The Cambrian

Soto’s Market to get new owners, take fresh approach in new year

Cambria’s historic little Soto’s Market, which has been in business at 2244 Main St. since 1919, will undergo another change of ownership and direction soon, with escrow and the store due to close Jan. 1 and the new Soto’s True Earth Market expected to open in February.

The pause in business will allow the new owners — Andre and Marcela Ponce of Cambria and Joe Vergara and Joleen Tafoya of San Luis Obispo — to revamp and update the store for its latest iteration.

The energetic young couples say their dream is to provide the community with a natural foods market that emphasizes “socially responsible products, local sourcing, customer service and community involvement.”

The partners envision the market as nourishing the community with natural foods in the form of fresh juices and smoothies, local produce, sustainable meats and seafood, organic sandwiches, meals-in-a-bowl and prepared salads. They’ll also sell local wine and beer.

Andre and Marcela Ponce moved to Cambria in 2014, three years after getting married at Robin’s restaurant, less than two blocks away from the market. For many years, the couple had explored the Central Coast, searching for simplicity and a sense of community during their annual escapes from the South Bay area.

She is a marine biologist with more than 10 years of nonprofit work experience in environmental education and animal welfare. He holds an industrial engineering degree from Cal Poly Pomona, and is a former employee of The Boeing Company. Marcela Ponce said she plans to continue working as the ad assistant at The Cambrian.

Vergara relocated from Santa Barbara to the Central Coast in 1986 to study business and nutrition at Cal Poly. His partner Tafoya relocated from Wyoming in 2010 after falling in love with the natural beauty, active lifestyle and enlightened culture of this area. She also owns a massage therapy studio in San Luis Obispo, where she uses alternative approaches to traditional physical therapy.

According to reports from the Cambria Historical Society archives, in 1919, butcher and semiprofessional musician Joaquin “Jack” and Agnes Soto moved their prospering Cambria meat and grocery business to the site that had previously housed a bakery, saloon and general merchandise store separately. In the late 1930s, they built a new store on the same site, but the store continued to operate out of a nearby drugstore.

It was a family business through the generations until 1991, when it was sold to Norman and Penelope Goodin, whose family trust still owns the property. Subsequent business owners, including Bob and Lucy Smith (the couple who will be selling it to the new partnership) have made changes in the past nearly a quarter-century, but each of them kept the history.

That’s also the intention of the new entrepreneurs. Marcela Ponce said Monday, Dec. 14, that they want to honor the store’s past and bring the landmark “back to its thriving years,” when the Soto family, Wilfred Lyons and others made it such a special, community-hub kind of place.