Market Opportunity: A Palos Verdes Resident Finds Success in the Market of Good Eating

With unwavering determination, optimism and a love of food that was realized in the wake of a very difficult childhood, Jocelyn Lopez followed her heart and an epicurean journey that eventually led to her opening the new Lunada Bay Market & Deli in Palos Verdes.

WRITTEN BY DIANE E. BARBER | PHOTOGRAPHED BY STEPHAN COOPER


With unwavering determination, optimism and a love of food that was realized in the wake of a very difficult childhood, Jocelyn Lopez followed her heart and an epicurean journey that eventually led to her opening the new Lunada Bay Market & Deli in Palos Verdes.

In the face of adversity, many of us have heard our mothers and grandmothers counsel, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That cliché could have been written expressly for Jocelyn, who received a very large serving of lemons as a child. This is hard to believe given her engaging and vivacious personality.

Jocelyn grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, with an older sister and younger brother. Her father worked night shifts as a butcher, and her mother cleaned houses to help support the family.

When Jocelyn was in elementary school, her mother was diagnosed with cancer—which drastically changed the course of the family’s life. Jocelyn and her siblings suddenly had to figure out how to put meals on the table, and her mother often took her out of school to help with house-cleaning jobs.

“My mom was in and out of the hospital a lot when we were little. She was a very proud and independent woman, and when she learned that she had cancer, the lack of control and helplessness of it all was hard for her to deal with. My sister went to work with her occasionally, but I went most of the time. I think my mom felt comfortable pulling me out of school because I had really good grades,” recalls Jocelyn.

Prior to her mother’s illness, Jocelyn spent time helping her in the kitchen. “My mom loved to cook. She would have me peel garlic or roll lemons, and we would always complete our creations with our secret ingredient: love,” she shares. “I started cooking myself when our family challenges came up. I tried to remake her recipes, though they didn’t come out that great at first. In fact they were pretty bad, but I kept trying. I soon realized that simple, whole foods worked best for any recipe—stirred with a little love, of course.”

Jocelyn also started a garden in the side yard of the family home. “I remember the first time that seeds that I planted from a tomato grew,” she recalls. “I was so excited that I started to plant everything. One time I even planted a chicken bone to see if it would grow too!”

“I cook all of the boys’ meals from scratch and never fed them anything out of a jar when they were babies. They have never been to McDonald’s.”

Her mother passed away when Jocelyn was in high school. In 1990 she left for Loyola University in Chicago to major in literature and education. “I worked as a server and in banquets at a luxury hotel for extra money, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really fancy food!’”

She continued working in the hotel industry after college and became enthralled with high-quality food and fine dining. She took cooking classes and collected cookbooks to further her culinary education.

In 1998 Jocelyn visited a friend in West Hollywood and decided to move her hospitality career to California. In 2004 she relocated to the South Bay to be close to the ocean. She married in 2005 and had two boys who are now 8 and 5.

“I cook all of the boys’ meals from scratch and never fed them anything out of a jar when they were babies,” she says. “We went to farmers markets, and I steamed and blended their baby food. They have never been to McDonald’s.”

Jocelyn’s passion for exceptional food and the Palos Verdes community—along with her desire to be close to home—were the driving forces behind her opening the Lunada Market & Deli on Palos Verdes Drive West this summer.

“I originally wanted to open a smoothie and fresh-pressed juice bar,” she says. “But a mentor of mine said to me, ‘You can do more! Have you ever thought about a market?’ The timing was great because Fresh & Easy was going out of business. I began researching and exploring other small markets and soon realized that this is what I really wanted to do.”

The inviting, new, upscale market boasts a complete kitchen and offers one-stop shopping for natural whole foods, select wines and specialty items with a hint of Napa Valley. “We have imported gourmet items and a lot of local fare. We also carry as many sustainable products as possible from local farmers, which is easy to do because we live in such a great location in the Sunbelt.”

With the market doors now open, Jocelyn has her sights set on phase 2 of the opening and is looking forward to having the kitchen fully operational with daily breakfast, lunch and dinner selections by the end of the year.

 

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