Strictly my opinion, friends, but I feel that there are plenty of good examples to back it up. Ralphs Grocery Company, part of the Southern California retail scene since before the start of the last century and still going strong, was squarely out in front of a number of key 20th century architectural trends. From their ornate Spanish Revival store exteriors of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, through the magnificent Art Deco/Streamline Moderne stores that followed ten years later, to their wonderful Googie-esque (is that a word?) stores of the early 1960’s, outstandingly designed Ralphs stores abounded.
The photo above features the striking streamline moderne Beverly Hills Ralphs, which opened in 1937 at 9331 Wilshire Boulevard, at the Crescent Drive intersection. The photo appears here courtesy of Susan Silberman, and was taken by her grandfather in 1949. This classic example of 1930’s Southern California commercial architecture, featuring what author Marc Wanamaker termed as a “festoonal tower” was designed by renowned L.A. architect Stiles O. Clements (1883 - 1966). Clements would design over 30 stores (encompassing all three of the above-mentioned periods) for Ralphs, beginning in the 1920’s when he was part of the architectural firm Morgan, Walls and Clements. The Beverly Hills store was one of the first stores he designed after leaving to form his own firm, where he would later be joined by his son, Robert. Ralphs was by no means the Clements firm’s only high profile client – they would design hundreds of projects, retail and non-retail, including this beautiful store (among a host of others) for Sears, Roebuck and Co.
A large office complex now sits on this ridiculously valuable piece of property, but a similar former Ralphs store, with a somewhat different festoonal tower, still exists at 4821 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood as a Blockbuster store. It’s definitely a blockbuster in my book!