Raymond Taix dies at 85; owner of L.A. landmark French restaurant

Raymond Taix, who owned one of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles, the French establishment Taix that his family has run since 1927, has died. He was 85.

Taix died Oct. 10 of leukemia at his Pasadena home, said his son, Michael.

The restaurant owes its beginnings to an act of capriciousness at the height of Prohibition when Raymond was 2 years old.

After his French-immigrant grandfather built a hotel in 1912 in a French enclave downtown, he leased space to a restaurant. When federal agents accused the restaurateur of selling alcohol in the late 1920s, he tossed the keys to Taix's pharmacist father, Marius Jr., and challenged him to "do it yourself," The Times reported in 1992.

Raymond and his younger brother Pierre grew up at the restaurant in the old brick building at 321 Commercial St. As the restaurant thrived, the boys started washing dishes at Taix — pronounced "Tex" — when they were 12, their mother Claudia once said.

In 1964, a 39-year-old Raymond Taix appeared in a photograph in The Times with his father raising a toast to their restaurant, which was forced to close that October to make way for a parking structure for the new federal building nearby.

By then Taix had become a downtown landmark known for serving family-style meals and "good food at low prices," The Times said in 1964.

In Echo Park, the family had laid the groundwork for Taix to continue by opening another restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in 1962. Started by Raymond, Pierre and two other relatives, it was originally called Les Freres Taix — the brothers Taix.

Eventually, Raymond became the sole proprietor and the restaurant's name was simplified to Taix.

Two weeks before he died, Raymond was still actively involved with the restaurant, said his son, who manages day-to-day operations.

"He always told me that the restaurant was a Los Angeles institution," his son said. "He maintained the restaurant through difficult economic times and some very serious neighborhood changes in Echo Park. He easily could have thrown in the towel many times, but he stuck by it."

Evidence of his kindness and ability as a manager is reflected in the longevity of the restaurant's workforce, his son said. More than a dozen employees have worked at Taix for more than 30 years and two have endured for nearly half a century.

One of Taix's favorite sayings was, "If you aren't making mistakes once in a while, you aren't doing anything," said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles who is his brother-in-law.

"He was a gentle spirit in a very wise business body," said Bruno, who worked for Taix for eight years. "He had an open heart and made sure he treated his employees with dignity and respect."

Raymond Marcell Taix was born April 28, 1925, in Los Angeles, the second of three children. He also had an older sister, Lucille.

As boys, Raymond and Pierre appeared in films as members of the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir.

A 1943 graduate of Loyola High School, Taix attended Washington State University and Woodbury University. His friends from high school still gather regularly at the restaurant, Bruno said, adding that he played a mean game of gin rummy.

Taix joined the Army in 1943 and served in Guam during World War II.

Back home, he returned to the family business and the simple French country cuisine for which it was known. The roast chicken dinner that sold for 50 cents in 1928 — a dollar if a patron wanted to eat in a booth — goes for $13.95 today.

He also built a wine list that was "famous, amazingly broad" and "almost impossibly cheap," The Times said in a 1989 review of Taix that ran beneath a headline that declared: "It's Almost Like Home."

In addition to his son, Michael, he is survived by his wife of 28 years, Toni Rae Bruno Taix, and five grandchildren.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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