A Vintage Neon Survivor Hangs On in Westlake


I was surprised to see a beautiful piece of vintage survive the major makeover of a neighborhood market in Westlake recently. The sleek streamline building at 3rd & Witmer has been remade into a 7-11 and, for the moment at least, is holding on to its jazzy little liquor sign. The store was built in 1936 as a Safeway market. It was remodeled after a 1958 fire. I’m guessing that’s when the neon rocket took its perch above the door.

Historic buildings and fanciful artwork help make bleak areas friendlier. Restoring this vintage gem would bring a spark of energy to a neighborhood that has suffered through gang violence for years. The LAPD recently arrested 7 criminals in a sting of a nearby apartment building and the city attorney has filed “nuisance abatement” lawsuits to remove other gangsters living nearby.

Investment in a refurbished building helps the street, and the architect behind the project helped retain the old sign. “It’s kinda neat,” says Andy Paszterko of GAZ Architects. “It’s an eye catcher and a conversation piece.”

I hope they choose to restore the neon (7-11 has a liquor license for this location), but for now the decision to leave it was more pragmatic than philanthropic. It’s hard to get flashy displays permitted in 2015. “When you take it down you lose that entitlement,” says Paszterko. “We had a part in encouraging them to hang on to it. It definitely is an asset.”