• husband and wife standing next to each other

      Mario and Michell Guajardo (Photo – Hugo Arteaga)

      “There are no words to describe what they mean to me,” said Dr. Sandra Thomas, Vice President of the Altadena Chamber of Commerce when asked about Michell and Mario Guajardo, the owner operators of Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Altadena. “They are two of the most thoughtful people. They do everything out of the goodness of their hearts.”

      By Jennifer Hall Lee

      There are a lot of sad Altadenans these days because the Guajardos are moving to the Temecula area to own and operate a new Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. They are leaving us.

      When Grocery Outlet opened in Altadena on December 13, 2018, the parking lot was full of people from our community who were there for the ribbon cutting; Altadena Town Council members, local press, and shoppers who were lined up around the building waiting for the big moment. It was a beautiful day.

      As the cameras were poised for the big moment when the doors would officially open, Michell and Mario were missing. Where were they? According to Altadena Town Council Chair Billy Malone, Michell and Mario were talking with the line of shoppers “to make sure they were okay.” That is the essence of the Guajardos – helping others.

      From the beginning, Michell and Mario showed us that giving to others took precedence over everything else in life. Dr. Thomas said, “They came into Altadena making a difference.”

      Indeed, they did. First, they held shopping cart relay races for presidents of public school PTAs. The first to fill up the cart with items within a three-minute time frame won the amount that the average shopper would have saved had they purchased those items.

      Then began the donations for local events: Backpack & School Supply Giveaway with LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Altadena Chamber of Commerce mix and mingle, pancake breakfast with the Altadena Rotary Club to benefit the Altadena Mountain Rescue, and so much more.

      In 2020 Covid-19 hit and people panicked. They swarmed the grocery stores! They hoarded eggs, milk, and toilet paper. However, Michell and Mario were cool as cucumbers. They were among the first stores to create a “senior shopping hour,” and then they expanded the concept by organizing volunteers to do the shopping for senior citizens who felt safer staying in their cars.

      The totality of the Guajardo’s generosity could fill a book. One of the most popular events is Food Truck Friday, the brainchild of Mario with help from Altadena Rotary Club member Rene Amy. They officially approved the idea when Michell added an important component: donations. She said “If we can do it to raise money for an organization, that would be ideal.”

      And they did. Food Truck Friday donates 10% of the proceeds to a different local organization each week. Multiple food trucks arrive every Friday and people gather to eat at picnic tables in the parking lot.

      Who have been the recipients of the Food Truck Friday donations? The list is long: Union Station, AME Church, Meals on Wheels, Five Acres, Friends in Deed, Altadena Children’s Center, and many more. The amount of donations is big. Take for instance, the amount of $600 donated to The Quality of Life Center Bright Future Scholars. Its founder, Dr. Sandra Thomas said, “They were not only helping, they were contributing.”

      In 2020, Grocery Outlet was named Business of the Year by the Altadena Chamber of Commerce. It also was honored as the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Fifth District Good Food Champion. All staff were hired locally, and 70% of those initial local hires are still with the Guajardos. Mario Guajardo said, “We’re going to miss our team too.”

      The Altadena Grocery Outlet has new owner-operators who are community minded and have attended several Food Truck Fridays.

      Michell said, “Grocery Outlet talks a lot about being humble and being hungry. You want to strive for what you want to do.” Then she choked up and got teary-eyed, “This must be the humble part.”

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      1. Patti Ebbert says:

        Michelle and Mario always made us feel like family. If I had a specific request Michelle would text me with a reply. They went over and above any other store owner I have ever encountered. They put the big chain markets to shame. They will be missed here in Altadena. We travel through Temecula often on our way to Borrego Springs and will stop and visit with them in the future.

      2. This Article was mentioned on brid.gy

      3. Nancy Gronroos says:

        What a beautiful couple! They have planted seeds of kindness and we who remain must help them grow.

      4. This Article was mentioned on brid.gy

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