Buellton’s iconic eatery has closed months before its 100th anniversary, apparently leaving the “Home of Split Pea Soup” without its signature food after the property’s sale.
For decades, Pea Soup Andersen’s, 376 Avenue of the Flags, served travelers and local residents alike.
A sign — green, of course — hanging on the front doors Wednesday greeted would-be customers, stating, “Pea Soup Andersen’s temporarily closed for redevelopment.”
The Santa Maria owner, Milt Guggia Enterprises, reportedly sold the restaurant, but the buyer remains unconfirmed and escrow reportedly has not closed. The restaurant shut down as of Jan. 1.
“At this point, we’re not at liberty to discuss who the purchaser is,” Krista Guggia of Milt Guggia Enterprises said.
She added that she didn’t have the details as far as timeline and what will be developed at the site.
The adjacent 96-room Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn, with a separate owner, remains open, an employee said.
The restaurant’s closure leaves only the Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella along Interstate 5 still open. It’s also owned by the Santa Maria firm.
The restaurant has been known around the world and helped draw attention and visitors to Buellton.
“It’s hard to see an iconic business like that go away or be sold,” said Kathy Vreeland, executive director of the Buellton Chamber of Commerce. “We’re going to miss it. It’s definitely been iconic, and it’s been huge for Buellton.”
Highway 101 traffic once traveled along the front of Pea Soup Andersen’s, but the freeway’s realignment from Avenue of the Flags to the east led to the installation of billboards, including two still between Santa Maria and Buellton, to drive customers into the restaurant.
Word of the closure quickly spread on social media, where users lamented the loss of the landmark, although some didn’t speak fondly of the food.
Several commenters mentioned memories of visits, including to the small zoo once housed at the site.
“We really liked going there and continued on into adulthood,” said Gilroy resident John Zuchelli, who recalled visiting as a child and later took his own children to the restaurant.
Danish immigrant Anton Andersen and his wife, Juliette, launched the family restaurant in 1924. The couple named the eatery Andersen’s Electric Cafe, in honor of their prized possession — a new electric stove.
Longtime customers, or Pea Soup-ers, will remember the trademark Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee characters seen on billboards, building murals and menus.
“The big fellow (Hap-Pea) is shown having all the fun and the easy side of the work, as the little one (Pea-Wee) holds the chisel, looking sad and a bit frightened, always in danger of the big mallet,” the restaurant website states.
In the 1960s, the Andersens’ son, Robert, sold the restaurant to Vince Evans, an actor and friend of another Santa Ynez Valley resident, Ronald Reagan.
Evans also served as the bombardier on the famous World War II B-17 bomber “Memphis Belle,” which was the first bomber crew to complete 25 missions.
Under Evans’ ownership, Andersen’s property became home to a miniature wild animal park for two years, which is noted on a plaque in front of the building.
After the animal park closed, a Danish-style motel was built.
Evans purchased an English pub that had stood for more than 100 years at the Liverpool railway station in London, and reconstructed it in Buellton as a bar and entertainment center, according to the website.
He also expanded the Pea Soup Andersen’s empire and opened the Santa Nella location in 1976.
However, tragedy ended his big dreams. In April 1980, Vince, his wife, Margery, and their daughter, Venetia, 21, died in a small plane crash just minutes from the Santa Ynez Valley airport.
Pea Soup Andersen’s underwent several ownership changes before being purchased by Santa Maria-based Milt Guggia Enterprises.
Along with Santa Nella Pea Soup Andersen’s, the firm also operates AJ Spurs in Buellton and Grover Beach, plus Santa Maria eateries Crumbles Cafe and Bake Shop, Shaw’s Steakhouse, The Pantry on Park, Pappy’s Restaurant and Pepper Garcia’s at the Santa Maria Airport.
Customers craving the soup still may purchase Andersen’s Pea Soup on local grocery shelves stocked with cans of plain split pea soup or split pea soup with bacon.
Despite the closure, Buellton still has plenty to options for travelers, including chain restaurants and several homegrown favorites or hidden gems, Vreeland added.
“I like to say you can dine around the world here in Buellton because we have such a variety of restaurants available for people. We have Thai food, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, American, eclectic farm to table, barbecue. We have a little bit of everything going on,” Vreeland said. “You really can find all flavors here in Buellton, which is kind of neat.”
Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor www.noozhawk.com Business,Local News
2024-01-11 04:12:00 , Noozhawk