Odds & Ends Around the Valley

Compiled by Marci Slade

Palm Trees Galore

Yes, there are a lot of palm trees on Sherman Way in Van Nuys, Reseda and Canoga Park. More than 1,000 of them grace the thoroughfare from Van Nuys Boulevard to Valley Circle Boulevard, according to Duane Gute Sr., superintendent of Los Angeles' Street Tree Division. And most of them, he believes, were planted about 1911.

It's quite possible that those palm trees--California fan palms, Mexican fan palms, date palms and queen palms--will be around longer than we will since they sometimes live to be more than 100 years old. There's documentation that some trees have lived more than 188 years. "We have some in the city that are about 150 years old," Gute said.

Except for replacements, the city is not too keen anymore on planting its signature trees, some of which can grow to be more than 100 feet tall. "If you have a uniform street of palm trees and one dies, we'll replace it with another one--a smaller one, of course," Gute said. "But generally there are a lot of problems with palm trees. They grow into overhead wires and there's seed-pod droppage. A citizen walks on it and slips and falls on the sidewalk. . . ."

You get the picture.

Quick: What's a Carhop?

Opening your own restaurant entails solving a lot of problems, but Tim Shpall of Sun Valley encountered one that threatens the basic gimmick of his new eatery.

"My place is called Cadillac Jack's and it's a '50s drive-in," the 40-year-old entrepreneur said. "We have carhops but there's a diner inside too. What I find very odd is that no one takes advantage of the carhops. It's like nobody under the age of 35 even knows what a carhop is."

Shpall had to make a business decision. He cut back the carhop service to weekends only. "I used to have two girls standing out there just looking at each other twiddling their thumbs," he said. "As soon as it starts to catch on, we'll do it again on a regular basis."

Located on San Fernando Road in Sun Valley, the hot-pink restaurant has a 1955 Cadillac parked out in front. Shpall put $10,000 worth of neon lighting on the exterior. Inside he made light fixtures out of old hubcaps.

Perhaps there was a foreshadowing of his problem when Shpall had trouble even finding the car trays. "I called every restaurant equipment wholesaler in Los Angeles and after they quit laughing at me, they said no, they didn't have them. I found out, though, that the original company that made them is still in business in Dallas," he recalled.

When Shpall is in need of solace, he retreats to his office in the back of the restaurant. Its walls are covered with posters of Elvis, Elvira and Alf. "Why not surround yourself with the three greatest minds in American culture?" he said with a laugh.

Trendy Business

If you're thinking about getting into the stretch limousine business, forget it. Ditto for tanning salons, yogurt shops and fitness centers. "Those markets are saturated," said Ted Walters, assistant vice president for the Money Store Investment Corp. in Encino, a U. S. Small Business Administration lender.

Southern California trends frequently translate into entrepreneurial opportunities, but like a summer tan, the trends fade after a while. Small business lenders in the San Fernando Valley have yet to notice a Southern California-type trend that might replace the ones mentioned above.

"We're going through a lull now," Walters said. "We went through a real creative period in small business start-ups, but then the market leveled out for a while."

So what other type of small businesses are growing these days? "The communications industry is increasing, like stores that sell cellular phones or fax machines," noted Arthur Sweet, president of Val-Ven California BIDCO (Business Industrial Development Co.) in North Hollywood, another SBA lender.

Dorothy Walker, vice president of Industrial Bank in Van Nuys, added that the video production industry is also doing quite well.

Pet Project

Pettpourri is still her hobby--not her job--but it's taking up more of Andrea Pett's time these days. "I started putting out my newsletter last summer after I graduated from UCLA because I had no more schoolwork to do and I wanted to keep busy," recalled Pett, 23, of Tarzana. "And I've always loved animals."

Pett was working at an office in which she was the unofficial expert on animal issues. "The ladies would ask me where to take their dog to get spayed, or what to do about a certain problem, and finally I said, 'Why don't I write this all down for you?' "

Using her home computer to create simple graphics, she wrote her first newsletter, focusing on local animal organizations and clinics. She distributed the newsletter free of charge to vets, groomers, pet supply stores, friends and relatives. People loved it. She now has more than 1,000 names on her mailing list.

The newsletter has expanded. A column called "Animal Kingdom Notes" alerts readers to international animal rights issues. Other columns list free programs and services for pet owners, and there's an events calendar.

The fourth issue comes out next month. It's still free, although Pett has accepted a few advertisers to help defray mailing costs. (She sends any surplus advertising money to animal organizations. Between them, Pett and her sister, Cynthia Pett, belong to about 30.)

Pett owns two dogs and three cats. "With the last name Pett, it's kind of hard not to like animals," Pett said.

To receive the newsletter, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Pettpourri, 5907 Cahill Ave., Tarzana 91356.

Overheard at . . . .

"He talks a lot now but English is still his second language." --Father referring to his 2-year-old's gibberish at Jerry's Deli in Encino

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