Coffee Shop Beefs Up Cultural Landmark Proposal

Times Staff Writer

Hamburgers are the latest weapon being used by San Fernando Valley residents who have a beef with a mini-mall builder trying to tear down a "landmark" Studio City carwash and gas station.

Preservation-minded homeowners were treated to 99-cent burger specials Monday as they announced that a 1950s-style coffee shop next to the gas station will be added to their monument application when it is considered Wednesday by the city's Cultural Heritage Commission.

Residents are seeking monument status for the southeast corner of Ventura and Laurel Canyon boulevards as a way of preventing a developer from demolishing the gas station and carwash and building a $15-million mini-mall.

Two weeks ago, a commission member visiting Studio City to inspect the carwash and gas station commented to residents that their application might be strengthened if it included the 28-year-old Tiny Naylor's Restaurant along with the automotive facilities.

'Googie' Look

The coffee shop is built with a modernistic look known as the "Googie" style to preservationists. It uses angular steel beams that form wing-like exterior supports for the restaurant.

The nearby carwash has a similar look. Residents say its three 55-foot-tall boomerang-shaped steel beams honor the Valley's car culture and form a fitting "Gateway to Studio City."

Restaurant operators rolled back the price of hamburger-fries-and-Coke specials to 1963 levels Monday to help monument supporters reminisce while they filled Tiny Naylor's vinyl-covered booths.

Years ago, the coffee shop was one of the few restaurants in the southeastern Valley that was open around the clock. So it was a popular hangout for teen-agers growing up in the 1960s, said Jack McGrath, organizer of the save-the-carwash campaign.

"In the 1960s, all the kids around here came here," agreed Sunny Gillis, 43, a 1963 graduate of North Hollywood High School who lives in Burbank. "Coming here was like going to the circus or going fishing with your dad. This is where you fell in love, got beat up, got drunk. And all that could happen before lunch."

Clubs Met There

Linda Knieps, 41, a member of North Hollywood High's class of '65, said the coffee shop was a favorite meeting place for social clubs that were popular on campus. "I was a member of the Chanteclair's. It was the most fun to come here after football games or club meetings. I was really upset when I heard that a mini-mall might be built here. We don't have enough nostalgic landmarks left."

Tiny Naylor's officials--who served about 300 hamburger plates during a 90-minute period Monday--pledged to spend $75,000 to restore the coffee shop to its 1960s splendor if commissioners make the restaurant a monument. A cultural designation would prevent developer Ira Smedra from demolishing the corner for a year.

"You remember the counter and the tile and the soda jerks? That's what we'll bring back," Randy Peters, the restaurant chain's chief operating officer, told reporters--including a Voice of America broadcaster preparing a report for European listeners.

The old-fashioned look won't apply to the menu, however. A hamburger, fries and a Coke will cost $4.50, officials said.

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