For industry and SGV-folks…
June 2nd 1948 to May 14th, 2020
Dear Friends, Chefs, Customers and Community:
It is with a very heavy heart and tremendous sorrow that I share with you that my mom, Nicole Grandjean, passed away on May 14th. We are devastated by her loss and we know that for our community the loss & pain will be profoundly felt as well.
Nicole, founder of both Nicole’s Market Café & Gourmet Imports was born in France in 1948. She grew up in the beautiful Loire Valley where she lived until the age of 19 at which point, she set out to travel the world and eventually immigrate to Canada. In 1974, Nicole gave birth to her only child on a freezing December morning in Montreal. After a stint in Northern Ireland and back to France, she returned to Canada in 1976 - this time to Vancouver B.C. Life there was simple and peaceful with Nicole working as a waitress for most of those years. At 39 years old, Nicole again packed up belongings and child and headed to Los Angeles in search of the American Dream.
She initially worked as a sales representative for a specialty food company but in 1989 declared “I did not move to the U.S. to work for someone else” and Nicole’s Gourmet Foods was born out of our Sherman Oaks home. The business sold specialty foods to discerning L.A. Chefs - many of whom are still our customers today. She was CEO, salesperson, delivery driver, accountant, all wrapped up into one. In 1995, mom decided to again follow her gut and she opened a tiny specialty shop located in a bland & unassuming strip mall on North Allen Avenue in Pasadena. In her 500 square foot shop, she offered a curated selection of Cheeses, Oils & Vinegar, Charcuterie, Caviar and yes, Foie Gras.
In 1997, Nicole was diagnosed with cancer. I left my career in Special Effects to “temporarily” help her run the business. Throughout her treatment, mom never missed a day of work. We argued & disagreed about almost everything – yet the dynamic paved the way for a powerful partnership that lasted until her passing. In 1999, she set her sights on a building in South Pasadena where the store still operates today.
Nicole lived & ultimately died on her terms. She was diagnosed again with cancer only weeks before her death. She exited this world with grace and dignity. Nicole was beautiful, tough as nails, dedicated, unforgiving and unapologetic. She was impulsive & fiercely independent. She said what she thought and believed what she said. She was tough with people, but none more so than with herself. She was funny, private, loving & generous. Nicole loved classical music, wine & cheese. She loved travel though rarely would go as she seldom wanted to leave her shop despite her dedicated and loyal staff. Nicole loved the outdoors. When not at the shop, she spent most of the time in her garden. Whether it was 105 or 50 degrees, she drove with the top down on her convertible. She worked tirelessly in her beloved shop almost until the very end. Her final weeks were spent living with me and my wife Julia.
Julia and I plan to keep the shop open because that’s what Nicole would have desired and it is what the community wants & deserves. Nicole is loved and will be sorely missed by her family, friends, staff and loyal customers. She would not want anyone to “waste” too much time crying or being sad, but rather raise a glass (preferably of Sancerre) in her honor while eating some chèvre.
Nicole had a profound & indelible impact on the Los Angeles culinary scene that likely will never be fully recognized or appreciated. We lost an incredible woman and pioneer last week.