The celebration that wasn't

Vons in Plaza de La Cañada has reopened. How do we know that? Because there’s a banner stretched across the front of the building and smiles wide as the Arroyo Seco among the people who work there, apparently glad the dust has cleared and their store-beautification process is over.

Also, there was that full-page Vons ad that ran in last Thursday’s paper proclaiming the event would take place at 8 a.m. Sept. 10.

Misreading that ad, I thought the opening was on Saturday, not Friday. I further thought we should have a reporter document the occasion for us, so I sent out our new contributing writer, Hripsime (“Hrip” to her friends, she tells me, but once I get on a roll with her musical first name, I can’t stop myself until it’s all out) Moskovian.

We’d arranged that she would cover the Vons celebration and then move to Memorial Park where the anniversary of 9/11 was to be observed, beginning at 9 a.m. Because this was Hripsime’s first time out in the field covering two consecutive news events for us, I gave her my home phone number, in case she encountered any difficulties.

At about 8:05 Saturday, she me at home. Nothing, she said, was happening at our Vons. Not a dignitary was in sight and no freebies with store logos were being handed out to eager customers. No ribbon-cutting was held, no speeches from local officials echoed against the San Gabriels and no cake was served to mark the occasion.

Really? No action at all?

“Well, there are a couple of shoppers here,” she offered. “And they say the store and the center look nice.”

Hripsime had asked Vons employees if any ceremony was planned. They said they couldn’t comment about the renovations or grand re-opening, citing company policy about speaking with the press.
And so we agreed she’d snap a couple of photos before heading to the assignment at the park. I hope she took advantage of the spare time and had breakfast at Conrad’s, or at least a cup of coffee at Zeli’s, but I didn’t ask. She did tell me later that she was very glad to have been assigned the job of covering the 9/11 ceremony, as she found it very moving. You’ll see her coverage, and the photos by Raul Roa, beginning on our front page today.

On Wednesday I made a quick trip to the Plaza de La Cañada to check out its renovations. I had complained over the summer that it all looked a little too beige (my codeword for bland), but I’m prepared to say that I generally approve of the finished project. I am slightly concerned about the two driveway openings off Oakwood south of the T.J. Maxx building. These look nice enough, but seem to be setting us up for traffic collisions come the holiday rush. I trust the city’s traffic engineer has signed off on them, but will hedge that bet by continuing to make sure my car-insurance payments are kept current.

Some La Cañadans took it very hard last spring when several mature trees were whacked as Safeway — Vons’ parent company — began in earnest its work sprucing up the plaza. One told me the jacarandas that were removed were each worth multiple thousands of dollars. Probably so, but I am happy to report that I found plenty of newly planted trees. I stopped counting when I reached a total of 80 new and previously existing trees around all sides of the property.

I’d give high marks to the landscaping as a whole, although one friend who admitted thinking the plaza project was a success, still snarled about petunias being included in the plan. “Who plants petunias?” he asked, with some disgust in his voice.

I like petunias, but I guess you can’t please everyone.

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the Valley Sun. E-mail her at

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