Food at Ford

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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?

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  • Gene Harvey

    I don’t know how the La Verne Planning Department got it wrong, but the restaurant in question opened as Pauline’s, not Lizzy’s. I and friends ate quite a few meals there.

    [We'll have to take your word for it, Gene. City Hall says the location's building plans give Lizzy's as the anticipated name. Business license records from the '70s, which might show that the building opened under a different name, are in storage. -- DA]

  • Carolyn

    Used to eat ice cream goodies at Betsy Ross Ice Cream! Would love to have a picture of it back then!

  • Bob House

    @Carolyn – Betsy Ross store photo on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edge_and_corner_wear/5213086696/

  • Don Stevens

    Actually the Cattlemans wharf was at the site where Pep Boys was built later and is now a 99 cent store right next to the wash. I remember at the southeast corner of Foothill and Wheeler they had a Mexican themed village with different eating places and businesses. I think it was called Adobe Village!

    [Don, stay tuned for a followup blog post on this subject. Cattleman's started where you say and evidently moved to the Ford site. -- DA]

  • Kathy Archer

    Wasn’t the Cattleman’s Wharf on the site that is/was that has been a couple of Mediterranean places right at Foothill where the 210 used to dead end? There was another one in Hacienda Heights, I think, and at one of the locations, the owner had boxing matches or fights or something like that. That didn’t end well, if I recall…

    I remember the Adobe Village — I think it was the original location of the jewelry store in Claremont Village called Lizzie’s Goldmine??

  • Don Kendrick

    This property was owned by the Gillette family, and the original Liberty Ford, which became Person Ford, were all built on this property, as was the restaurant in question.

    Originally, Bud Holmes was the the owner of the business which I am assuming had an agreement with the Gillette family to build the restaurant building for him. This was the agreement Bud Holmes had with the Jocobson family for the original Cattleman’s Wharf on the site which is now occupied by the 99 Cent Only store, previously Pep Boys. Bud Holmes did not own the property, only the business. He also had a Cattleman’s Wharf in Hacienda Heights, which was his second of this name, the first being in La Verne, surrounded by orange groves.

    Getting back to the Person Ford site, the original name for this restaurant was Lizzy, or Lizzy’s. It wasn’t hard to come up with this name, since Bud Holmes had a restaurant in downtown La Verne called Tin Lizzy. The restaurant never opened with this name. It is my understanding that Bud Holmes and his wife Paulette were going through a divorce, and she ended up with this as part of the settlement agreement. Someone said in your blog that the name was Pauline’s, but I thought it was Paulette’s. Anyway, it didn’t make it and sometime later became the Torch, under different ownership I believe.

    A funny thing happened, or not so funny actually. I was the opening general manager and partner of the San Dimas Cask ‘N Cleaver, which opened in Nov. 1980. I was there until April of 1982 when I became a district manager for the organization. One day during this 1 1/2 year period, I had a young woman apply for a job. I looked at her application for previous experience and noticed she had worked at the Torch. I mentioned that I was aware of the fire, and she proceeded to tell me that she was the last employee out of the restaurant that night, exiting by the back door, and gas cans were lined inside the door. She had just completed testifying in court. She said they went to jail.

    The land has finally been sold by the Gillette family. The Hutton organization has purchased it and will be developing their mixed-use project starting soon.

    I was discharged in May 1974 from the Navy and started at the Cucamonga Cask ‘N Cleaver in Sept. of 1974, almost the same day as starting college at Cal Poly, Pomona in the Hotel & Restaurant Dept.

    Go figure, I’m in my 27th year of being in real estate and am now Mayor of La Verne.

    Thanks for your time David, and thanks for what you write.

    [And thank you, Don, for the history and fun anecdotes about this site. -- DA]

  • claremont resident #2

    If you drive by the Person Ford site this afternoon all you will see is a pile of rubble. The truck leasing building went down yesterday and the showroom is presently being demolished.

  • Dennis

    Who owned Liberty Ford who sold it to Warren Persons Dad? I think his last name was Smith.