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AT THE MARKET SOMIS NUT HOUSE

A Store of Diversity : From walnuts to filberts, pistachios to . . . dried cranberries? 'Selection' is the motto here.

February 27, 1992|RODNEY BOSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On Los Angeles Avenue, nestled among bright citrus orchards and manicured rows of vegetables, the Somis Nut House has thrived since 1960.

Its attraction? An unequaled offering of nuts, nuts and more nuts. If it grows in a shell, you're likely to find it here.

"Selection" is their motto.

"My parents were in the nut business in Canoga Park prior to coming here," said 54-year-old owner Steve Resnik.

The Resniks' L.A. exodus was spurred when a dwindling supply of product could no longer support their walnut-shelling business.

"They came out here because the walnut trees in the Valley were gone--lost to development," Resnik said.

Rural Ventura County would provide the Resniks a burgeoning walnut harvest and the family moved north, like miners to a gold rush.

"At that time, Ventura County had about 40,000 acres of walnuts," he said. "We were shelling walnuts for growers all over the county."

But it wasn't long before the walnut groves here were doomed.

A construction boom was spilling into Simi Valley from the San Fernando Valley and growers were receiving a pretty penny for the earth beneath their walnut orchards.

Starting around 1970, Resnik said, the slow removal of trees escalated into a rapid elimination.

"Walnuts are a single-season producer," he said. "Growers that didn't sell their land for housing projects replaced the walnuts with crops that could be harvested three or four times a year. They can get more than just one payday in a year."

When dust from the removal frenzy settled, Ventura County was left with a mere couple hundred acres of walnuts.

The Resnik family was forced to diversify.

"The shelling biz has been pushed into the twilight because of the loss of local product," Resnik said. Enter the Somis Nut House.

Though Resnik's dated machinery still shells a scant amount of walnuts for a couple of local growers, the retail business has become the main focus.

Resnik runs the business with his partner--matriarch Annette Resnik, 78, and the Resniks' Nut House is a haven for nut enthusiasts.

To name a few available there: filberts, hazel nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios. Blanched or unblanched; salted or unsalted. Chocolate covered or spiced with jalapeno pepper; fresh roasted and unsalted for the health conscious.

In the shell or meats only.

Pine nuts? Yep, from New Mexico's pinon trees. Portugal's shelled pignolia variety, too.

"We carry it all," Steve Resnik said. "Including dried chestnuts, year-round." Lest we forget to mention sunflower seeds (every version imaginable), pepitas (pumpkin seeds), poppy seeds, sesame seeds and soy nuts.

Peanut butter can also be seen oozing out of a churning contraption. "We'll grind anything people ask for," he said. "Cashew butter, almond butter, anything."

Patrons descend upon the red-painted, wood-sided establishment for more than just nuts, however.

You'll find an impressive selection of trail mixes, candies and more. Dried fruits are abundant. There are a few types you might not have expected: cranberries (about the size of a raisin and baked just like a raisin, Resnik said), kiwi, currants and Bing cherries.

The fruits are available dried with sulfur (to maintain natural color) or unsulfured.

Holidays and special occasions are busy times around the Nut House.

"We specialize in gift packs," Resnik said. "It's the primary part of the business.

"One of the unique things is, you can customize your pack. You pick what you want to go into it. It's not like a generic gift--you can customize it to the person's taste."

The Nut House also does a brisk mail order business and will ship anywhere.

"We get calls from all over," Resnik said.

* WHERE AND WHEN

The Somis Nut House is at 4475 Los Angeles Ave., Somis. Hours: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 482-1211.

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