Signs from the interior south wall of the Upland Trader Joe’s, which closed last month, haven’t left town: The Cooper Regional History Museum, 217 A St., has them. Director Marilyn Anderson requested and got them from the manager. They were on the wall to your left if you were checking out. Upland-themed signs that named each checkstand were claimed by a second history nonprofit, Upland Heritage.
A former strawberry patch in Claremont, eyed for development for years, is now slated for 95 townhomes, my colleague Liset Marquez reports.
The site at Base Line Road and Towne Avenue is easy to be conflicted about. A KCET commentary by Pomona College environmental analysis professor Char Miller last month expressed mixed feelings: Good to have infill housing by a freeway, sad to have an agricultural remnant depart.
“The farm has fallen victim to a post-recession land rush that’s in the process of converting a number of empty lots in Claremont. Six developments, totaling nearly 700 new housing units, are underway,” Miller writes.
I stopped by one morning last week to take a photo and was surprised to find the stand still in operation. While the produce on view — including strawberries — may be “fresh picked,” the picking occurred elsewhere. Nothing is grown on that land anymore.
* Update: The council, on a 3-2 vote Feb. 25, rezoned the property to allow residential uses only, rather than residential and commercial. The townhome developer promised that the strawberry patch would be memorialized in a piece of public art.
“It was the last agricultural parcel in the city,” Councilman Sam Pedroza told me later. “We were an agricultural city and now we kind of officially got away from that…There were a lot of long faces.”
For a change of pace, and also to hear the discussion about the Gold Line, I attended Tuesday’s Montclair City Council meeting. I decided kind of late to go, and was starving. So I got a sandwich on my way, to go, and took it to eat during the meeting. Despite having attended hundreds, maybe a thousand, public meetings in my career, this was a first. Who says I can’t innovate?
(Although the audience was sparse and I tried to eat discreetly — such as taking bites of my crunchy sandwich when people were applauding — I felt a little guilty about the whole thing. Didn’t want to seem rude. Of course, there’s no sign on the door banning “outside food and drink,” I bought my meal in Montclair and everyone expects newspapermen to be ill-mannered slobs, so maybe I got a pass.
Remember the Rally Bear from a Dodgers game last fall, and how he was really a former Tremor from Rancho Cucamonga? He was in Sochi and sent me some photos and info, with which I lead off Friday’s column. After that: cultural items and Claremont items.
Taco Hut, 9451 Foothill Blvd. (at Hellman), Rancho Cucamonga; other locations at 11815 Foothill, Rancho Cucamonga, and 1150 E. Philadelphia St., Ontario
Taco Hut is a Rancho Cucamonga mainstay, located in the AutoZone center between Hellman and Archibald. The signs say “Est. 1982.” Two other locations have opened in recent years, one in the Masi Plaza on the east side of town, the other in south Ontario.
I’ve been to the original a few times over the years. Because its absence from this blog was overdue to be remedied, a friend and I met there for dinner recently. The interior is more colorful and modern than I recall, presumably the result of a fire that closed the restaurant a few years ago until remodeling could take place. The walls have kitschy sombreros, serapes and miniature guitars as decor, as well as a fringe of hut-like straw. The glass-topped tables have serape-like fabric underneath.
The menu is extensive with the usual tacos, burritos, etc., plus seafood dishes, hamburgers and salads. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had an asada burrito ($7, below), my friend had a shrimp quesadilla ($10). “It was so good,” he said with satisfaction. My burrito was likewise quite good, the steak, fluffy rice and refried beans melding into a delicious whole.
Great food, and the service was exceptionally friendly. All hail the Hut.
An exhibit at the Cooper Regional History Museum in Upland is devoted to comics and Pop art. It’s the subject of my Wednesday column.
Above, a 1966 Jughead comic on display has a commentary on Pop art, neatly tying the two threads of the exhibit together.
One thing I left out of the column was a crack about the exhibit’s name, which appears to be “Let’s Have Some Fun at the Cooper Museum Pop Art Exhibition.” Gosh, let’s. If the exhibit finds another home after its May 31 end at the Cooper, a new name should be a priority.
I’ve long admired this car wash at 1200 E. Holt Ave. in Pomona. That sign! As you can see, it’s bigger than even the red pickup truck. When you’re driving under the sign, it looks like a giant yellow tennis court overhead. The name is Minit Man. The vertical pylons, a common car wash touch in the 1960s-70s, add a futuristic touch. Have you ever washed your car there? I haven’t — I go to the do-it-yourself places — but maybe I should.
Charles Phoenix’s “Cruising the Pomona Valley 1930 Thru 1970″ dates the car wash to 1960 and writes: “Decorated and identified with giant spikes, spires and flags, the wash and wax drive-thrus of the ’50s and ’60s celebrated the ritual of auto beautification and the constant parade of cars in sky-high style.”
This car wash is one of 10 notable midcentury Pomona Valley landmarks listed in the back of Alan Hess’ “Googie Redux,” the impetus for this series of blog posts.
Most Fresh & Easy stores remain open after their September 2013 sale, but a handful closed, and some had closed last year as the chain struggled. Upland is home to one shuttered location, and Ontario to two.
The closed one in Upland — at Foothill and San Antonio, seen above — won’t come back as a grocery because a Sprouts market is going in next door into a former Office Max. (Upland also has an operating Fresh & Easy on Mountain and Eighth.)
The real-estate market has by and large turned empty Mervyns into Kohls, and Circuit Citys, Price Clubs and theaters into churches and gyms. It’s still trying to repurpose Borders stores (the one in Montclair now sells furniture) and closed Best Buys, like ones in Ontario and Chino Hills.
What to do with these empty 10,000-square-foot Fresh & Easy markets?
Suggesting I write about this, a friend came up with a list of potential uses that, coincidentally I’m sure, mirror my interests: “Used book stores, comic book shops, frozen custard joints, art house cinemas, pie shops, a lunch spot where all waitresses wear glasses, bowling alleys…” Be still my heart!
Any further ideas, fanciful or not, for these vacant spaces?
Sunday’s column might have just been a blog post. Reader Ken Brock sent me a photo in November of the “Monte Vista Ave, Formerly Padua Ave” sign in Claremont and wondered why it was there. I dithered for a while on whether to use that as a simple blog post or to research his question for a column. I followed the latter course and am glad I did.
Inland Empire Weekly, launched in 2006, has ceased publication. I pay tribute in Friday’s column. Above, the Glass House Record Shop in Pomona still has copies of recent issues.
(Wes Woods took the photo for me; when I visited the Arts Colony Thursday morning, any business that had copies wasn’t open yet. I could see copies through the windows at the record shop, New York Deli and dba 256. Sob!)