Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fifties Ralphs

A couple of Ralphs stores from the beginning and the end of the 1950’s, a decade that saw the chain greatly expand its reach within greater Los Angeles. Architecturally, these aren’t as easy to categorize as the Streamline Moderne stores that preceded them or the Modernist stores that followed, but they were nonetheless certainly pleasing enough.

The first store was located in the Westdale section of Los Angeles, at the intersection of National and Sepulveda Boulevards, and opened in November 1949. The photo, taken approximately eight years later, shows off the store’s unique “checkerboard” pylon. The L.A. Times article announcing the store stressed its self-service philosophy, as expressed by the new store’s perceptive manager – “Modern women like to pick their own food without the aid of a sales middleman”.

The second store opened in Gardena in April 1958. This is one of those stores where a basic design was transformed into something special, in this case via the addition of a very impressive “sweeping curved facade”, as the Times described it. Similar design principles were often adapted for much larger, more "significant” buildings such as airport terminals or downtown civic centers in that era.

To my knowledge, neither of these stores still stands.
Well, my knowledge has just been expanded. Jeff, who has brought us up to date on the fate of many L.A. area stores, informs us that the Westdale store still exists as a Ross Dress for Less store!


  1. Ah, but the Ralphs on National and Sepulveda does still stand. It was expanded at one point in its lifetime where the pylon is now in the middle of the store. It closed way back in the 80's I beleive and has since been a Ross Dress For Less. The pylon is still there, and the old building has been remodeled extensively. Sadly, the pylon is no longer checkerboard.

  2. Jeff - Thanks. The expansion kind of threw me on this, but you're absolutely right. I took another look on Windows Live Local, and it appears that the grid pattern for the former checkerboard on the pylon still exists!

  3. The store seems to have been expanded twice. Once in teh back probably when they put the freeway in, and a second when they added into the parking lot. that is a parking structure behind the store.

    The original window shape can be seen in the north view on live local.

  4. Unique Checkerboard Pylon??? That's the wave of the future!

  5. Alas, I found out the fate of the Gardena Ralphs.

    It was located on the NW corner of Rosecrans and Van Ness Ave. It was still on aerial shots in 1980, but disappeared by 2003.

    You can see it (via aerial) on:

    The arched front must have been something to see in its day.

  6. Jeff- Thanks for the tip on that, it's a nice view. Shame that the Gardena store is gone. Seems like they've improved the interface on that site. It's a really nice resource!

    Didi- It should be!

  7. Unfortunately, my friend, in today's fast pace text messaging world it isn't.

  8. That Gardena Ralph's was amazing! Just as you entered on the Van Ness side (the side pictured), there was a big oven with a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt dropped freshly-baked Ralph's brand cookies into the familiar white bag w/ cellophane window. As a kid, I remember getting warm cookie samples all the time!

    On the other end of the store was a snack bar.

    They seemed very proud of the meat department. I still have a pamphlet about Ralph's meats (circa 1964), complete with cooking times, temps, etc.

    The shopping center also featured a Sprouse-Reitz, a Grant's, Bank of America, a clothing store (for ladies), and, at the very end, a Thrifty's Drug Store.

    Thanks for posting the picture -- it brings back a lot of great memories!

  9. Anonymous - You're welcome, and thank you for posting that great additional info!

    I'd love to have seen that 'cookie conveyor belt' - great story!

  10. Wow, I had forgotten all about the cookies. I remember that store and mall well. I'm not sure if I remember the clothing store, but there was a toy store circa 1961 and I think a dry cleaner also. My father won a black and white TV from B of A in a drawing they had!