Editors note: We learned on Friday of the closing of long-time Boyle Heights business A & Z Nut Wagon. The news was posted on a Facebook page by the son of the shop’s owner and reposted on various sites:

In 2018 interview, Boyle Heights Beat profiled the shop’s owner, Guillermo González. The following is the story by our reporter Alex Medina:

The A & Z Nut Wagon offers loyal customers delicious, savory treats

By Alex Medina

Boyle Heights Beat

Selection of nuts at A & Z Nut Wagon, a popular business in Boyle Heights.

Customers entering Boyle Heights’ A & Z Nut Wagon find shelves of small bags stuffed with many varieties of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and candy. Knickknacks line the walls, including nutcrackers, old-fashioned toy cars, antique figurines, a miniature cart adorned with the shop’s name and Mexican novelty items.

The crowded shop awakens the senses. Inside, customers breathe in both nutty scents and the mildly spicy aroma of the shop’s signature beef jerky, which LA Magazine once praised as “thick and smoky and [which] unlike commercial brands, comes apart in your mouth in flavorful shreds.”

Located at the corner of Lorena Street and Whittier Boulevard, the shop has drawn both local customers and people from all over Southern California for more than 70 years. Some loyal customers who have left the area still have items delivered or stop by when they’re visiting.

Guillermo González is the owner of A & Z Nut Wagon.

Jennifer Guedea, a local Boyle Heights resident, has been going to the Nut Wagon for many years. “I really love the charming look of the Nut Wagon,” says Guedea. “I feel like it’s a hidden treasure here in Boyle Heights.”

She comes to the shop about once a month, especially when she’s craving beef jerky. “It’s made fresh using good quality meat at a great price,” Guedea said. She also loves the shop’s pistachios, especially the chile lemon variety.

On Yelp, one formerly local customer wrote: “I make sure to stop by here every time I’m back in SoCal. The beef jerky is the best I’ve ever had, and [I] have to bring several pounds of it back to Texas when I go back home. The owner is super cool as well and remembers me every time I visit.”

Customers know that A & Z Nut Wagon is open if a rustic full-size wagon with wooden spokes stands in front of the shop. If it’s not there, the shop is closed.

The famous cart in front of A & Z.

“We keep everything fresh all the time,” says Guillermo González, who has owned the shop for 30 years. González came to California from Aguascalientes, México, and has lived in Boyle Heights for 58 years. “We’ve got the best of the West,” he says.

When it comes to nuts, González says the most popular varieties include walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, peanuts and cashews.

Various types of dried fruit are sold, including strawberries, mangos, apricots, pineapple and kiwis. The shop also offers seeds, including several varieties of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

González and his wife staff the shop themselves. “I have to do it myself to be satisfied with the work that I do,” says González. He packages the shop’s products into small plastic bags, which he then stocks on the shelves.

González says a Russian family originally owned the shop. González says he has never regretted buying it.

“Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you about why I decided to become the owner, but it may have something to do with destiny,” says González. “I bought it, and now here we are. I’m not a rich guy, but I get by really well.”

All photos by Alex Medina.

Alex Medina is a senior at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. He is an avid runner and writer who leads the Gay Straight Alliance at Bravo in order to provide a safe space for LGBTQ youth and their allies. He hopes to attend a University of California school after high school.

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Alex Medina

Alex Medina se graduó de la preparatoria Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet en Boyle Heights y fue reportero de Boyle Heights Beat. Actualmente estudia en el Hamilton College del estado de Nueva York. Es...

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1 Comment

  1. This business was first started in the Flats near the Pecan Playground on First street by a immigrant from Russia. He grew sunflowers in empty lots and on the hillside where the I-5 Freeway is today. It was a lot of work, so he gave the business to anyone interested, which turned out to be a Mexican friend. To make the job easier the new owner bought a popcorn-peanut cart, and learned how to roast the seeds in a coffee roaster. The cart was moved around the Flats to wherever a crowd gathered — playground, wedding, etc. — mostly on weekends. Local Russian immigrants were the majority of customers. A second cart was bought, when the largest Russian meeting hall moved to Lorena street. Both carts were on display at the store. White squash seeds were added, mistakenly called pumpkin seeds.

    About in the 1950s the city required a vendor licence, then a list of ingredients on each package, then a permanent business address, then a building. Costs increased. As the Russians and their meeting halls and businesses moved farther east, they bought less, so A&Z diversified with more products to increase cash flow.

    I remember the cart on Lorena street in the 1960s, within walking distance of 3 meeting halls. There were black and white seeds, and mixed, all roasted, salted and unsalted, big or small bags. Kids would collect money and do a seed run, taking orders from their friends and bringing a bunch of small bags back. The small bags fit your shirt pocket. No young people wore kosovorotki then. I forget the prices, maybe 5c and 10c, or 10c and 15c. The sidewalks outside every meeting hall was littered with thousands of shells on Sunday, and more during long weddings and holidays.

    During the past 25 years, I typically bought nearly a year’s supply for about $100 on each trip.

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