The secret to this specialty market lies within the proprietor himself.
Peter Kagan, owner of Canyon Gourmet, is a five-year resident and proprietor of this specialty market located at Pine Tree Circle in Topanga Canyon.
Kagan assumed the lease from its previous owners with plans to re-establish this one-of-a-kind shop. When he sat down to discuss the final details, there were only eight hours left on the lease, but he had made his decision and was determined to embark on this Canyon Gourmet journey.
Kagan, who originally went to Rhode Island School of Design where he graduated with honors in 1979, then moved to New York City and worked as an assistant for various fashion photographers.
The course of Kagan’s life changed one day in 1982 on assignment with Elgort to shoot a still portrait of Twyla Tharp for a magazine article. In Tharp’s studio, Peter observed her process which included her dancers recording themselves with a video camera, unusual at that time. While the apparatus did not have the mobility of today, the camera moved with a fluidity and energy that opened his mind to the possibilities of what camera work could accomplish, particularly when combined with dance.
He later started shooting film and video and produced some film content for the fashion industry for forward-thinking clients such as Vogue, GQ, Commes des Garcons and Karl Lagerfeld. He then gravitated to music videos where Warner Brothers commissioned him to make his first video for a new band, “Scritti Politti,” where he won “Best Video” at the MTV Music Awards.
Kagan then had a long list of musicians he later worked for that consisted of Duran Duran and Steve Winwood, to name a few. He followed his success by directing hundreds of national and international advertisements for a wide range of clients, among them Nike, Reebok, Estee Lauder, Lexus, Sprint, AT&T, Coca Cola, Miller Beer, PBS, and the list goes on. He worked for virtually every major advertising agency in the country, won many awards for his work and continued to create for a wide variety of clients.
His real passion now is creating a sense of community. After numerous production meetings and brainstorming he finally realized that the purpose and importance in life was to give his family and two sons, now young men at 21 and 23, a nutritional value in which he felt pride. He became the “hunter-gatherer” creating family dinners that made an impact.
Kagan, a car and motorcycle enthusiast, eventually moved from Mar Vista to Topanga Canyon where he often drove, loving it and hoping that, perhaps one day he would move into this magical community. He has lived all over LA and today realizes that Topanga Canyon is his home in a place where he feels safe, centered and connected.
Upon signing the lease for his shop, he says he felt a sense of solace, a connection to a community where he was engaged and that it was a safe haven for his children and others. Pine Tree Circle was intimate and connected. Kids could walk from the library or get dropped off after school in front of his store in the town center with no worries.
It’s no surprise that Kagan also created that sense of community within his store, especially for the kids who often sit and do their homework while waiting for their parents to fetch them.
Kagan created Canyon Gourmet as a village market, a place where he would want to shop for a bottle of olive oil or a good wine on his way home. It’s the same for many Topanga locals who come to shop during the week and find specialty cheeses, bread, olive oil, pasta, unique sauces, chocolates, and organic fruits and vegetables. Kagan carefully selects the produce himself every week at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
The wines are carefully chosen and curated by sommelier Elaina Leibee, who adds a personal touch with her wine-tasting notes on the bottles. Leibee is now in high demand at many well-known restaurants.
Kagan only works with established specialty vendors and broadens the selections for those times when customers need gift baskets, specialty cheese boards or a special wine for a special friend.
Peter Kagan has become one of Topanga’s own, bringing villagers together in this unique gourmet market that, after five years, is standing strong and remains the endeavor that will continue to be his favorite investment. He is proud to be part of the community and is always evolving and engaging in what is meaningful to him.
As they say, “It takes a Village.”
Canyon Gourmet is located at 120 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Ste. TKTK, Topanga, CA 90290. (310) 455-4200; canyongourmet.com.