From Rocky Cola to Gus & Andy’s – The Long and Winding Road

The rumors are true! The most anxiously awaited restaurant in Montrose is finally open!

After Rocky Cola Café closed in 2014, everyone just assumed it would reopen soon as another restaurant. The building has a prominent position in Montrose, right on the corner at the shopping park’s entrance. Unlike most Montrose restaurants, it has ample street parking and a large footprint for both indoor and outdoor dining. Rumor had it that the owner of two other successful restaurants, Black Cow and Star Café, had picked up the lease and would soon open another burger place there similar to Rocky Cola.

To the dismay of all, instead it sat empty, year after year. But La Cañada resident Tom Christopoulos had kept his eye on that location for years.

Tom came from a well-known restaurant family in Chicago. His grandfather had a hot dog stand in a tough part of town and paid “protection money” to the mob, while in tunnels beneath his stand illegal booze was moved about. Tom’s family still owns Jim’s Original hot dogs, a long-time Chicago icon. And Tom had a successful restaurant in Newhall besides a construction company he owned. When Tom saw this perfect location languishing in Montrose, he moved on it.

Tom bought the lease in 2017. Seems like turning a former restaurant into a new restaurant would be easy, right? And initially things went well. But this is Glendale and, for construction, Glendale is notoriously hard to work with. And unbeknownst to Tom, it turned out that lots of construction was needed.

The building had been built in 1923 as a pharmacy and had over the years gone through several facelifts. In the ’40s a separate building next door to the north of the pharmacy was purchased and was incorporated into the pharmacy. (That’s why there is an upstairs section of the building today. That’s actually a separate structure.)

All of these elements factored into what Tom found when he began what he thought would be a simple remodel. When Tom got inside the walls, he found that there was no foundation. The walls actually sat on footings on dirt … or perhaps I should say what was left of the walls, as the studs had rotted away near ground level. Nor was there any shear structure to resist lateral movement. Tom related that it was really only the exterior stucco holding up the walls. How it made it through our earthquakes is miraculous.

As well, the rafters were sagging and bowed. And the separate building had only been “tacked onto” the main building and the open gap between them still existed. All this needed to be fixed, which meant years of permits and inspections. Tom, rather than the building’s owner (Tom doesn’t own the building), took on this colossal job, both physically and financially.

After seeing photos of the old pharmacy’s art-deco façade, Tom realized the old façade was probably still there. Being a history buff, he decided to restore it. But when he pulled off the newer facing, the old plaster façade was cracked and broken. Tom instead had to creatively recreate it. (That vertical fluting is actually PVC pipe cut in half. Brilliant!)

So with all the construction complete, all they needed was a water hookup. But Glendale’s water pressure was too low for the restaurant’s fire control system; several more months of delay. The final delay was finding staff in a tight employment market.

But they have overcome all these obstacles, a tribute to perseverance. Hats off to Allen Castillo from the City of Glendale and Councilman Ardy Kassakhian who helped smooth the process. Crescenta Valley Water District helped out with the water issues.

The food is American-style with lots of “Montrose-themed” menu selections and a full bar upstairs. It’s a friendly family place with Tom’s sons and wife cooking and serving. The open-air atmosphere, including big windows that open onto the sidewalk, is absolutely joyous.

So stop by and grab a table, if you can find one, at this popular new restaurant.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at