Cheese Cave") and a bountiful wine selection. The store even had a real trolley car inside to hold the bread and a fully stocked gift and cosmetics counter. What a classy way to shop for Cocoa Puffs!

Piggly Wiggly also was known for its top-notch Buttercup Bakery, run by Uncle Charlie and Uncle Joe, and I remember getting a phenomenal Batman birthday cake there in 1966 for my party at Flooky's Hot Dogs. Butchers wore top hats, there were gas lanterns outside the store, and there was even an old-fashioned carriage parked outside to remind shoppers of a simpler time in America.

I remember ditching Hebrew school at the nearby temple with my buddy Alan Beck to visit the sensational snack bar at the Continental (as it was named by then). We often indulged in those rotating-in-the-case hot dogs and a wonderful orangeade, which was displayed in a clear, cascading fountain container. When spotted by Alan's mother, we hightailed it to the store's back staircase to hide.

Bestway Food Market was a small family-owned store that was reminiscent of Sam Drucker's General Store on the TV show Green Acres. I bought many of my 1960s paperback books there off the rack by the door, including the Beatles Yellow Submarine, The Story of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Flip's Groovy Guide to the Groops!, featuring '60s rock bands such as the Byrds, the Cowsills and the Buckinghams.

Bestway, known for its butcher department, even had a little post office in back. There was also a record album rack, where I bought my "Batman Theme" LP by the Bat Boys there; not the official TV soundtrack, but a great LP of swirling, organ-fused pop tunes.

Along with Encino Bowl, Continental and Bestway were hangouts of sorts, as you would always bump into people you knew at both stores.

A rite of passage occurred for me at the Bestway in the early 1970s. The manager caught me and a buddy swiping a few packs of baseball cards and confronted us outside the store. This humiliating and somewhat traumatic event abruptly ended my would-be career as a petty thief. I even refrained at that point from cadging spare change off my dad's dresser when Don the ice cream man rolled onto my street with "Yankee Doodle" blaring from the speaker on top of his truck.

Now if I could just get one of those chocolate-chip danish pastries and some colored-sprinkle butter cookies that Piggly Wiggly's Uncle Charlie handed out as samples, and not feel guilty about the carbs!

Richard Libott March 22, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Within a few blocks of the Continental Market, on the opposite (south) side of the street on Ventura in the 1960s was a German restaurant in what may have been a converted residence. Does anyone remember the name of that German restaurant?
Sam Yorty, Jr. February 21, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Far out man, my pop would be proud...Encino was better then, so was LA...
Scott Langford May 08, 2013 at 02:21 PM
The thing that enthralled me most as a kid was the live lobster tank in the back of the store.
Joan Johnson Hickey Rocha December 15, 2013 at 07:30 PM
OMG - yeah, that was great. My favorite was the big slabs of beef jerky you could get! I lived right down the street on Densmore, and we used to ride our skateboards there. I found one picture on the web that shows me with my sb, in line to check out. What a trip!

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