In the 1980s, Los Angeles was home to four specialty Dutch markets and a Dutch bakery. Over the years the stores have closed one by one, and now the last one left standing — Holland American Market — is saying goodbye, after 71 years.
On a recent visit, the shelves, once full with cheese and licorice, are barren. A worker offers up a box of tissues. How did this happen?
A December 1987 article in The Los Angeles Times suggests "Dutch treats — for a truly charming Old-World Christmas look," listing Jaynel Dutch Imports in L.A., Ann's Dutch Store in North Hollywood, Hollinda Co. in Temple City, and the Holland American Market in Bellflower as good locations for Angelenos shopping for a holiday party.
The Holland American Market might be the oldest of the bunch: It was founded in 1943 and has remained in its original Bellflower location ever since. Seventeen years ago, the Dutch family who founded Holland-American sold the business but kept ownership of the property. Now they've decided to sell their land, and the Dutch Store must vacate the premises on June 30. It will remain open for business until that date.
We spoke to Maria Cervantes, who has worked at the store for 17 years: "The customers are very sad," she said. This is confirmed by the store's Facebook page, where fans lament its closing — including some who traveled from as far away as Arizona to get their fix.
All hope might not be lost: Rumors of future relocation are abuzz, but we couldn't get any confirmation on where — or when — Holland American might reopen.
In the meantime, it seems as if that old Times article was on to something. Even if the last Dutch store is now closing, at Trader Joe's — a supermarket with only 4,000 items (compared to the typical 50,000) — you can buy an impressive number of Dutch products: imported stroopwafels, several kinds of gouda, speculaas and the insanely popular "cookie butter" (a Belgian product inspired by the Dutch cookie). An Anaheim-based baker sells her popular Dutch butter cookies at L.A.-area farmers markets under the name Oma's Cookies.
With all this appreciation for Dutch food, why the disappearance of Dutch markets? Millennials are supposedly more likely to shop at specialty stores than their parents — hence the popularity of places like Sockerbit, a Swedish candy store whose trademark salty-sweet offerings were so successful in New York that they opened a second outpost in L.A. And the population of Dutch expats in Los Angeles seems to be holding its own. We're home to an annual Holland festival (25 years strong), and King's Day 2014 was so massive it was held it at the StubHub Center.
Could Holland American simply be a victim of unfortunate circumstance? The long trail of other similar stores, now shuttered, suggests not. But Holland American certainly has many fans. After notice of its closure in early June, it has long since been cleaned out of its supply of cheese and speculaas.
There are still a few items (mostly gifts and some baking mixes) up for sale before the store closes on Monday, June 30, but most folks are just coming to say goodbye, and perhaps take a photo with the wooden man eating herring.
Holland American Market is located at 10343 Artesia Blvd., Bellflower. The store will close on June 30.