Pea Soup Andersen’s, a Santa Ynez Valley landmark that dates back nearly 100 years, has been listed for $4.7 million by Radius Commercial Real Estate of Santa Barbara.
The two parcel, 3.36-acre Buellton property at the corner of State Route 246 and Avenue of the Flags known for its famous split-pea soup, was officially put on the market on Aug. 12, 2020.
Described in the listing as a venue that achieves “the highest traffic counts in the Santa Ynez Valley,” the 35,000 square foot building has hosted the restaurant, shops and various banquet rooms for many years “and is prime for redevelopment.”
Its location and size “makes it one of the largest and most prominent development opportunities within Buellton’s Avenue of the Flags Specific Plan,” the listing notes.
Buellton’s new master plan features parks, plazas and destination-oriented development.
The listing goes on to cite the “expanding wine region, thriving local businesses and growing population” that supports various types of development.
Matt Guggia, a Central Coast restauranter who purchased both Pea Soup Andersen’s Buellton in 1999 and Pea Soup Andersen’s Santa Nella in 2007, was not available for comment. Mr. Guggia also owns A.J. Spurs restaurant in Buellton. Multiple phone calls to Pea Soup Andersen’s Buellton went unanswered on Wednesday.
The legendary, Danish-themed restaurant is well known by locals and tourists alike. It was described as one of the Central Coast’s “quirkiest spots” by Eater Los Angeles, which mentioned its old-school dining rooms, gift shops and banquet rooms.
The popular green billboards that dot the freeway in both directions also add to the allure, touting its staple meal of split-pea soup.
Buellton city officials did not return the News-Press’ request for comment regarding the listing of the building, which has stood since 1924 and held a variety of businesses.
According to the restaurant’s website, the history of the historic site dates back to Friday, June 13, 1924, when Anton Andersen, born in Denmark, purchased a piece of the Golden State.
“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,” the website reads. “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 after the turn of the century, and by 1911 Danish settlers were “pouring into the area starting farms and businesses,” the website notes.
William Budd, brother of Emily Buell, opened a post office and it became an official U.S. Post Office in 1920. When the highway was diverted through Buellton in 1924 and electricity was brought to the area, Anton and Juliette Andersen purchased a small parcel of land and building from William Budd and opened a restaurant.
The restaurant was originally named “Andersen’s Electric Cafe,” in honor of the couple’s prized possession, a new electric stove, the website reads. The restaurant served “simple, wholesome everyday foods,” such as hot cakes and coffee and ice cream sodas to highway travelers.
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.
Juliette, an expert cook from the east of France, helped the restaurant’s popularity grow with her split-pea soup, which eventually led to the restaurant changing its name after the “tasty and nourishing” meal.
“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,” the website notes. “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.
After graduating from Stanford in the 1930s, the Andersen’s son, Robert, returned to the family business and established the billboards that have since become commonplace in the valley.
“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,” read the website. “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.”
After the war, the restaurant opened with a flourish. Robert commissioned Disney-trained artist Milt Neil to re-draw the two cartoon chefs to use for promotion, and they soon became The Pea Soup Andersen’s trademark. A contest was held and from thousands of entries, the names Hap-pea and Pea-Wee were chosen.
In 1947, the new coast highway was rerouted through the center of Beullton. In that same year, the restaurant was changed to “Pea Soup Andersen’s,” and Buellton was nicknamed “The Home of Split Pea Soup.”
Robert sold the restaurant in 1965 to Vince Evans. Vince, who was a well known local leader who began an acting career and developed a close friendship with fellow actor and future president Ronald Reagan, who later purchased a ranch in the valley, Rancho del Cielo.
On April 23, 1980, Vince, his wife Margery and their 21-year-old daughter, Venetia, were tragically killed in a small plane crash near the Santa Ynez Valley airport, the website reads.
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.
Mr. Guggia remembered coming to Pea Soup Andersen’s as a child with his grandparents and wanted to continue the tradition for future generations.