Valley landmarks


As I hop into my white 2013 Prius and blast some reggaetón, I’m excited about my (metaphorical) 20-minute drive to a mercado in México. In reality, I’m getting on the 118 west to race from Granada Hills to Canoga Park. I take the 27/Topanga Canyon exit and cruise south to get to my destination: Vallarta store No. 12.

This Vallarta might be on Topanga Canyon, but don’t get it twisted. Its home is not West Hills or Chatsworth — she’s in Canoga Park, right across the street from Lanark Park. Vallarta knows their audience after all.

Vallarta Supermarkets have more than 50 stores in Southern California, including several in the San Fernando Valley, but this particular store has only been around for a few years. In fact, that location used to be a Vons. Now it’s something better. Take a look for yourself.

(Photo by Natalie Arroyo Camacho)

Nestled in one of many San Fernando Valley plazas, this Vallarta makes shoppers (like me) nostalgic for Mexican mercados. It’s not hard to see why, as the market is painted in vibrant colors and comes complete with a tortillería…

(Photo by Natalie Arroyo Camacho)

A pescadería…

(Photo by Natalie Arroyo Camacho)

A carnes frescas section…

(Photo by Natalie Arroyo Camacho)

And even aguas frescas!

(Photo by Natalie Arroyo Camacho)

Since it is a Mexican supermarket, it comes packed with Mexican favorites — like Topo Chico (which makes a hard seltzer now!), cantaritos, piñatas, lotería (which hilariously is right next to the chelas), and fruit jellies.

As you’re pushing your cart through the store, you’ll also find all the Saturday morning cleaning staples, like Suavitel, Fabuloso, and jabón Roma. (Ariel is the inferior powder soap. Sorry, not sorry.)

And, of course, no Mexican market is complete without a random tower of pelotas. The Canoga Park Vallarta is no exception: They’ve placed their pelota tower between aisle six and seven.

(Photo by Natalie Arroyo Camacho)

If all of that is still not enough to mobilize you, consider that this store also has a cremería, masa and tamales, and a whole lot of beer.

Vallarta representatives did not answer our multiple requests for comment.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: The Valley’s iconic poodle on Hayvenhurst Avenue and Plummer Street is officially decked out for the holidays! Fido, as his humans call him, has finally transformed into Rudolph.

Brian and Sue Welch are the beautiful couple who have cared for the 12-foot ivy poodle in North Hills for more than three decades. I met the Welches in 2019, after knocking on their door to talk to them for this story.

They warmly invited me in and I sat at their dinner table, where there lay a shopping guide in which their grandchildren had circled the toys they wanted for Christmas. (Remember 2019, when we could still safely invite strangers into our homes?)

The Welches brought out a scrapbook of all the press, thank you notes, and photos they’ve received because of Fido. 

“Some people have even sent us money,” Brian said.

The scrapbook also contained a hand-written notice from the Los Angeles Department of Public Works dated April 24, 1987. It read:

“Remove all ivy that obstructs sidewalk & power pole & cables. Your illegally planted ivy is in violation of ordinance S3150, Sect. 62.168. Also remove any & all ivy encroaching on sidewalk & maintain it at all times.”

Thirty three years ago, the city of Los Angeles attempted to tear down our beloved Fido and was ultimately unsuccessful (thank goodness).

Brian Welch said that if the city could cite him and Sue, then the ivy canine was on city property, which meant it was the city’s responsibility to cut down Fido.

Since then, Fido has achieved landmark status in the Valley — one which has brought special joy around the holidays year after year. 

Brian jokes that the holidays are to Fido what moons are to werewolves.

“Every year around the holidays, Fido has an identity crisis,” Welch said. “He turns into a reindeer!”

Like most Valley kids, Fido comes from humble beginnings. He hasn’t always transformed into Rudolph, nor has he always looked like a dog. 

“When Sue and I first moved here, the ivy was already there and I was trimming it to keep it mostly tidy,” Brian recalled. “One day, she looked at it and said to me, ‘Huh, that hedge is starting to look like a dog.’ From then on, I started shaping Fido.”