Highland Park preservationists rally to save a Googie-style supermarket

There are not many stand-out examples of mid-century modern buildings in the Highland Park area, which is better known for its wood-sided Craftsman bungalows and Arts- And-Crafts era  architecture.  That’s why the former Shoppers Market, now a Superior supermarket,  at Figueroa Street at Avenue 45  near the southern tip of Highland Park stands out. Built in 1960, the nearly 34,000-square foot building  was designed by architect Ronald Cleveland, who worked on more than 100 supermarkets, in what some refer to as the  Googie Style of architecture, which was popular among the builders of coffee shops and other commercial buildings of the era.

When Highland Park preservationists found out that Superior Grocers was planning to revamp the building’s mid-century style with a Neo-Craftsman design, they jumped into action. As a result,  Councilman Ed Reyes is calling for the building to be considered a city historic landmark to help preserve its Googie style. The City Council motion introduced by Reyes says:

The former Shoppers Market Building located at 133 W. Avenue 45  in Highland Park, is one of the few surviving intact examples of Googie Style architecture supermarkets left in Southern California, as virtually all of its contemporaries have been remodeled into other styles or demolished. Superior Markets, the current operator of this market is planning on remodeling it into a Neo-Craftsman design  in spite of the wishes of many in the community and the Highland Park Heritage Trust  that the historic facade be retained and restored.

This is not the first time Highland Park preservationists have organized an effort to save a mid-century supermarket. In 2009,  the swooping facade of a former Safeway market, now an El Super, was preserved under pressure from the Highland Park Heritage Trust and other groups.

“HPHT has been active about the preservation of Post-War and Modern resources and the now rare Googie-style architecture of this commercial resource deserves consideration as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument,” said Charles J. Fisher, board member HPHT and local historian.

The Reyes motion, if adopted by the City Council, would begin the process of nominating the Superior market building as a city Historic Cultural Monument, which would require that any changes to its historic features be reviewed and approved by the Cultural Heritage Commission.


  1. I get the idea of this, but if it’s done at the expense of the business, it seems rather unfair. I imagine a lot of people are turned off from going into this store specifically because it looks like it’s straight out of 1966. It’s not like they want to turn the front into a plain brick wall or something; they want to beautify it (probably to attract new customers). If they want top preserve this style of architecture, work with a willing participant and/or save the pieces of the facade that are so indicative of the style and put them on display in an architectural museum someplace.

    • Unfair? Obviously you’ve never been to a Superior Market and know the clientele…
      This will end up looking just like the Super A on York Blvd.
      Lots of Stucco and Styrofoam details.
      A fake “Spanish Style” facade is not the answer for this gem of design.

    • I don’t think people are gonna care what the building looks like as long as they get good serive when they shop there. Of course the city need to let them do what they want with their building.

  2. I’d much rather interact with a piece of architecture in my daily life than have to visit it in a museum. I love going to Superior because it looks cool (plus they have great produce). Save the googie!

  3. I’ll bet they’ll make more filming money long term if they keep it as is.

    Also the Craftsman Revival style is already dated. It peaked more than 10 years ago.

  4. I came to this supermarket *because* it looked like it was from 1966. I stayed because it’s incredibly affordable for great produce and bulk food.

  5. I love old architecture and craftsmanship, but I have avoided going to this market because it looks like a dump. It looks like one of those stores that sells cheap defect products to poor people. Regardless of the actual quality of the products it sells, the facade screams low quality garbage available inside! The owners of this establishment shouldn’t be punished simply because they were the last business to do a long overdue remodel. And if Googie was so appealing, it wouldn’t have had such a short shelf life.

  6. A fact I just learned ~ The word Googie comes from Googie’s, a Los Angeles coffee shop designed by architect John Lautner. So if this look was born in Los Angeles why not celebrate it? It wont’ cost the business anything to leave it as is. In fact, there’s no guarantee on a return on their investment by changing the look. If Palm Springs and other smart communities have successfully capitalized on preserving the mid-century look why would we be so foolish not to preserve it here in Highland Park? I respectfully disagree with laryes ~ there are many other facades (like the Walmart signage) that screams low quality garbage. And if it’s garbage inside, that’s a problem with the business itself.

  7. They should attract new customers with better quality groceries and shorter lines. The pan dulce is great, though.

  8. Preserve, plus pull those 19th century electrical polls and put them wires underground and re-landscape with natives

  9. I worked there in the 1980’s when it was Lucky Market. The facade is great as it is. Leave it alone.

  10. The design needs to be restored and freshened up. Giving it a ill-designed facelift will ruin it forever and will not be in keeping with the historic fabric of the Googie building or with the community’s preservation plan. The owner and operator should consider simple facade treatments that bring the market’s facade back closer to its original look and focus more on their business model and marketing.

  11. Superior promised to preserve the market when the leased the property a few years back. People were very nervous about having that company move in, but they did, and also seemed to maintain the building. Now, Superior wants to go back on their promises they made to the community and destroy the building they pledged to care for. They cannot be allowed to build a faux craftsman nightmare like the Food for Less up the street. This building has style and should be protected.

    • Investment in improving the community is worthwhile and will be welcomed by the locals including myself and my family. Protecting a shabby building is of no use.

  12. The Googie style is out dated, this is a bad example of Googie Architecture, Superior should update this out dated exterior. This building is not historical it was built in 1966 and does not fall into the HPOZ. The new exterior design should follow he craftsman style and arroyo seco river rock into its design. Let’s not let the City cou ncil make a decision for the few folks that don’t like the hispanic market.

  13. This is a poor example of a googie style building and that’s probably why this level of that woderfull style has all but disappeared. The operator and land owner is attempting to invest in the community and they should not be punished for perpetuity.

  14. Superior market group can do business as usual by preserving the facade of the Googie style market. This is the Route 66 architecture that needs to be preserved along Highland Park on Figueroa Street. You don’t put a Craftsman style facade on a building that already has a significant and endangered style. The iconic market can be further restored by correcting the rooftop signage to the original type of the Lucky’s signage. Keeping and preserving the iconic rooftop signage is imperative to the architecture. Highland Park – Garvanza HPOZ is known to be the largest HPOZ in the city of Los Angeles. Redressing this market as a craftsman is incorrect and uninformed on the history of the building and the Route 66 culture. Highland Park goes down as a leader in preserving all periods of architectures and that effort can and does put us on the map.

  15. The fact of the matter is, this building was not considered a contributing historical structure when the HPOZ was created in 1997. It was not incorporated then and shall not be subject to requirements set forth by the HHPNC. So, why then now when an owner wants to improve the building and make it more inviting while representing the architectural heritage of the area, it’s all of a sudden an issue. It does not seem fair to me. I’ve seen the architectural elevations and the renovations would make this building more aesthetically pleasing than most buildings in the area. . As a local, this improvement would be good for the area.

    • The only reason that this building is not a contributor to the HPOZ is because it was built in 1960, which is 19 years after the period of significance for the HPOZ ends. However, it is considered a contributing feature for the National Register designation of the Route 66 Corridor, which was established in 2011. The building is of a style that is indicative of the “Space Age” aspirations of the Mid 20th Century. This building was recognized as a significant structure over 20 years ago. It is not a new issue. A true improvement would be to clean it up and operate it as a supermarket rather than a swap meet.

      • Anonymous and Charlie, as a local who lives near this terrible, run-down, shabby-looking building, I also welcome any improvement. The people who are fighting to keep it’s looks must be remembering it from the 1960’s, not how it looks today. Please renovate!

  16. Superior Shopper

    Seems to me this is all a unecessary waste of time and money inccured by the owner as a result of a few individuals whom believe they are elites in the neighborhood. Unless you own the property BUTT OUT!
    Let the owners make their improvements as they wish!!!

    Superior Shopper

  17. I stopped shopping at Superior because they treat their customers like thieves and force us to leave our bags with their security guards (with signs that proclaim they are not liable for theft!) and check our receipts as we walk ten feet from where we just bought food to the door. Also their bike parking is a joke.

  18. I shop at Superior and have always wondered why they do such a horrible job of caring for the parking lot. The irrigation is not repaired and the trees they planted have not been properly cared for. Even worse, they erected that horrible rainbow shade over have of the required disabled parking spaces. They would demonstrate more commitment to the community if they would clean up the parking lot, lose the rainbow shade, and stop selling stuff outside which I bet is also prohibited under their permit.

    I like Superior for a lot of reasons, but the management seems pretty distant from the community. This is not helping.

  19. Are you kidding me? This is crazy. That Superior market looks like crap. When did looking like it was from the 60’s make it any good, especially for a supermarket. It dang needs a face lift. As long as the new plans look good, I am for it.

  20. I live right up the street from this market and frankly, it looks like a garbage dump. I would really, really welcome a remodel and sprucing up. Any jerk that likes this Googie architecture needs to come LIVE NEAR THIS MONSTROSITY and stop forcing their dated, useless opinions on others!

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