Jan’s Health Bar, the fast-casual eatery embracing a vibrant, healthy lifestyle, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. What began as a small pop-up restaurant inside George’s Surf Shop on Main St. in Huntington Beach has grown into a multi-unit mainstay that continues to make waves as it expands throughout coastal Southern California.
In 1972, Jan Gaffney opened Jan’s Health Bar, her eponymous eatery dedicated to serving whole and healthy food. Known for its fresh take on sandwiches, salads, and smoothies, the then-single-unit restaurant carved out a niche for itself as Huntington Beach’s healthy hot spot.
After 38 years, Gaffney wanted to sell the business to someone who respected the brand and believed in its mission of making healthy food accessible and approachable. Along came Poppy Holguin, a Huntington Beach native whose journey with Jan’s began long before an opportunity for ownership was even on the table. As a child, she frequented Jan’s and got her first job behind the counter at 15, alongside Gaffney.
A go-getter herself, Holguin’s appreciation for the brand was fueled by her firm belief in Jan’s mission and admiration for Gaffney’s gumption and unapologetic approach to business. She worked at Jan’s throughout high school from 1988 to 1991 and continued to frequent the store long after she worked there. During one of Holguin’s visits in 2009, Gaffney expressed her interest in selling. Her continued patronage, first-hand experience, and paralleled drive made her the ideal candidate.
In 2010, Holguin purchased the original Huntington Beach location. Applying her knowledge of business and marketing, she has since expanded the brand to four additional stores: Costa Mesa in 2013, Laguna Beach in 2015, Corona del Mar in 2017, and Irvine in 2021. In 2018, she renovated the brand’s flagship location, expanding it from 800 square feet to 2000 square feet.
“We wanted to honor the original Huntington Beach location as our home base and give customers the opportunity to connect and sit together,” comments Holguin. “It was important to me to bring the life, love, and history of Huntington Beach into other communities as we expanded.”
With each location, Holguin pays homage to the brand’s humble Huntington Beach beginnings through a mix of new and nostalgic photos curated by locals. Some depict just how interwoven Holguin’s history is with Jan’s, including old pictures of her outside the original location at eight years old and candid shots of her working behind the counter in high school.
Today, the menu at Jan’s Health Bar remains true to its roots, offering nutritious items made with whole, simple ingredients. While new items have made their way to the menu, original offerings like the Peanut Butter Banana Date smoothie and the Tuna Salad Sandwich remain available today, continuing to be customer favorites for 50 years.
“As a society, we’ve never been so unhealthy, yet the ‘health’ industry has never been bigger, wealthier, and trendier. True wellness lies in simple, whole ingredients,” adds Holguin. “We’ve expanded the menu here and there but remain true to the brand’s original ethos. Honest, approachable food never goes out of style.”
On the heels of its 50th anniversary, Jan’s Health Bar shows no signs of slowing down. Several in-store promotions are planned to mark this milestone. As Holguin reflects on decades of success, the faithful-employee-turned-proud-owner has plans to expand the eatery into new markets, eyeing a location in Long Beach set to open in 2023.