Reseda, reconsidered

Reseda resists public affection. Of all the old neighborhoods of the Valley, it has the least curb appeal.  Or to put it another way, it’s the last shopping district in LA without a Starbucks.  Or a Pinkberry, or Chipotle or anything of that nature.  A mixed blessing, perhaps. Driving down Sherman Way one sees all the blight of Van Nuys and Panorama City, but without the abundant street life, colorful murals, food trucks, swap meet stalls and teeming commerce of more populated areas.  Reseda is the place grandma refused to leave, and the kids hate to visit.  It’s where the Old White Valley and the New Valley of the Asian/Latino working class coexist in uncomfortable equipoise amid a parade of empty storefronts.  Or, to put it another way, Detroit.  Earlier this year, I posted a rather snarky photo array of Reseda on a Sunday afternoon which was, in retrospect, a little unfair.  Last week, driving home in the late afternoon,  I stopped for another look around:

Out of business this summer
Out of business this summer, after 40 years
No longer selling books
No longer selling books
Glatt Kosher, and zero reviews on Yelp
Glatt Kosher, and zero reviews on Yelp

Okay, maybe this isn’t helping. A lot of Reseda is like this.  There’s no avoiding it. But then there are still thriving old school establishments like this:


And this:


And this:


And of course this, which I wrote of last week, the reason I stopped the car in the first place:


Maybe its the rosy light of an early evening in Autumn. Maybe it’s the fact they are still toughing it out with Target and Home Depot just up the road, or just the spirit of the holiday season, but I am resolved to be more respectful of Reseda.  I leave it here:

Waiting for walk-in traffic
Waiting for walk-in traffic

Fittingly, the Love Thyself Barbershop.  ‘”All are Welcome”.


Kennedy Lock and Safe Co.



Same location, same business all these years.  Old school, like out of a movie.  The durability of trade. Think how much Valley history has passed through these doors. Think how few businesses like this have survived the encroach of franchisement, of strip mall big box stores and el Nino cycles of recession, and lived to tell about it.

The cornfield, the sod farm and what once was


Not a corn maze.   A working cornfield, awaiting harvest.  Any one want to guess where this is?


Valley Sod Farm, North Hills.  If you bought a lawn in the past ten years, it probably came from here.


Nostalgia mural, NoHo Arts District.  The story of Valley development in three pictures.  Water brings orchards. Orchards give way to subdivisions. Subdivisions require lawns and landscaping.  Houses with big lots give way to apartment buildings.  Apartment people get stir crazy, feel the need to take walks.  The city entertains the walkers with fanciful depictions of the orchards that once were.  And yet!  The quirks of development are such there remains today strange pockets of the old Valley primeval, fertile and abundant, tucked just out of view. Like a huge working cornfield a mere frisbee toss from the boulevard, and all those harried parents, inching forward, one light at a time, on their way to a ‘pumpkin patch’ in a parking lot.

Not quite Googie, but something


A remnant of mid-century retail architecture still doing business with the old signage in place. Time and tide have exacted their toll,  but fifty years on it seduces the eye, even amidst a cluttered and blighted commute along Saticoy. A living relic, somewhere between googie and the world evoked in Tom Wolfe’s Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby.

Won’s Coffee Shop


A topic of passing fascination: the down market old school establishment which manages to stay in business as an old school establishment while conceding nothing to modern taste, or a retro  makeover, and lacking the patronage of a hipster clientele a la the Dresden Room.  I thought they might be getting away with it as a front for massage parlor profits,  but at 3 pm on a Tuesday it was doing a brisk business in chow mein, conducted by a James Ellroy character who barked at cook and customer alike and slapped greasy plastic-lined menus on the counter. Interior matches expectations.