Many generations spent their chili burger youth hanging out at Tommy’s Burgers at Rampart & Beverly Blvd at all hours of the day and night, long before Tommy’s was franchised and spread all across Los Angeles County, even stretching into Nevada. Tommy’s chili burgers could soak up a long evening’s worth of alcohol and even treat a hang-over or at least distract from the pain with a good dose of indigestion.
But close by, over at Virgil & Santa Monica Blvd there was another chili burger stand, much smaller but just as good, many Angelinos say even better. The burger stand had a great 58 year run, mostly as Jay’s Jayburgers, before it was forced to close in ugly fashion back in 2005, another bit of Los Angeles history tossed into the trash bin.
It was first closed in 2000 when owner Lionel “Jay” Coffin could not afford the massive rent hike demanded by the new owners of the land beneath Jay’s feet. However, Jay and his burger fans didn’t go down without a fight, fueled by their love of Jay’s chili burgers. And why not? Jay invented the recipe for Tommy’s chili and left Tommy’s when he wasn’t cut in with a piece of the action, or so the story goes.
A couple fans of Jay’s initially stepped in and purchased the stand from Coffin and managed to keep it running another 5 years until another rent hike forced a second closing. Jay’s daughter then tried to move the stand but the landowners claimed they owned it because it was bolted to the cement that was part of the corner lot they purchased. Most of the story is documented in the obit for Jayburger published in the LA Times.
But the story doesn’t end there because Jayburgers has a bitter sweet ending: Jayburger’s stand remains in its original spot though a two story mini mall now surrounds it and chili burgers are no longer sold but instead Mexican food with rows of chickens roasting on a large open barbecue most afternoons.
Nickodell was nestled between KHJ Channel 9 and Paramount Studios on Melrose, almost as if it were a part of the studio complex. I was lucky enough to go there (way past its heyday) in the 80’s to grab an ice cream at the counter on a trip to the Paramount lot. I even snapped a shot of the mighty neon sign atop the building. Traveling up Melrose nowadays, I can almost still see it through the fog of history.
In 1936, restauranteur Nick Slavich took over the joint originally called the Melrose Grotto, and made it his own, at some point re-dubbing it Nickodell, a mash-up his and his wife’s names. (He owned another Nickodell a bit north on Argyle, but that’s another story.) It was an eatery (and boozery), largely popular with studio types, dishing out old school American fare like steaks, baked potatoes, and beloved Caesar salads.
Nickodell closed in November of ’93 and was subsequently demolished by Paramount in ’94 to make way for a few more spots in their parking lot, leaving us only with a few matchbooks and fond memories.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today is the last day to get a key made at Han’s Shoe Repair. Better pick up those shoes, vacuums, and sewing machines too!
Echo Park will lose another chunk of personality with the closing of Han’s Shoe Repair. Sandwiched between the corner liquor store and Lolita’s Beauty Salon on Berkeley Avenue at Glendale Boulevard, Mr. Han has been in this spot since the 70’s repairing shoes, sewing machines and vacuums and making keys to boot.
Han’s Repair is one of those places that feels its age. Going inside is like entering a time machine— old sewing machines stacked knee deep, vintage vacuums lined up awaiting pickup, a smattering of typewriters, trees of vacuum bags, and loads of hoses hanging overhead. Behind the counter, shelves brim with bits and bobs and piles of parcels and parts from the past.
On Han’s penultimate day of business, a couple patrons stop by to pick up their shoes lamenting the closure. Han appreciates the loyal customers. But after 46 years, he has debilitating back pain requiring rest, so he’s calling it quits. Han’s Repair is closing today.
Han hoped to retire at 90 years of age, but didn’t quite make it. He will walk away and leave the storefront and its contents behind.
We salute you Mr. Han! Thanks for adding much needed service and charm to our neighborhood for so many years. We will miss you.