The Marketplace

It wasn’t so long ago that the Marketplace Shopping Center at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Rosemont Avenue was host to a very different set of retail establishments than what exist today. There was no Verizon Store, no Starbucks, no Baja Fresh, and no Togo’s. The corner where O’Reilly Auto Parts and Foster’s Donuts reside was a vacant lot for many years until the 1990s.

In fact, the shopping center’s “anchor” tenant, Ralphs, wasn’t even there until more recently. The space that Ralphs now inhabits was originally two separate stores – a Food King supermarket (later to become Alpha-Beta) and a Builder’s Emporium.

Do you remember Builder’s Emporium? Back in the days before the warehouse do-it-yourself hardware superstores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, Builder’s Emporium was the place to go for all your electrical, paint, garden, hardware and lumber needs. Builder’s carried pretty much anything you would ever need to work in, on, and around your house. At the service window in the back of the store you could show them just about any piece of hardware – nail, screw, nut, bolt – and they would be able to find one just like it for you, or at least something else that would work in its place. Now that was service!

Do you remember Pop Larsen? He was Builder’s fictional grandfatherly, do-it-yourself expert who could help you through most any home improvement project. The store carried Pop Larsen project brochures that would show how to perform various tasks such as how to hang a door, install a vanity or paint interiors. There was even a toll-free number to call Pop with any home improvement questions (remember, this was in the days before the Internet).

After a prolonged housing slump in the Southland, the La Crescenta store was closed in 1993, as were the remaining 96 stores located throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Several doors down from Builder’s Emporium, for quite a number of years, was a Miller’s Outpost clothing store. Miller’s Outpost, now known as Anchor Blue, was extremely popular among the teen crowd but before Miller’s was there, that space belonged to another retail establishment.

Do you remember Naha’s Department Store? Naha’s specialized primarily in clothing, home accents and gift items – somewhat like Ross or Marshall’s would carry today, but a bit more upscale in terms of quality. They pretty much set themselves apart from other shops in the area with their selection of merchandise. Short of driving all the way to downtown Glendale, it was one of only a couple establishments in the area where you could pick up just the right housewarming or wedding gift.

At the west end of the shopping center, just about where Starbucks currently resides, was the place to go to celebrate whenever your team won the big game.

Do you remember John Henry’s Ice Cream Parlor? John Henry’s was a throwback to the days of the old-fashioned soda fountain from the early 1900s.

The ice cream parlor had a U-shaped counter with swiveling barstools and the walls were covered in striped wallpaper and old black and white photographs. The men who worked behind the counter serving up hot fudge sundaes, root beer floats and banana splits all wore long, white aprons and “bus boy” style paper hats. The whole place had the special feel of that from another era – kind of like something you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting. When you walked through the doors it was like going back in time.

In fact, what made all three of these former businesses special is something that seems a bit difficult to find these days. It was the feeling you got when you walked through their doors, knowing that you were going to find just what you were looking for and that you were going to receive exceptional service.

Do you remember quality merchandise, attention to detail and great customer service?