Chocolate Shoppe for Lease

Times Staff Writer

Finney’s Cafeteria--a downtown landmark--has become available for lease through Convest Realty Group after more than 60 years of continuous occupancy.

Located on the ground floor of a four-story building at 217 West 6th St., the cafeteria originally was The Chocolate Shoppe, and in 1975 was declared a historic-cultural monument by the city of Los Angeles for its unusual and intricate tile interior that was designed, crafted and installed by the renowned Pasadena artist Ernest A. Batchelder.

The original concept was to have built the Chocolate Shoppe in a Dutch motif as the first in a chain of soda parlors--each representing a different European country. Plans for additional shops were never carried out due to the high cost of Batchelder’s elaborate work that can also be seen in the detailing of the Global Marine House at 811 West 7th St.


In a letter to the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board, the late Allan L. Leonard--attorney to Sam Finney--recalled that: “At age 20 in 1908, I was in the present Finney’s Cafeteria, then known as Petitfils Chocolate Shoppe, with the girl who became my first wife, Olive Adams Trask. I remained a regular patron at the cafeteria after Finney took over sometime before 1947.”

The tiled interior remains intact and flawless, just as Batchelder conceived it--in the somber and luminous shades of brown of his Arts & Crafts period. It incorporates a series of panels in bas-relief depicting a Dutch boy and girl, windmills and landscapes, including the water gate at Hooen.

An account in a 1924 issue of Western Architect reveals that the shop was a remodel of the first floor of an existing building. The architect, Plummer & Feil of Los Angeles, designed the whole interior as if it were an independent structure, leaving only the main supports for the upper floors.

The entire rear part of the shop was ingeniously built around interior columns and from piers against the walls, with groined arches of reinforced concrete and totally covered with tile by Batchelder; no windows were provided and the whole was arranged for artificial lighting and ventilation.

Commenting on his special assignment as leasing agent, Stephen Breskin said: “The tenant will have to be someone with a real appreciation for what Finney’s Cafeteria represents as an architectural heirloom.