Wilshire Market Building Comes Back to Life

We’ve been watching with interest as the remodel work progresses at Wilshire Market (3707 NE Fremont). The term remodel might be a bit modest for the amount of work going on there, stripping the building back to its barest bones, but keeping some of its most interesting aspects.

9-13-14 South Face

Remodel might also imply that it’s going to continue being Wilshire Market, which we know not to be the case. Business owner Jeff Smalley is in the process of transforming the building into Fire and Stone, a wood-fired bakery and café. As a nearby neighbor, we’re looking forward to that part, as well as being able to see and appreciate some of the original components of the building.

We dropped in for a visit with Jeff this week and were amazed at what we saw, and at his vision for the new business.

First, about the building.

Built in 1923 as the Wilshire Grocery and Market Inc. by partners Solomon N. Barrigar and Albert P. Mumler, the business name has essentially stayed the same, but the building has had a few facelifts.

The front door, which we believe originally faced the corner, has moved around a bit. When deconstructing, Jeff and his carpenters found clues to other doorways: one in the middle of the south wall; the one that has been most recently used near the southeast corner; and a separate entrance in the northwest corner associated with a small pharmacy.

9-13-14 Corner

The once and future entrance at the corner of NE Alameda and Fremont. What was the original entrance to Wilshire Grocery and Market, will be the main entry to the new restaurant Fire and Stone, opening this fall.

The pharmacy has left another big clue: the window on the west side of the building, which you can see to the far left in the photo above. The former owners preserved the window and put it on display for passersby during work completed a few years back.

Padrow’s Dispensing Pharmacy shows up in newspaper advertisements and city directories from 1950-1960 as a business owned by Western Drug Company and in operation at its own address (3701 NE Fremont). How it related to Wilshire Market has so far been beyond anyone’s memory that we’ve spoken with (can any AH readers please shed light on that?), but by all accounts it had its own door–just to the right of the window–and its own identity separate from Wilshire Market.

A fascinating feature of this building buried for at least 50 years is a full set of transom-type windows running the length of the south and west walls above the main windows.

9-13-14 Inside looking south at windows

Looking at the south wall. Note the transom windows above the main windows: 36 panes in all.

They were covered up sometime in the 1940s or 1950s (educated guess) when other things were rearranged in the building (more on that in a moment). 36 of these transom windows tiled the entire south face of the building, prompting Jeff Smalley to observe that it must have been downright hot in the building during the summers. Maybe that’s why they were covered up long ago. Some of the transom windows on the west side had advertisements painted on them like this:

9-13-14 Ice Cream

 

Smalley has saved the hand-painted windows and will be displaying them inside the business. As for the transom windows, Smalley is liberating that space and opening it up again to light, though the original framing had to be replaced due to damage done during the rearranging a half-century or more ago.

Other rearranging done over the years included an addition to the north side of the building that added a residential apartment and storage area. In fact, the last proprietor of Wilshire Market lived on the premises. Smalley will utilize some of that space for storage and for employee break room space.

Do you have photos or favorite memories from Wilshire Market? Send them along and we’ll share them here.

Now, about the new business: Fire and Stone.

Jeff Smalley at the bar, Fire and Stone

 Jeff Smalley, owner, Fire and Stone.

First things first: Jeff Smalley has a history with bread. He spent seven years as a manager at Grand Central Bakery. He worked at Portland French Bakery, where he launched a new line of bread. And most recently, he was the bakery manager at New Seasons for the last seven years. Jeff knows his bread, and he knows good food. As a plus, he’s also learning a lot about old buildings.

Fire and Stone will feature a large wood-fired oven that is at the heart of the whole operation. A bakery and take-out area with its own entrance will reside at the southeast corner of the building. When you walk in the door—and from just about everywhere inside—you’ll be within sight of the big oven. Seating for 70 in the dining room and 10 seats at the bar should hold a good crowd, and during the summer, tables and chairs will be out on the sidewalk and large sliding windows along the south and west side will be open to the air. Jeff is adamant about being a good neighbor and about wanting the business to be a place where the neighborhood enjoys getting together for good food and conversation. He lives here too: the Smalley family has lived in the Cully neighborhood for 12 years, where Jeff and his wife have restored an older home.

A few other details Jeff pointed out during our recent visit: the tables, chairs and booths (under construction off-site right now) are all being made of seasoned, beautiful wood salvaged from a 100-year-old barn and fashioned in Prairie School and Mission style. The floors will be polished concrete, lending a slightly industrial feel. The exterior will be painted stucco. Inside, expect to see photos of Wilshire Market from the past, in-progress remodeling photos, and maybe even some history about the Beaumont and Alameda neighborhoods (ready when you are, Jeff).

Now for the $64 question: When will Fire and Stone open?

Jeff has been shooting for Labor Day all summer but with that come and gone, has readjusted his sights on the end of October. As an observer and participant in construction projects over the years (and as a lover of good bread), we hope he’s right but are thinking it’s looking more like Thanksgiving.

Whenever it’s ready, the business will add an attractive new venue for a get-together and good food, and serve as a place to remember and appreciate how the past has shaped today and the future.

4 responses

  1. My fuzzy memory tells me there was a fire In the building in the late 50s or early 60s. The memory of a photo of the burned building and a sign that said “Hot Cross Buns” is very vivid. Anyone else remember that?

  2. Doug,

    I loved reading this story about the Wilshire Market. Thank you so much!!

    Janet Bake

    Beaumont Wilshire Neighborhood Association Board Member

  3. Thanks so much for the pictures and historical sleuthing, as well as the update on the progress of Fire and Stone. I look forward to patronizing the new eatery and seeing the blending of old and new in its design.

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