Spike Jones Market
Spike Jones Market was an instantly recognizable landmark in La Crescenta during the ’50s and ’60s, thanks to a gigantic neon blade sign featuring a caricature of the very famous comedian/musician Spike Jones. The neighborhood store, located on the southeast corner of La Crescenta Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, was rather small by today’s standards, but nonetheless carried a full selection, including a butcher department.
Because of its ownership by Jones, who made his living making others laugh, it had a friendly light-hearted atmosphere. Comedic advertising signs inside were designed to make customers laugh, such as the sign over the produce aisle, “All our lettuce is conceited – big heads!”
A marquee outside advertised not only today’s specials, but local births and events as well, giving the store a community flavor. It had a successful run through the post-war boom period when the valley, and its many young families, was experiencing a period of phenomenal growth.
So, who was Spike Jones? Put very simply, he was the “Weird Al” Yankovich of his era, easily as famous, and he made his fortune parodying hit songs of the post-WWII era.
Long Beach native Spike Jones had spent a decade as a drummer behind various big name performers (he’s the percussion behind Bing Crosby on “White Christmas”). He formed his own band, the City Slickers, and in 1942 topped the charts with “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” a song ridiculing Hitler. He then racked up a string of hilarious song parodies including “Cocktails for Two,” “You Always Hurt the One You Love” and “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” He branched out into early television, even hosting his own TV show in the late ’50s. Although he died in 1965, his records were revived in the ’70s and ’80s for a new generation by L.A.-based DJ “Dr. Demento.”
And what was his connection to CV? Perhaps our readers can fill in the gaps in my knowledge. He was married to singer Helen Grayco (real name Greco), and apparently the Greco family lived in this area. He opened the store in about 1949, either in partnership or managed by Helen’s two brothers, along with a Greco uncle and nephew.
Spike quipped about opening more stores: “With all the in-laws I have, I figure I’m good for at least 10 more stores.”
I don’t think he lived here, but just had that local Greco “in-law” connection. One of the many treasures the Historical Society has discovered at Rockhaven Sanitarium is a signed photo of Spike and “Mom.” Apparently she was a patient at Rockhaven.
Longtime resident Art Cobery remembered that there had always been a small open-front grocery store there before Spike Jones Market, and next to it on the corner was the La Crescenta Pharmacy, featuring an old time soda fountain. Spike Jones Market took over the grocery store in about ’49, and absorbed the pharmacy site later. Art remembers that on opening day, Spike Jones and his band set up on the sidewalk of Foothill in front of the new store and played an impromptu concert for La Crescenta. A little piece of CV trivia: The building was built so that there was room for a small store underneath, on the downhill side facing La Crescenta Avenue. It was here that Montrose icon Vito Cannella opened his first barbershop when he first emigrated here from Italy.
This was my local market when I was a kid, and every summer day of the ’60s found us neighborhood kids scrounging for the deposit money on someone’s Dad’s empty beer bottles so we could walk to Spike Jones for an Orange Crush or Bubble Up.
Sadly in 1971, the ’20s-era unreinforced brick building housing the Market was damaged by the Sylmar Earthquake, and it was demolished. The footprint of the old store is about the same as the current building on the site, housing a florist and dry-cleaners. For those of us with over-active memories, we can still see the neon image of Spike Jones looking down on Foothill.
Man, I wish we still had that sign!
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the
Crescenta Valley. Reach him at