A Burbank resident and musician who legally changed his name to Freak
was bus-hopping on Magnolia Boulevard on Saturday afternoon en route
to Chinatown when he was immediately halted by barbecue.
Running errands for an Asian-themed dinner party he planned to
host that night, he decided to stop everything for a few moments and
indulge his olfactory titillation.
“I was a few blocks down when I smelled the smell that smelled so
good I had to come back,” he said. “I was going to buy Chinese
seafood, but the smell destroyed me and I had to get some of that.”
That mouth-watering aroma Freak couldn’t do without came from the
outdoor barbecue at Handy Market grocery store. Owner Alan Arzoian
and meat manager Bill Roberts started the cookout a little more than
eight months ago and have been running it from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturdays ever since.
“It was started to see if we could improve the business, and Alan
always likes to create a little bit of excitement in the store,”
On average, he said the barbecue sells about 300 pounds of
tri-tip beef roast and 150 pounds of chicken. Since starting the
barbecue sales, Roberts said Saturday meat sales have been boosted by
more than 25%. He estimated it draws about 200 customers weekly.
And besides the “sweet, smoky” flavor and aroma of Mr. D’s
barbecue sauce attracting attention, Roberts said its other main
marketing tool has been the reliance on patrons’ word of mouth.
Van Nuys resident Al Levine said he normally doesn’t eat barbecued
foods, but has an affinity for the tri-tip sandwich and recommends it
to everyone he knows.
“I would say it is excellent,” he said. “And I grew up in New
York, so I know what an excellent sandwich is.”
Arzoian, who said the grocery store is best known for its
outstanding meat quality, not only sees community involvement as a
strategy to garner customers, but also believes extra efforts such as
the barbecue are necessary to keep his independent store competitive
with the larger supermarket chains. Plus, he enjoys the local
“I like to participate in any type of neighborhood civic event,”
he said. “Barbecues are fun, and people don’t see a whole bunch of
them [at grocery stores].”
What makes Handy Market’s Saturday barbecues so unique, Roberts
added, is that it is the only store that sells outdoor barbecue on a
regular basis. Helen Recchia, a longtime Burbank resident who has
been shopping at the store for about 60 years, also said she can’t
recall any others in the city.
The cost of the barbecue items are $6.99 a pound for tri-tip
roasts, $2.99 a pound for chicken and $4.99 for 8-inch tri-tip