99 Cents Only stores founder Dave Gold passed away last week at the age of 80. Gold’s quirky stores (where cash registers squeal “uh-oh!”) have become Los Angeles icons since the first one opened near LAX more than 30 years ago. His blindingly bright and colorful stores were sold to a private equity group for more than a billion dollars in 2011, but Gold continued to be involved with the stores until earlier this year. Click here to read Los Angeles magazine’s 2001 profile of Gold. Writer Tamar Brott described him as a “folk hero” and explored his history dating back to the original family business at the Grand Central Market downtown.
Gold was himself a history buff, covering the walls of his office, and later his Johnie’s coffee shop property at Wilshire and Fairfax, with famous newspaper headlines of the 20th century. In 2005, the Gold family worked with the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee to open up the shuttered restaurant for a tour and celebration of its googie architecture. I spent weeks with a volunteer crew preparing to serve pie at the counter (we were able to pass health inspection!), clean and polish the terrazzo floors, build displays, and exhibit 3D architectural photos of the 1955 car culture icon.
In our profile we described the 99 Cents Only Stores as the “Cadillac” of discount shops. As a preservationist, I hope Mr. Gold’s legacy will live on by preserving this idiosyncratic corner of the city, and through his vibrant and vital shops.
Photograph by Patricia McDonough