By Nathan Solis
York Boulevard has undergone plenty of change in the last few years, with numerous businesses coming and going on the Highland Park street. The stretch of road that has been deemed L.A.’s coolest street (whatever that means) doesn’t show any signs of slowing down with the pace of new boutique, restaurants and gallery openings. But how much change has actually taken place?
We took a stroll down memory lane with the help of some Google Street View photos taken in August and October of 2011 and then compared them to some recent snapshots of the same locations. Traveling from east to west, here’s a sample of what has changed and what has not in a roughly a 2-1/2 year span:
An approximately mile-long section of York Boulevard underwent a massive road diet in 2006 that removed a traffic lane and added a bike lane from Avenue 54 to Eagle Rock Boulevard. But it wasn’t until October 2012 that bicycle lanes were extended east to Figueroa Street as traffic lanes were removed.
Not one but two restaurants opened on Aldama Street and York Boulevard. Modern Italian restaurant Maximiliano opened in October 2011 and Fusion Burger opened in the spring of 2012, with both restaurants replacing Mexican eateries.
Furniture store and boutique Shopclass now occupies the former fitness shop Anatomy, while down the street Namaste Highland Park opened its door in 2012 and offers yoga classes.
The “seedy” Hermosillo Club was reborn in early 2012 as the hip Hermosillo after Duncan Lancaster, co-owner of Silver Lake’s L&E Oyster Bar and Los Feliz’ Bar Covell, set his sights on Northeast L.A. Next door (and not pictured), the former Cafe Lobos morphed into the Highland Park Kitchen for a few months before it became Sonny’s Hideaway in the middle of 2013.
French restaurant Ba opened its doors in 2012 at the southeast corner while Elsa’s Bakery underwent a makeover and a change in management. We visited with the new owners in September of 2013 to discuss the new paint job and how pan dulce is still important to their clientele on a changing York Boulevard.
Across the street, Scoops ice cream shop offers a place for families to congregate while next door Donut Friend amazes just about anyone, especially out-of-town friends. The nearby New York Snow offers their interpretation of ice cream, thus solidifying the title of “Sugar Corner” for York and Avenue 51.
The Glass Studio is now sandwiched between new neighbors: 50/50 Art Gallery had its opening exhibit in July 2013 and Vapegoat opened its lounge and gallery doors in September.
There was a lot of speculation going on at the end of 2011 as to who was going to move into the former Verdugo Pet Shop after its longtime owner died earlier in the year. The building is still empty but has been leased to a Glendale restaurant owner. And let us not forget the new York Boulevard parklet with its colorful mosaic design that was dedicated in February 2013.
Thank You Comics, which shares ownership with Silver Lake’s Secret Headquarters, and Extraordinary Realty are neighbors in what used to be an odds and ends shop, with a Western Union service desk. Platform opened their multi-purpose art gallery/retail studio in 2011 in a former pot dispensary. Owner Sarah Brady says in the early days the smell of stank was everywhere. The Highland Cafe was formerly El Chapin Market & Bakery, though they still had outdoor seating in 2011. Pop–Hop Books & Prints moved in next door to Cafe De Leche, which has sat pretty on the corner since 2008.
York Boulevard – The fringes
The Church on York has changed the way people view that scary line across Avenue 50 and York. The performing arts space and community center has hosted bands, comedy nights, experimental noise galleries and some other bits that remind folks that old abandoned churches can be fun if used properly. Gimme Gimme Records, which moved to the west end of York from New York City early last year, now hosts the likes of Marc Maron and his television show. Way over on the other side of York Boulevard, Figueroa Produce closed in February 2013 and the space remains empty. Classic Burger is currently in stasis as the proposed site for a drive-thru Starbucks .
What places did we miss? What places do you think deserved recognition for sticking it out through the changing times?
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.