THROUGH THE YEARS
The story of why Pea Soup Andersen's is fondly remembered, by millions who visit from all parts of the world, begins with the story Anton and Juliette Andersen and their family restaurant, whose traditions have been faithfully followed through the years. The staff at Andersen's understand this and take pride in continuing the light, easy charm which has always made it "a treat to eat at Pea Soup Andersen's". Here is the story of Anton and Juliette and the pea soup craze they built.
THE LAND OF GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
It all began on Friday, June 13th, 1924, when Anton Andersen, born in Denmark purchased a piece of the Golden State, California. Once a Mexican land grant owned by Jose Maria Covarrubias and Joaquin Carrillo of Santa Barbara, the land was purchased by the Buell brothers in 1865. R.T. Buell turned the land into a prosperous horse and cattle ranch and dairy farm, named Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. R.T. Buell married Miss Emily Budd in 1892 and they had five children. When Mr. R.T. Buell died in 1905 he was buried in the family plot, now the parking lot of Pea Soup Andersen's Hotel. His body was later moved to Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard.
The area of Buellton began to change rapidly after the turn of the century. By 1911 Danish settlers were pouring into the area starting farms and businesses. William Budd, brother of Mrs. Emily Buell, opened a post office and it became an official United States Post Office in 1920. When the highway was diverted through Buellton in 1924 and electricity was brought to the valley, it seemed the right time to make their move. Anton and Juliette Andersen purchased a small parcel of land and building from William Budd and opened a restaurant.
AN ELECTRIC STOVE AND AN IDEA
Anton, who was trained in exclusive restaurants in Europe and New York, put his tuxedo in mothballs and donned a bib apron, soon to become his personal trademark. He and his charming wife, Juliette, opened a tiny restaurant and named it "Andersen's Electric Cafe," in honor of their prized possession, a new electric stove.
It was a complete about-face for Andersen, who had just come from New York, where he had been associated with world-class establishments such as Marguerey, Voisin, Louis Sherry and other notable establishments and restaurateurs of the day. He helped open the Los Angeles Biltmore until he tired of the rat race (as he put it) associated with city hotels. So, from catering to the gourmet trade, Anton and Juliette began their new venture by serving simple, wholesome everyday foods: hot cakes and coffee, ice cream sodas and such, to highway travelers. Their first customers were the salesmen, tourists and truck drivers who drove the main highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The cafe was on the road to the fabulous Hearst Castle at San Simeon and as this was the heyday of Hearst's newspaper empire, many of the Hearst writers and reporters, such as Arthur Brisbane and 0.0. McIntyre developed the habit of stopping at Andersen's. Their praise of excellent food and hospitable atmosphere was carried in their newspaper columns throughout the entire country.
In 1928, the Andersen's sank a well and built a hotel and dining room for their now quite popular cafe. They named their new establishment the "Bueltmore," a play on words referring to Anton's days with the Biltmore.
Anton was quite a character, especially famous for his extraordinary capacity to remember faces and names without error. Soon celebrities were stopping for a meal on their way up and down the coast. Apparently the young Victor Borge was among the famous people who visited Andersen's in the early days. When he would enter the cafe the two men, Victor and Anton, would let out a whoop followed by rapid fire Danish at full volume, much to the amazement of the other customers. At the same time, many Californians were discovering Andersen's and learning to plan their outings and trips to enable them to make the stop.
"P.S." WE LOVE YOU
Juliette was a gracious woman, warm and friendly to all those around her. She was from the east of France and an expert cook, so she prepared many of the recipes she had brought with her; the most popular with the customers was her split pea soup. Many special dishes now appear on the large Andersen's menu, and still the most popular specialty of all and the one which finally changed the name of the restaurant is Juliette's tasty and nourishing split pea soup.
With the demand for their split pea soup increasing steadily, the Andersen's soon had to locate large suppliers of peas far from their area. Just three years after the first bowl was served, they were amazed to realize they needed to order ONE TON of peas! When Anton faced the problem of what to do with one ton of peas, he solved it by putting them in the window, proclaiming the restaurant, "The Home of Split Pea Soup," the slogan it carries to this day.Though a ton of peas seemed a staggering amount then, Andersen's today "splits" many tons of peas every month, transforming them into the famed soup. ..averaging thousands of bowls a day!
In recognition of the restaurant's pre-eminence as probably the world's foremost pea purchaser, the pea growers of Idaho have named Andersen's the location for the start of the annual "National Split Pea Soup Week" every November, to honor the pea and the delicious soup it makes.
There's no secret about Juliette's Soup recipe...quite the contrary, for Pea Soup Andersen's even has bags of split peas with the recipe for sale in their gift shop. But, even with the recipe, many find that their soup just doesn't taste quite the same as the restaurant's. Perhaps it's the magical touch that Juliette lent to the cauldrons and ladles so many years ago!
ROBERT "PEA SOUP" ANDERSEN
Their Son, Robert, returned to the family business after graduating from Stanford in the 1930's. Robert was by all accounts a very forward-looking man. When he returned to Buellton, Robert established the billboards for which the restaurant became known.
In the early thirties a cartoon appeared in the old "Judge" magazine. It was one of a series by the famous cartoonist Forbell, under the heading of "Little Known Occupations." The cartoon showed the little known occupation of splitting peas for pea soup, with two comic chefs standing at a chopping table, one holding a huge chisel, splitting peas singly as they came down a chute.
Andersen obtained permission to use the idea for advertising. He even adopted his nickname "Pea Soup," the eventual trademark and official name of the family business. In 1941, Robert married Rosemary Mohan. She immediately became active in the family business and opened a gift shop which remains today filled with wonder for children and adults alike. Their only son, Rob, was born in 1942.
WORLD WAR II ERA
During World War II, the restaurant closed to the public. The hotel rooms were used to house military personnel stationed locally and meals were served to servicemen and their families. Robert also purchased a small building across the street from the hotel and converted it to a canteen. The canteen was operated by the American Women's Voluntary Services (A.W.V.S.), patterned after a program begun in England. The canteen was called "Co Na Mar Corner," representing all the services: Coast Guard, Navy, Marines and Army. The local Valley members took turns providing meals for the servicemen on weekends.
THE BIRTH OF HAP-PEA AND PEA-WEE
After the war, Pea Soup Andersen's opened with a flourish. Robert commissioned Disney-trained artist Milt Neil to re-draw the two cartoon chefs to use for promotion and they became the Pea Soup Andersen's trademark. 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. A contest was held and from thousands of entries the names Hap-pea and Pea-Wee were chosen.
SERVICE TOWN U.S.A.
In 1947, the new coast highway was rerouted through the center of Buellton. Although the town businesses were forced to give up 20 feet of their property for the new highway, they felt is was worthwhile. A number of businesses developed to meet the needs of the highway travelers. In the same year the name of the restaurant was changed to "Pea Soup Andersen's", the name that remains to the present. At the same time Buellton was nicknamed "The Home of Split Pea Soup", a name Andersen's is still proud of today.
A NEW ERA
Robert "Pea-Soup" Andersen decided he needed a break from the high paced family business and in April of 1965 sold the Buellton restaurant to Vince Evans. The new owner of Pea Soup Andersen's was a larger than life personality, well known and already an established leader in the Santa Ynez Valley. At the end of World War II, Vince began a career in acting and developed a close friendship with fellow actor Ronald Reagan, who later purchased a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley. Vince and his wife Margery moved to a 900-acre ranch south of Buellton in 1959. They raised cattle, grew alfalfa and operated a feed store. When he purchased Pea Soup Andersen's, he jumped into his newest adventure with the same high energy and enthusiasm that he displayed for many other ventures.
The business thrived under Evans' hand. By then the restaurant was purchasing 50 tons of peas each year, enough for three-quarters of a million bowls of soup! He built an aviary and filled it with parrots, he installed a train for children to ride that went from the restaurant to the area where the motel now stands, and even had a miniature wild animal park for two years. The park was discontinued in 1970 to make way for the addition of a Danish style motel in 1970. In 1979, Vince purchased an English Pub that had stood for over 100 years at the Liverpool railway station in London. The Pub was reconstructed in Buellton and opened as a bar and entertainment center. He also expanded the Pea Soup Andersen's empire and opened the Santa Nella Location in 1976.
Vince had expansive dreams and the energy to make the dreams a reality. Unfortunately, neither dreams nor energy could change the cards fate dealt him. On April 23, 1980, Vince, his wife Margery and their 21 year old daughter, Venetia, were tragically killed in a small plane crash just minutes from the Santa Ynez Valley airport.
SANTA NELLA TODAY
Vince Evans had a vision of creating a new "Service Town" off of I-5, similar to what had been created in Buellton by the Andersen Family. Mr. Evans searched Interstate 5 looking for a place that weary travelers could stop during their travels between Los Angeles and Sacramento. He found Santa Nella and decided that this would be the perfect town to turn his dream into a reality. He built a restaurant, gift shop, hotel and service station all bearing the Andersen's name. The buildings all featured the traditional Danish style architecture that Pea Soup Andersen's was known for and to give travelers an extra special surprise along I-5 he attached a working windmill to the restaurant building. The windmill was the first of its kind in California; it stands 77 feet tall and operates whenever the restaurant is open. The 18,000 sq ft building has multiple dining rooms that can seat up to 450 people and has a large banquet room upstairs that can accommodate up to 200 people. The Santa Nella Location opened on December 6, 1976 with huge fanfare, serving over 10,000 people on opening day and over 60,000 people that first month. The town of Santa Nella has grown over the years and continues to be a popular stop for travelers. The Danish charm created by Vince Evans has never been lost and the Pea Soup Andersen's legacy continues.
After the death of the Evan's Family, Pea Soup Andersen's went through multiple ownership changes. For the first time in many years the two remaining locations are under the same ownership. Milt Guggia, a Central Coast restaurateur, purchased Pea Soup Andersen's Buellton in 1999 and Pea Soup Andersen's Santa Nella in 2007. He remembered coming to Pea Soup Andersen's as a child with his grandparents and wanted to continue the tradition for future generations. Milt and his management team work diligently to continue to preserve the family warmth and memories made here at Pea Soup Andersen's.
With all its expansion, growth and popularity, Pea Soup Andersen's still counts among its very favorite customers the same people who were friends of Anton and Juliette...those loyal friends...the highway travelers and their families!