The bread-and-butter businesses of most municipalities are those providing goods and services, with restaurants near the top of the list. Running a restaurant is extremely difficult, because costs are high, profit margins are low and public tastes can often be fickle. Staying open is sometimes a losing proposition.
North Hollywood possessed few restaurants in the 1910s and 1920s because it was a rural, farming community. When the Mack Sennett Studios began construction in 1927 and real estate transactions soared in the area, many eating establishments opened.
One of the first early restaurants to open sometime in 1927 was the La Fonda Wayside Inn at 12117 Ventura Blvd., operated by the young couple Carl and Ray Hollis. Located at the center of the Studio City area, and just steps from its largest real estate office, La Fonda featured dining and dancing. Carl ran the business and kitchen, offering chicken, steaks, squab, minimal salad items, dessert and basic drinks. His wife, Ray, led the house band, the La Fonda Serenadors, and played at hospitals and other charity places as well.
The menu specified, “No, we do not bootleg, so please do not ask for Hooch.” There was no cover charge for music, but the outfit did require a minimum charge of $1.25 each. On the back of the menu was a map showing the restaurant’s location at Ventura Boulevard, Laurel Canyon Road, and Pacoima Road. At that time, Laurel Canyon Road stopped at Ventura Boulevard and Pacoima headed north into the San Fernando Valley.
The restaurant advertised in newspapers sporadically. An Aug. 2, 1932 Los Angeles Times ad noted, “Pleasing atmosphere, good music, largest dance floor.” By 1937, ads revealed a name change to La Fonda Inn. Ralph Meyer as assignor put the furniture, fixtures and cocktail equipment up for auction on Nov. 10, 1942.
Former cowboy star Hoot Gibson took over the location and opened Hoot Gibson’s Painted Post, a country-western honky-tonk that featured country performers who had appeared on radio programs or had records for sale. The club supposedly bore the motto, “Where the Sidewalk Ends and the West begins,” according to “Country Music: The Rough Guide.” Gibson’s establishment lasted only a few years.
Other restaurants came through, and gained publicity for the wrong reasons. On Aug. 4, 1955, Mrs. Adrienne Forman filed suit against actor Sonny Tufts, alleging that the star “struck, beat and bruised her” about 2:30 a.m. at an unnamed restaurant at 12117 Ventura Blvd. She claimed that on July 17, 1954, she and her mother were sitting at a table when Tufts insisted on sitting with them, though neither knew the other. When she said no and protested, he allegedly used physical force and injured her. She asked for $10,000 in damages, $5,000 for punitive damages, $5,000 in compensatory damages. Tufts filed a denial on Oct. 6, 1955, but unfortunately The Times does not provide a resolution to the case.
A Norm’s Scoops Restaurant occupied the location from the late 1950s into the late 1960s, when Wesley’s Shoes took over. In a 1985 Times ad, the store proclaims it lost its lease and was liquidating everything. Soon, Rogers Shoe Store opened, offering high-quality men’s shoes with such brands as Rockport, Bruno Magli, Bally, and Cole Haan. During the last 10 years, a DSW Shoe Warehouse occupied the site.
Currently, upscale hamburger joint, The Counter, occupies 12117 Ventura Blvd., another in the long line of restaurants open at this location.
While the names have changed, most occupants of this location have operated as either restaurants or shoe stores, showing that little except styles and names change over time.