New Norms Neon


The neon and steel pennants of Norms Coffee Shops have been flying high over Los Angeles for more than sixty years. Former car salesman Norm Roybark opened his first store at Sunset and Vine in 1949 to a neighborhood full of nightclubs, hip restaurants and a huge music store (kinda exactly like today) and catered to a cast of colorful late night characters. The remaining 1950s stores, including La Cienega and Huntington Park, were designed by the genius kings of the California coffee shop, Armet & Davis and are home to vintage sawtooth signboards. The glories of Norms have been reflected in pop art by Ed Ruscha, the lyrics of Tom Waits, inside a Teenage Fanclub album…That glorious neon emblem of the space age even turns up in Battle: LA. Versions of the flashing, washing, screaming original rise at 13 of the 17 current Norms locations, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Promotional Signs in Santa Ana has just built the biggest, baddest neon spectacular ever to tower above a sizzling grill. When Norms Claremont opens next month, the switch will be flipped on a glowing orange and white behemoth far larger than any of the previous signs. This giant is 99 feet tall, weighs over 30 tons and cost more than a two-bedroom house in Pomona.  The store, at Indian Hill and the 10 Freeway, will also be one of the largest in the chain, with over 200 seats and at least a mild infusion of the googie style of the classic stores. Every time they hang a new letter, I get excited calls from friends driving through the Inland Empire. If you’re handy with a spatula, you can get a sneak peek starting Monday when they host a weeklong job fair for cooks, servers and baristas. Yes, this will be the first Norms with a full-time espresso station. Can you tell how excited I am already? Who knows what will happen if I add strong coffee to the mix?!