Whereas Montrose has a sense of stability, Foothill Boulevard’s business center and anchor storefronts have shifted like wind-blown sand dunes in the desert. Although Benjamin Briggs laid out the “city center” of La Crescenta at Foothill and La Crescenta Avenue in 1884, and a one-room post office, stage stop and general store sprang up on the southeast corner, other competing business blocks set up in a leapfrog pattern up and down the boulevard over the years. The businesses have been, and still are, for the most part transitory.
It’s hard to pin down a long lasting business on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta, but I’ll take a stab at it. I’ll give the “oldest Foothill business” title to La Crescenta Pharmacy with a start date on Foothill of about 1927. My info is sketchy, so please forgive any “history by assumption” on my part.
La Crescenta Pharmacy was first opened in 1924 by “Pappy” Bane on the corner of La Crescenta and Montrose avenues where the 7-Eleven is today. Pharmacies were the convenience stores of their day and Pappy Bane offered a wide variety of goods and services, including a soda fountain featuring locally made Crescent Ice Cream. The little store, built from local stone, received its supplies daily on the Glendale and Montrose trolley line that ran on Montrose Avenue, and in the quiet Crescenta Valley the store clerks could hear the trolley coming as it pulled out of the station all the way down at Verdugo and Honolulu.
In 1927 we find La Crescenta Pharmacy in a beautiful new brick building on the southeast corner of Foothill Boulevard and La Crescenta Avenue, replacing the old wooden La Crescenta General Store and Post Office built in the 1880s. It would, of course, have featured the required soda fountain.
Apparently in 1955 La Crescenta Pharmacy moved to a new retail building next door at 2764 Foothill Boulevard where it still is today. A list of the pharmacists over the years includes Pappy Bane, Vic Nemechek, Bruno Barbaro, Herb Woloshin, Mort Farina and the much loved Lou Fram.
The pharmacy today is owned by the dynamic and energetic “KB” Patel. KB was educated in pharmacology in London, England and moved to the U.S. in 1998 for better opportunities for his two kids. That gamble paid off as his daughter is now a med student and his son a practicing podiatrist.
Previous La Crescenta Pharmacy owner Lou Fram had died of a heart attack in March of ’98 and Lou’s brother was searching in vain for an independent pharmacist to buy the business. By August he had just about given up and signed the business over to Rite-Aid when KB appeared. He bought it and has been running it successfully ever since.
We can’t tell this story without recounting KB’s real-life role as an action hero in 2005. One afternoon, KB and another pharmacist were working alone in the dispensary. A young man walked in, went right past the counter and into the dispensary, walked up to KB and pulled out a gun. KB quickly decided to resist, looked the gunman in the eye and reached out and slapped the gun downward. As the gun went down, it angled up and went off. The bullet went through KB’s bicep and into the ceiling. The gunman fled and KB went to the emergency room where he was bandaged up and by 5 p.m. he was back behind the counter at La Crescenta Pharmacy serving customers. KB has left the bullet hole in the ceiling as a reminder of that day.
KB is fiercely independent and regularly receives offers to buy his business from giants Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS. KB’s strong sense of morality won’t allow him to sell out. He feels a responsibility to his staff and to the community to continue and has said he works and makes decisions as though God is watching over his shoulder.
La Crescenta Pharmacy personifies the community loyalty displayed by independent businessmen and after 87 years in business is a good representative as the “oldest business on Foothill.”
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the
Crescenta Valley. Reach him at