Grand openings of the past

JERRY PERSON

Recently, I stopped over to Custer's Storage to see a friend, Rocky

LaRoque. He gave me the sad news of the July 13 passing of longtime

Huntington Beach resident Billie Weide.

Over the years, I have quoted B.D.L. "Billie" Weide in this column

a number of times. She will sorely be missed by me and by many of our

local residents, including her husband of many years, Jack.

Just a few days later, I received word that another old-time

resident die on July 17. W. Frank Rohrig was one of those

storytellers who could keep an audience spellbound with his tales of

people and events from Huntington's rich oil days.

One time, Frank told me his house on the corner of Delaware and

Yorktown had been originally located on the corner of Warner and

Gothard, where a discount bakery outlet now stands. He said the house

was built by the same party and around the same time as William

Slater's house on Gothard and Cedar. His 1920 house was moved to its

present location in the 1930s.

I knew Frank for the past 25 years and never tired of hearing

about his adventures during our black-gold days.

This week, we look at three businesses and their historic grand

openings.

When I was growing up, one of the pleasures my mother enjoyed was

going to grand openings and finding bargains there. I had forgotten

about it until I was reminded of this by another Huntington Beach

resident, Anna Capocciama, who told me she liked to attend local

grand openings, too.

Our first grand opening took place on May 23, 1946 and lasted

three days. When the $30,000 Cornet store opened at 224 Main St., it

was modern in all respects.

When the 5, 10 and 25 store first opened on May 5, 1941 at 212

Main Street, W.W. Hampton was its manager. Over the next five years,

the store became too small for all it carried and a larger site was

needed.

Cornet leased a new 2,800-square-foot building from Roscoe

McIntosh and soon began installing modern fluorescent lighting. The

store's walls and ceiling were painted white and modern display

counters and wall shelves were brought in.

During the opening days, store managers Howard Cole, F. Kennedy

and J.C. Leveret put several thousand items on sale.

By 1958, Gladys Durler had become store manager. Throughout the

1950s and early 1960s, Cornet was Main Street's only national dime

store.

For our second opening, which happened in November of 1962, Benson

Flanzbaum promised our residents that Huntington Beach's first

discount center would open.

Flanzbaum's Fantastic Fair Discount Center opened at 16672 Beach

Blvd. and would cover some 80,000 square feet of space. There would

be room to park 1,000 cars, it would employ an estimated 300 people,

and the center would be built by L.S. Whaley and Sons.

"Huntington Beach is one of the fastest growing areas in the West,

and indications are that the population will accelerate," said the

34-year-old Flanzbaum at the time.

I'm sorry to say that his statement came true, and we now have a

population of more than 200,000 people.

The center included an automotive shop, a beauty salon, a jewelry

store, a food store, a furniture store, a drugstore, a garden shop, a

ladies wear store and a linen store. They were all part of the

Fantastic Fair Center.

Also included at the center was Radcliff's Shell station on the

corner of Terry Drive and Beach Boulevard. And, yes, the station gave

out S & H green stamps, too.

Our last business broke ground at its present location in 1946.

Located in the Huntington Beach area, Sam's Seafood Restaurant has

been a landmark for travelers for the past 80 years.

Sam Arvenitis first opened a bait shop in 1923 around Anaheim

Landing. During this time, he augmented his income by serving fish

dinners.

In the early 1930s, Sam's moved to a nondescript building at the

corner of Seal Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway in Seal

Beach. This building could be seen from a distance by the giant

swordfish sign atop the cafe.

After World War II, the U.S. Navy wanted the property, and Sam's

had to relocate to its present location. Only then, the address was

2501 Ocean Ave. -- today, it's 16278 Pacific Coast Highway -- and

Arvenitis retained its landmark swordfish sign.

On Feb. 15, 1967, Sam's broke ground for a chain of franchise

restaurants, the first at a site on Lincoln between Ball and Magnolia

in Anaheim that would be owned by Richard and Nick Katsaris. This

Sam's would include a 19 seaburger, a 25 hamburger, a seadog and

clam chowder on its menu.

But the chain never came about, and in 1968, Carl Warren leased

the restaurant from the Katsaris family.

At a savings and loan public auction, Warren purchased the two

acres the building sits on for $430,000. Not a bad deal when you

think of what property is selling for today.

Sam's Seafood Restaurant has come a long way from that little bait

shop. If you venture inside, it still retains the look and feel of

another era.

Warren still owns this restaurant and its world-famous landmark

swordfish sign.

* JERRY PERSON is a local historian and longtime Huntington Beach

resident. If you have ideas for future columns, write him at P.O. Box

7182, Huntington Beach, CA 92615.

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