Forever Food House

The Food House is a faded memory. Chalk it up to another place I never stepped inside. The generically named market heralded by bold deco letters was a standout on Sunset Boulevard until it was gone. Did The Food House ever really exist? Thankfully, sometimes a photograph is more reliable than memory.

Food House Market, then and now

In 1936, the Silverlake structure was built on Sunset between Edgecliff and Maltman in the Childs Heights Tract by Virgil Investment Co. The property operated as a market for over 60 years. It seems Food House Markets may have been a short lived chain in the LA area, having at least one other location on West Adams Street.

It’s unclear exactly when Food House came into the picture, but in 1940 a sign tower was constructed that would display their eye-catching vertical signage. (That tower still exists today, bearing the “99¢ Only Store” sign.) From the looks of it, Food House had great deals on all of the basic food groups: vodka, wine, and refried beans.

A one-stop shop?

In November 1960, the Silverlake Food House made LA Times headlines when a dynamic duo of masked bandits attempted a crackpot overnight heist. Using the cover of nightfall, the pair breached the grocery store via the roof. While hard at work safe-cracking, the thieves helped themselves to some late night hors d’oeuvres and beer courtesy of the Food House. Turns out, that was the extent of their robbery as the looting was interrupted by the morning market manager and the cash was left behind in the scuffle.

In 1960, the LA Times reported a bungled burglary at the Food House Market

Ultimately, like so many Los Angeles markets, the Food House shuttered. At some point in the late 90’s the signage came off the building and the letters sat on the roof for a while. Then in 1999, a 99¢ Store took over and the rest is history… for now.

3 thoughts on “Forever Food House

  1. Hi
    Thanks so much for the great article on Food House.I grew up on Maltman Ave. in the 60s and 70s and I’m so glad someone else remembers this old store besides me.

  2. I worked at the Food House as a boxboy from September 1963 until April of 1966. The most memorable day at work was the day President Kennedy was shot. That’s all the customers talked about as they came through the checkstands. Everyone was in shock. I can still remember passing the phalanx of 5 news stands out in front each time I would assist a customer out to her car or go out to the lot to retrieve shopping carts and see the headlines with the awful news.

    The daily newspapers with racks out there at the time were: L.A. Times, L.A. Examiner, L.A. Herald-Express, L.A. Mirror, and The Citizen News. All of them put out “extra” editions. The racks were open (it was the honor system to buy one — 10 cents as I recall) and the headlines blared as I passed them by each time. It was surreal.

    I worked for manager Al Radell the entire time; and he was indeed a kind and decent man for whom it was a pleasure to work. He was a true gentleman. In fact, in many ways he was the “personality” of the store itself. Many customers grew to have a great affinity for Al. He was deserving of it too.

    I also worked with some wonderful checkers and clerks: Murray Kastenburg (whom I always addressed affectionately as “Senor Murray” and he in return always called me “Senor Larry”), Al Fink (known affectionately to all of us as “Al Produce” to distinguish him from fellow produce man Al Gerson — also a very nice person — when being paged over the loud speaker); Verna, Ronnie (Veronica), Theresa, and Zella. Also deserving of mention was super kind and nice Gene Orban who ran the meat department (as an independent contractor).

    I remember how excited everyone was when the store finally got air conditioning!

    I was working up front one Saturday afternoon when around 5:00 PM I saw LAPD officers looking through the front window, then they came in as a group with their guns drawn asking about a “holdup”. It turned out that checker Ronnie had accidentally used the “secret” key to open the counting room upstairs at the end of her shift and triggered the silent alarm. Everyone was relieved when it was determined by the police that no robbery had occurred. I think Ronnie got kidded about that for a long time!

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