Food for Thought, Part I: Rossmoor Center

This is the first in a series of posts about all the places to eat around here over the years.

    The development of the Rossmoor Shopping center is an interesting story, but too long to deal with here, so look here instead.  

     The original, very ambitious plans for the Rossmoor Center were announced in late 1958.  Multiple circumstances forced these to be downsized. 
   In July 1960, a revised plan called for the center’s development, one distinct section at a time.  This plan was designed by the respected firm of Burke, Kober & Nicolais – whose two senior partners (Eugene Burke, and Charles Kober) had literally written the industry’s “bible” for shopping center design.

  Over the next four years, the southern half of the Rossmoor Shopping Center was built piecemeal. The first section (opened in mid 1961) involved Food Giant, Thrifty’s, Kress and a mall between them.  A second phase in 1962 involved the Rossmoor Inn and Rossmoor Bowl.  The third phase in 1963 was the Boston store and the completion of a connecting mall.  And the fourth phase — opened in 1964 — were the individual buildings along St. Cloud –  the Fox Theater and the Ken’s Meats/Draper & Damons Building  (1964).  The area north of Rossmoor Way was mainly developed after 1966.

   During all this Ross Cortese, energized by the success of his Leisure World projects and discouraged by the challenges in his Rossmoor development, was systematically unloading all lands he would no longer use for Rossmoor.   East of the boulevard, he transferred the SE corner lots at Orangewood and Los Alamitos to St. Hedwig Church (1960).  This was followed by the lots which became Rossmoor Highlands (1961) and Good Shepherd Church (1962).  He released his options on the undeveloped Bixby Ranch Company land (now the Target homes, the Old Ranch Shopping Center and Golf Course, and the Bixby Office Park area by Spaghettini’s

    By 1964 the expanding war in Vietnam began limiting money available for the housing industry.  Home loans stalled, home sales dropped, and lenders started calling in building loans.  Cortese, overextended with his Leisure World developments, began to sell off more properties.  One of the first was the shopping center area which became the Rossmoor Townhomes.  By May 1965 Cortese had sold off all interest in the remaining undeveloped Rossmoor Center land. This would eventually lead to the new owners allowing all the Center land to be annexed by Seal Beach and some pretty haphazard development. of the still undeveloped property – the area north of Rossmoor Way.  Most of this became multi-unit dwellings and the remaining business area was occupied beginning in 1967.  It appears this occupation went from south to North, led by the Parasol (1968) and an Orange Julius.          
     Anyway, we’re fortunate that at least some of the Rossmoor Center was built in a thought-out planned way.  Over the years a very large number of restaurants and other food-related vendors have opened their doors to customers. 

     With the help of people on the Facebook Rossmoor group, we have assembled a pretty thorough list of those places.  I tried to organize them by address.  I didn’t grow up here so I have no really old memories of this place, so if you have information to add — or photos — please feel free to comment.  It’s a work in progress — as we find more information and photos, we’ll add them — and hopefully, we’ll also make it somewhat accurate.  

Rossmoor Center (from north to south)

Northern Section (1966 and after)

Carriage Trade Liquor – 12101 Seal Beach Blvd.  (as early as March 1973 – 2003)  –  Why are they on our list?  Hey,  they had candy, and some microwave burritos if I remember correctly.  And the sign on the door once said a “liquor-deli.”  

Chick Fil-A (2011-present) 12101 Seal Beach Blvd — where the old Carriage Trade Liquors used to be.  

Blue Mountain Bagels – 12115 Seal Beach Blvd.  — as early as 1995 – closed 2003?) a big favorite for moms who had just dropped the kids off at school, or just completed their work-out at the Rossmoor Athletic Club.  The When the Shops began their renovations the owners closed this location, but still maintained their Garden Grove store off Valley View & Lampson.

Taco Bell – 12147 Seal Beach Blvd-  Apparently the owners of the Rossmoor center were quite happy going after national chain franchise restaurants.  Orange Julius, Carl’s Jr., etc.  Ads tell us Taco Bell was in business as early as Spring 1973, but Janey Miller says she used to go to Taco Bell and she graduated from Los Al in 1971.  Serena Howard says she worked at the Happy Hamburger then and they used to borrow supplies from Taco Bell — assumed maybe they shared the same owner.) 

Yucatan Grill – 12147 Seal Beach Blvd – opened in mid 1990s by Rossmoor residents Felix & Georgie Tulay, and Charles and Denise Robinson.  They used to own a Green Burrito but a fire put them out of business.  Undaunted, they leased the old Taco Bell location and turned it into the Yucatan Grill, adding a side patio to their front outdoor dining.  It was very popular after a sports game.  When the shopping center closed for remodeling, they moved down to their current location at 5th and PCH in Seal Beach.  

Gina’s Italiano – 12149 Seal Beach Blvd. (Aug 1974) –  No. 1 chef Sylvia Gianfriddo Skinner…”well-liked Italian cookery and dining room.  Gina’s pizza is such that people cheerily drive up from Newport just for the pleasure of munching into it.  Spaghetti and meatballs for $2.50.”  By 1977 the name had been changed to Gina’s Italian Restaurant, and their ads said “we specialize in Chicago style pizza and fantastic lemon chicken (secret recipe).  

Davio’s – 12149 Seal Beach Blvd.  –  (   as early as 1986 – 2003c)  one of the area’s favorite Italian restaurants, featuring northern  Italian cuisine.  Other locations in Tustin.   When shopping center closed, they moved to a Beach Blvd. location.  

Winchell’s – 12151 Seal Beach Blvd.  – open as early as 1972

Kentucky Roast Beef – 12159 Seal Beach Blvd,   (1971-73) This store was part of the Kentucky Fried Chicken operation, take-out roast beef sandwiches without much of a sit-down option.  The Rossmoor Center store was open as early as March 1971.  When they closed down, the lease was taken over by Carl’s Jr. in November 1973

Carl’s Jr. – 12159 Seal Beach Blvd. (opened Jan 1974 – 2003.  Opened in the place formerly leased to Kentucky Roast Beef.  The Carl’s Jr. lease announced in Nov 1973.  “The dining area was remodeled and enlarged to include a dining room.”  

Baja Bill’s (there in 1992,  or so we’re told. I can’t fin any references to it in local newspapers.  

This ad was from a Sept. 1969 issue of the Los Al HS Crusader.

Orange Julius – 12161 Los Alamitos Blvd. (1966c-1973)  – The Orange Julius company was saying as early as 1966 and again a year later that they had a franchise available located in the Rossmoor Shopping Center.  
   By 1969 they had apparently found someone.  An ad in the LAHS student paper notes the franchise as Conley’s Orange Julius.  

The Hungry hamburger stickers were apparently a bain to all local parents, but kids placed them everywhere

Hungry Hamburger – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd.  (opened by Spring 1973 – lasted to around 1977) – known for their circular red-orange stickers and their burgers with a lot of pepper.  Owned by two doctors, Norman Pokras and Sanford Davis who sold a third of a pound burger for 80 cents.   It’s possible this joint was struggling by 1975 as want ads ran “seeking to sell a free-standing hamburger building in the Rossmoor Center.” Longtime Los Al resident Serena Howard\ says she used to work there in Spring of 1973 when she was still in high school. 

Londontown Fish & Chips – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd.  It was there in at least 1983 and 1984.  Local Glenn Urata recalls working there during this time.   

Champs – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd – Started in 1987 by Mark and Moe Griffin.  …   – They had sold the property by 1998.  when shopping center closed for renovation, Champ’s owners bought Mustard’s on Katella Ave.  They have recently sold their interest in that location. 

Bowlolgy Acaii Bowls – 12161 Seal Beach Blvd.   Although it has the same address as Champs and the Hungry Hamburger, Bowl-ology is in the building set back from the street.  

California Pizza Kitchen – 12171 Seal Beach Blvd. – (2006) – General Manager Marcie Book earned great loyalty by supporting Los Al groups.   The restaurant was an instant success and seems to be busy just about any day that it is open.  

Peet’s Coffee – 12203 Seal Beach Blvd –  

Wine Styles – 12205 Seal Beach Blvd. – (2007-2009) started by a Los Al grad, Todd Stahl.  It opened just went the economy totally went south and like other new Shops at Rossmoor stores, (can you say Circuit City?), it was forced to close.

Pop Shoppe –   12233 Los Alamitos Blvd.   (1973c – 1979c)  Kathy Ampudia – “There was a store called Pop Shop next to the Rossmoor Athletic Club. Lots of soda pop flavors sold in glass bottles.”  Janet Fritz Foster confirms this and directed us to a history of the Pop Shoppe on Wikipedia.  “The Pop Shoppe is a soft drink retailer originating in 1969 in Ontario.  The Pop Shoppe avoided traditional retail channels, selling its pop through franchised outlets and its own stores in refillable bottles in 24-cartons.  Within three years, the company grew to over 500 stores just within Ontario, then in 1972 began expanding into the United States.  Eventually, Pop Shoppe was selling 30 different flavours of pop throughout Canada and 12 American states.   In the early 1980s, sales slowed, largely blamed on competition from private label grocery store soft drink brands. The original company ceased operations in 1983

J. Higby’s Yogurt Shoppe – 12233 Seal Beach Blvd.  This Rancho Cordova-based chain opened for business in 1984 and someone opened a franchise at the Rossmoor Center sometime after that.   It was doing local fundraisers in Feb 1988., but in march 1989 , “after seeing its stock price tumble for nearly two years, announced a corporate restructuring to pave the way for a possible buyout” and closed a lot of its under-performing stores.  Was this in the same building occupied by Winston Tires and some art store for kids? 

Pei Wei – 12235 Seal Beach Blvd. (2008? – closed March 2018) – Pei Wei was the small fast food operation of P.F. Chang’s.  The Rossmoor location did okay but never did great business, perhaps because the local Chinese take-out market had strong competition from Fortune Cookies and Red Wok.  market.  

Rossmoor Athletic Club – 12239 Seal Beach Blvd.  – 1985 – 2004 – They had a juice bar inside and some healthy snacks if I recall, for after a tough workout. 


The Parasol – 12241 Seal Beach Blvd – Opened in 1968.  It’s Googie architecture — large areas of glass,  cantilevered roofs and the bold artistic statement of the restaurant’s parasol shaped roof and hanging lamps shaped like parasols were a kitschy Mid-Century Modern match for the vinyl booths and counter stools.  One of their unique specials was a soup or chili with a half sandwich, called a bumbershoot (cost $5.35 in 1998), but also popular were the sheepherders pie, and the meatloaf. The restaurant became a cause celebre in 2003 when National General was going to raze it as part of their plan to modernize the Rossmoor center.  Roy Hall helped open the place as a chef in 1967, then bought it in 1982.   When the demolition was annunced in 2003, local resient patrons started a petition to save the Parasol.  National General agreed to do so, but then the previous owners couldn’t meet the rental increases. 

Mel’s Diner – 2007-October 2009 – When plans to reopen the Parasol fell through, the Shops made a well-publicized deal to bring the Mel’s Diner chain (of American Graffiti fame) to the Rossmoor center.  The grand opening was a big party of vintage cars and other 1950s related kitsch.  The novelty soon wore off and locals found the food so-so and over-priced, never a good combination, plus the economy went south big time during their first year.  Sales dropped by40% according to owner Steven Weiss.  Mel’s cruise on the Rossmoor strip barely made it past two years.  The probably lasted two years at the most.

Panera Bread – 12241 Seal Beach Blvd. (2010 – present) 

South of Rossmoor Way

Sprouts Farmers Market – 12301 Seal Beach Blvd -(Opened in September 2008[still going strong).   It always seems busy there.  

The Rossmoor Inn opened in September 1962 and stayed in business until 1980

Rossmoor Inn – 12311 Seal Beach Blvd.  – (May 1962-Sep. 1980) The Inn and bowling alley were announced in August 1961, but construction didn’t start until late that year.  The Inn was designed in an Olde English style (with a Tudor Revival influence) which was quite popular at the time (the Smokehouse, Dal Rae). The interior is large, with several dining areas and a cozy mid-century lounge. and alley opened around May with the Rossmoor Bowling alley and quickly became the go-to local place.    
“The Rossmoor Bowl was a haven for 70s Rossmoor children. Never-mind that it was filled with cigarette smoke, it had pinball machines and some of the world’s first video games. I played Pong there and then Asteroids while a line of kids behind me waited their turn, lining up quarters up to hold their spot.” (Don Lubach, Facebook post) 
The Inn’s banquet room hosted the monthly brunch and lunch meetings of the Rossmoor Women’s Club, the National Charity League, Navy Wives banquets, and the normal fashion shows, baby showers, rehearsal dinners, etc.  In the summer of 1963, KTLA broadcast bowling LIVE from the Rossmoor Bowl every Saturday at 4:30.  That last from June thru September.   A 1970 Christmas ad said “Host Norm Roberts and his staff will emphasize delicious roast turkey, sugar cured ham with brandy fruit sauce, New York steak, prime rib and lobster.  $3.95 to $6.50. Included will be mushroom soup or fresh green salad, potatoes or yams, garden peas, rolls, beverage and choice of plum pudding. mince pie or snowball delight.  Childrens dinners will be $1.75.” In addition to the traditional English menu, the Inn also had a strong lounge life — and for those who say Rossmoor closes at 10pm, the Inn’s lounge acts did three shows a night – at 9:30, 11 and 12:30.  Early favorites included “Beatrice Kay with Tepper & Friend.”  The 1977 schedule had numerous appearances by Tommy and Lussi, or the Wilder Brothers aka The Sounds of Sunshine, and many other lounge style acts.  A classified ad from Sept 1980 announces all the restaurant equipment up for public sale at auction. 

The subdued decor of the original Rossmoor Inn.

The Sly Fox – 12311 Seal Beach Blvd. – (opened around 1981-82 – c1985) – owned by Ken Skinner, the son of Fio Rito’s second owners, Pat and Phyllis Loughran.   Tom Germscheid, who had worked with Ken at a Sly Fox in Burlingame, came down to Southern California to bartend for him here.   The Sly Fox was only in business for a few years,, and Ken left to help out with the running of Fio Rito’s.  The Sly Fox became Chang’s.  

Chang’s  (c.1985-87) “The Sly Fox became Changs, where I also bartended which became Panda Panda. When at Changs I was the only caucasian working with Chinese waiters who didn’t know much about cocktails. I remember one coming up to the bar and ordering cherries jubilee. I had to tell him that’s a dessert from the kitchen, not a drink. Employee meals after closing were not what you would see on the menu. I’d just say, “Thanks, but I think I’ll just grab a burger on the way home”. The old man Chang had been the private chef for Admiral Nimitz.

Panda Panda – 12309 Seal Beach Blvd.  (1987c – 2003) took over from the Sly Fox in 1987 or 1988.  Offered mandarin and Szechuan cuisine.  Rossmoor Inn.   There were rumors that this was a money-laundering front for organized crime, but you know about these rumor things..

The opening weekend in late summer 1989

Super Saver Cinema – 12343 Seal Beach Blvd.  – (opened Aug. 25, 1989 – closed around 2002) Obviously a great place to get candy and popcorn.  Although this place was only at the center for about 13 years, it has provided many memories for locals.  The theater was built in the old furniture store at the rear of the Rossmoor center.  Touted by the owning Syufy Theater chain as “Southern California’s most luxurious theater with deluxe decor,” the LA Times writer noted that ” , it “looks and sounds more like a disco. Flashing lights and neon tubes programmed to pulse to pop music, throw colored beams across the 3,000 square foot lobby where they bounce off reflective walls.  Fog  periodically steams from the ceiling.” The building housed seven screens, with seating ranging from 175 seats to 325.  The largest screen was 31 feet wide by 14 high.  That’s a ration of just over 16:12.  Modern large screen high-def televisions are 16:9.  6,000 people attended during the theater’s first week.
     The theater opened to great acclaim but residents in the nearby condos frequently complained about the late night noise.  

Subway – 12353 Seal Beach Blvd. (2007- 

Yogurtland – 12357 Seal Beach Blvd.  (2007-

Chipotle – 12359 Seal Beach Blvd. (2007-

In and Out

Thrifty Drugs –  12419 Seal Beach Blvd. – (opened in September 1961 – )  This was the second store opened in the new center, across the “mall” walkway from the Food Giant.  Most locals remember the ice cream counter at the very front of the store, but one could also chose from a decent selection of candy.  The pharmacy was located in the back

S.H. Kress & Co. – 12421 Seal Beach Blvd.  (Opened in December 1961 – out of there by Feb 1975) this variety store was part of the first phase built for the new shopping center.  The Food Giant supermarket was on the south side of the “mall” and the Kress store anchored the North stores.  Kress was a traditional variety / five and dime store.  It had a counter for lunch and breakfast.  An ad for a Soroptimist Antiques & Art Show in Feb 1975 lists the location as “the former Kress building” in the Rossmoor Shopping center.  

Rossmoor Pastries – 12423 Seal Beach Blvd.  (1961-2001)  Phil LaCasto was a young kid in his 20’s visiting California and he somehow met Ross Cortese. (Family members say it was some kind of “Italian connection.”)   Cortese was showing him his new Rossmoor development and Lacasto mentioned that he’d love to set up a bakery in this area.  Cortese told he was getting ready to build a shopping center and took him back to his office and showed him the plans.  Was he interested?  Lacasto pointed to a corner spot and said that’s the spot he wanted, and Cortese put a reserved sign on it, so his salesman wouldn’t offer it to anyone else.  A year later, in 1961, he became the owner of the bakery in the new center that was in its earliest stages at the time.  Rossmoor Pastries became an immediate favorite, especially for kids who liked to watch the chefs decorate their creations in the front window.   
   The shop was very popular.  Unfortunately, by the mid 1980s, an outside investment put the family in a tough position which resulted in a bankruptcy.  
     In 1988, hearing that the bakery had closed and was for sale, Charlie Lederer and his longtime partner and companion purchased the business, thinking the location offered additional possibilities as a commercial bakery.  Lederer had long been involved in the restaurant business, as a store manager and later on the supply end, running companies that supplied burgers and other products to fast food restaurants.  In 2001, with the center landlords getting ready to renovate the shopping center, Lederer closed the Rossmoor location and moved to Signal Hill, but never missed a step.  He has since grown the company into a $7 million  business with 80 employees, and a fleet of natural gas vehicles.  

The Chocolate Tree — 12427 Los Alamitos/Seal Beach Blvd.  we’re not sure of the exact location, but probably in the mall near Rossmoor Pastrie.  It was open for business in 1967 and 1968, but not 1964. 

Rossmoor Pizza Palace –  We could find a listing for this place only in a 1964 display ad.  

Gennaro’s Pizza – 12433 Los Alamitos Blvd.    across from Holiday Hardware in the Rossmoor Center –  It was there in 1967 (see ad at bottom)  and still running ads in 1997).   

Food Giant / Smith’s Food King  / Lucky’s   / Albertson’s  (1961  –  12451 Seal Beach Blvd — Food Giant was the first store to open in the new Rossmoor Center.  In August 1971 the Smith’s company bought 26 former Food Giant/Food King markets in Socal and converted them to Smith’s Food King. 16 of those stores were called Food King (as opposed to Smith’s Food King–no confusion there!) and 10 were called Food Giant. In February, 1972, they acquired the remaining 23 Food Giant stores giving them 49 stores. In 1982 they picked up 6 former Market Basket locations. But by 1984 Smiths sold all of their California stores to Lucky, with only 17 in the LA/OC/IE area. As Lucky’s the Rossmoor store held a grand re-opening in March 1988.   A few years later Lucky’s sold out to Albertson’s which remained in the location until they closed down around March 2008. 

Marie Callender’s (April 1971-2000) / Callender’s Grill (2001 – 2015) – 12489 Seal Beach Blvd. – Opened by Don Proctor and Bob ___, wh were high school buddies of Don Callender and had worked with him on his first Marie Callender’s locations.  Callender and Proctor families lived in Rossmoor.   Don’s daughter Nancy ran the Callender’s Grill operation for many years before she retired and moved to Texas.  The footprint with its double size pie kitchen was problematic for many restaurants which desired this location.  Hof’s Hut is scheduled to move down the Boulevard and re-open up in this location in mid-2019.

Kentucky Fried Chicken 12491 Seal Beach Blvd.  (1967 – 

Baskin-Robbins (1967 –    )   

Ken’s Custom Meats & Frozen Food Lockers – (it was open for business as early as September 1967 – and was still in business in 1975 when the ad to the right ran in the Long Beach papers. 
   It was in the building just west of the new Fox Theaters, and these buildings were not built until around 1964.
   When this butcher shop closed, the site eventually became the Damon’s and Draper’s women’s clothing store.  
   The site is now a new office building operated by F&M Bank

13 thoughts on “Food for Thought, Part I: Rossmoor Center”

  1. I really enjoyed your retrospective on the neighborhood, even though I’m not from the area. I lived nearby, and we used to love to go to Super Saver Cinema. I saw the best movies there for $1.50!! Loved to go to the Parasol afterward. Very sad they are both gone now.

  2. Hi, The hungry Hamburger had to be open earlier than 1974. I worked there during Spring of 1973. I left there in May ‘73 for a Job in Long Beach with a contractor. I know it was 1973 because I was stil in High School. The owner said, “You better not quit on me when you graduate because this summer is going to be real busy.” So I honored that request and quit April 30, 1973 and began my new job May 1st. Part-time, then went full-time when I graduated 6/73 Los Al. I got the impression that the Taco Bell was owned or managed by the same people because we used to share supplies. Run over to Taco Bell & borrow a case of paper napkins. As far as the new job went I was still with the pipe Trades 30 years later. Retired early to care for my I’ll husband or I’d still be there.

  3. Boston Store was a good department store.Good labels and good sales. Went there all the time. Convenient and reliable. Then it became Staat’s and everything was too expensive, especially holiday decorations. However, if you waited for the after-Christmas sale it had some good bargains.
    Now the whole site has become a mini-mall with Staples, Ulta, and Petsmart.
    Been here since 1977 so I remember the oldie-but-goodies stores. I even remember the Wet Seal clothing store next to Ace Hardware and across from Rossmoor Bakery. Loved their clothes!

  4. Winchells donuts…
    I would be there in 10 mins on my skateboard or 5 on my bike and get a dozen donut holes and a milk for 99 cents. Great memories and such a great place to grow up.

  5. Taco Bell was opened earlier than 1973. I graduated from Los Al in 1971, and I remember going there while I was still in High School.

  6. Before Hungry Hamburger, Orange Julius was in that location. Gennaro’s Pizza was out of the Rossmoor Center by 1975, probably 1972. He moved to a small strip mall on Lamposon just east of College Park East. A hobby shop took it’s place.


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