Above: Person Ford, 2011; Below: Augustine’s, 1991, courtesy of city of La Verne: “Top Sirloin Complete Dinner for $6.95.”
The former Person Ford car dealership at 2777 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne is set to be redeveloped into apartments and retail. But reader Tom Gay remembers when the building at the west end of the dealership was a restaurant — or a series of restaurants — from the 1970s into 2004.
“The building at the west end was at one time a Cattleman’s Wharf. It was something else before that and I believe it was once called the Torch,” Gay said, “but I also think that the owners of the Torch actually tried to burn it down. Anyway, thought you might want to research it a little more as I’m sure that there are other locals who would be interested and might remember more than I do.”
Good idea. I contacted Eric Scherer of La Verne’s Planning Department and he was kind enough to research the files. Information isn’t complete, but he found that the building in question went up in 1976 and housed Lizzy’s.
The Torch followed and did indeed catch fire, possibly by arson. (Presumably firefighters were able to douse the Torch.)
“In 1981, the Original American Dinner House opened,” Scherer wrote. “This restaurant was unique in that every room was designed and decorated in a different Americana theme (Betsy Ross Room) and the waiters and staff all wore costumes of famous Americans. It must not have been very popular as it became a Cattleman’s Wharf later that year.”
Just think, you could have dined in the Betsy Ross Room, then headed east and gotten dessert at Betsy Ross Ice Cream in Claremont.
In 1985, the restaurant changed to Chateau La Verne, replaced in 1987 by Augustine’s Hi Jinx Restaurant before 1991 brought Diamond International Buffet. (It was briefly painted bright green and red.)
Finally, 1992 brought a stable restaurant: Phoenix Garden. The Chinese sit-down eatery lasted in the building until 2004, when it moved downtown and Person Ford took over. The building was used for fleet and truck sales rather than kung pao chicken, then closed out its life in 2009 as the location of Foothill Hyundai.
“With the new mixed-use development approved for the site, all of the buildings will be torn down,” Scherer reports.
Let’s hope the mixed-use development doesn’t have a revival of the Torch.
Anyone remember more about these past restaurants?