Raku folds after 56 years in Claremont

Wednesday’s column tells the history of a long-lived Claremont gift shop, Raku, that closed earlier this year.

And let me say, without my blog, this column might not exist. I posted news of Raku’s closure here, several of you commented (Meredith Evans and George Goad’s comments made the column), and Doug Lawrie, the store’s co-founder, saw the post somehow and emailed me. Then he put me in touch with Jerry and Peggy Miller, the other co-founders.

Seemed like a piece of Claremont history that ought to be told. Rather belatedly, here it is.

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Shop is on a quest for new comic readers

Friday’s column is about a comic shop, the cleverly named A Shop Called Quest, that opened recently in Claremont. It’s downtown, a rarity for a (these days) niche product like comic books, meaning that plenty of people who aren’t looking for comics are passing by and, in some cases, walking in.

Saturday, not coincidentally to the timing of today’s column, is Free Comic Book Day, a national promotion in which you can walk into a comic shop and get a free comic book. The FCBD website lists all the free comics and has a store locator. My column also gives the names and addresses of our handful of local comic shops.

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Peppertree Square remodel

The Peppertree Square shopping center in Claremont, which occupies the southeast corner of Indian Hill Boulevard and Arrow Highway, is undergoing a makeover. In this view looking east from Indian Hill, you can see the original look at the far right and a new roofline in various stages of completion along the rest of the center.

I don’t know much about the center but I believe the current look was installed in 1980 and that the center predates that. Can anyone fill us in on that and on past stores at that corner?

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Ray Collins, eternally hanging out

Google Street View now in some cases allows interior views of shops, as in the case of Some Crust Bakery in Claremont. And as reader Gavin alerted me, to my astonishment, the panoramic view of the otherwise-unpopulated shop reveals a familiar face seated at his favorite table outside: Ray Collins, the singer, Mothers of Invention co-founder and Village habitue who died in December.

The fine print on the image says it was shot in August. For those of us who miss him, it’s nice to think that in cyberspace, at least, Collins is still parked outside Some Crust with a cup of coffee.

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Some Crust’s well-aged shelves, new-ish door

 

I learned a couple of interesting facts recently about Some Crust, the bakery at 119 Yale Ave. that may be as perfect a summation of Claremont as any business in the Village.

There’s been a bakery at that location since 1916 — I’ll leave it to a Claremont expert to give me some names — with the Some Crust name inaugurated in 1978. The Feemster family bought it in 1997 and continues operating it today.

The door is notable for an aged-looking crossbar promoting Mother’s Bread. (Ray Collins, the Mothers of Invention co-founder and Some Crust regular, was once photographed pointing deadpan to the word Mother.) This isn’t the original door but rather was installed in 1993 when the movie “My Girl 2″ was filmed downtown. “That was one of the things they put here for set decoration,” manager Scott Feemster told me. Could’ve fooled me (and everyone else).

Inside, however, there’s a very old touch that might not be recognized as such. The shelves behind the counter have been there roughly a century, dating to a dry goods store in that storefront prior to conversion to a bakery in 1916, Feemster said.

There’s a little old and a little new at Some Crust, but it can be hard to tell the difference.

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White smoke seen over Buca di Beppo

A bust of Pope Benedict is pictured above in the popular, tongue-in-cheek Pope Room at the Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant in Claremont on New Year’s Eve. The room, a feature at all the chain’s restaurants, is round, has a round table with a lazy Susan and appropriate art in alcoves and on the domed ceiling. (A friend placed his hat atop the cube, where it seems to float above the Pope’s head.)

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Farewell to Raku

A for-lease sign has been posted outside of Raku, a gift shop on Claremont’s Yale Avenue, for a year, even with the store in operation, and at one point last year Raku was looking for a new home in the Village. Passing by on Monday, though, I was sad to see the store empty and the above notice on the door.

I was never a big spender there, but I did buy greeting cards and wrap, and occasionally a gift item. The cards were usually quirky and handmade, the items of an off-kilter bent. I’ve been shopping there since moving to Claremont but had no idea the store had been around since the early 1970s. It was a hipper version of Barbara Cheatley or Carkle Sudie, two of the Village’s other gift stores and places no man ever visits except under duress.

(Heirloom Village, a block over on Indian Hill, will be a more than acceptable substitute in this niche, but still.)

Does anyone know any background on Raku or its demise, or just have a memory to share? Please comment if you do. I know that raku is a form of pottery, but what that has to do with the store I don’t know.

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Claremont scholar studied uncivil ‘Lincoln’ figure

If you’ve seen “Lincoln,” you’ve marveled at Thaddeus Stevens, an abolitionist congressman who gets some of the movie’s best lines and who was played by Tommy Lee Jones. Well, I was scanning the letters section of the LA Times last weekend when I saw a letter by Beverly Wilson Palmer regarding the movie, identifying her as 1) a Claremont resident and 2) editor of “The Selected Papers of Thaddeus Stevens.”

And so it was that a couple of days later, I was interviewing her by phone. No time like Oscars week, right? Stevens and Palmer are the subjects of my Friday column.

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