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In 1952 Vern Weigel was dismayed at the earthquake damage at the Frazier Park Store. But the family persevered, passing ownership to Jack Johnson in 1978. Now, at the stroke of 2014, a new family has purchased the Frazier Park Market, which has always been a center for social greetings in the town. [RRCM&HS photo]
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The Frazier Park Market advertises its specials every week in The Mountain Enterprise on pages 14-15. These two advertising pages are a source of great interest to newspaper readers throughout the Mountain Communities, who use them to make their shopping lists.
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By Patric Hedlund (with research by Bonnie Kane, Historian for the Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society)
Recent news that the Frazier Park Market has been sold was a surprise to employees and the community. From its earliest days, the Frazier Park Store (later known as the Frazier Park Market) has been a local institution. At the end of 2013, the market had been locally owned for 88 years.
The market is a center of hometown culture here, part of the glue that cements daily life with a friendly spirit of community in this mountain village. Neighbors greet each other in the aisles. They exchange news in the check-out line about family, schools, business, sports and mountain weather.
That friendly feeling—and the market’s great specials published each week in The Mountain Enterprise newspaper—keep customers coming through those doors rather than doing all their shopping off the hill at discount stores.
How it all began
Ben and Merle Fife built the original Frazier Park Store in 1925. They anticipated the real estate boom that was about to begin over the Ridge Route from Los Angeles at the base of Frazier Mountain. A new subdivision called Frazier Mountain Park was about to be developed.
In the early years of the 20th Century, before air conditioning, Glendale Mayor Harry McBain and his friends had seen an opportunity.
They purchased and subdivided Cuddy family homestead land, then sold the small lots to Glendale families who wanted mountain cabin retreats where they could escape the steaming summers of the San Fernando Valley “frying pan.”
The mayor made a promise that every lot sold would have a recreational easement to the beautiful central park that was at the heart of the village, with its gracious oak trees and five ponds, archery range and swimming hole.
The Fifes enjoyed living here and operating the store until the 1940s.
The next step
Stephen and Jean Keithly from Oildale bought the market from the Fifes. The Keithly’s daughter and son-in-law, Jean and Vern Weigel, took the market over in 1949, operating it together. Vern and Jean lived in the smaller of the rock houses on Mt. Pinos Way until 1952.
The Weigels passed operation of the market on to their daughter Kim and her first husband, Jack Johnson.
When The Mountain Enterprise newspaper was founded in 1966, the market immediately began using the newspaper’s pages to cement Frazier Park Market’s central role in the mountain’s economy.
The market’s list of weekly specials in the newspaper quickly became a core part of the store’s business strategy. It was read by everyone in town. Frazier Park families made their weekly shopping lists from the grocery ad on the pages of the young town’s own newspaper. That relationship has continued for 48 years.
Jack Johnson purchased the family shares of the market in 1978. His brother Rick Johnson managed much of the day-to-day operation of the business until last week.
A new chapter
Last week—over 35 years later—Johnson transferred ownership of the Frazier Park Market to a new family.
Escrow closed on January 1, 2014. A posting on the window of the store names the owners as Rasem “Ray” Akari, Manhal “Mike” Khalil and Sameer “Sam” Khalil.
Ray Akari has been the popular manager of the Mountain View Market in Lake of the Woods, bought in 2007 and expanded. It is praised as being bright and well-run, with a good produce section. Last week Akari was handling many of the management tasks at the Frazier Park Market in place of Rick Johnson.
Sam Khalil bought Sam’s Liquor in Lebec in 1989. Mike Khalil became involved with Don’s Liquor and Gas Market in Frazier Park in 1992. Ray and Mike have homes in Frazier Park. Sam Khalil owns a home in Lebec.
The three have been working and investing in the Mountain Communities for over 20 years.
“That is why Jack wanted us to have it when he decided to retire,” Mike Khalil said. “We will keep it a welcoming place for the community.”
This is part of the January 10, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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