by Debbie Cvijanovich
photo by Lucas Dorward
Ventura’s storied past paved the way for our idyllic present. Not much has changed—and we like it that way!
Let’s take a reminiscent walk down memory lane, shall we? Nostalgic Ventura (or San Buenaventura to the romantic) natives will remember it well.
Back in the day, a typical Ventura weekend looked like this: Friday night cruising Main Street. Days whiled away sunning beachside and catching epic waves at legendary “C Street” surf spot. A lazy Sunday afternoon spent grooving at Bombay’s. Finished with a glorious Ventura sunset. Ahhh…paradise!
Rewind 30 years ago to present…
Perched on the hillside overlooking all of Ventura, sits our iconic landmark, Two Trees. What’s new? One beloved tree is dying. On April 22, 2017, aka Earth Day, a third tree was planted. Once it takes root and thrives, the dead tree will be removed. Two Trees lives on! Community preservation at its finest. Read more on its history (from 13 to 5 to 2 Trees) here.
Our adored Ventura Pier was once the longest wooden pier in California. Storms shortened it by 300 feet making it the 8th. While it may not be the longest, it’s arguably the most loved.
Before swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy became world-famous, they shook the creaky wooden floors upstairs at Nicholby’s dance and pool hall.
Remember Lion I’s? Unforgettable is their unique style of ska/reggae/funk/jazz…and the lead singer’s wild mane.
A local favorite, Raging Arb & the Redheads, amassed a loyal following back in the day…they still do! Catch them rocking the sand at our Summer weekend music fest, Surf Rodeo.
Dance clubs gone bye-bye…In the same location: Avery’s, Club Soda then Metro. Also gone is our one & only boot-scootin’ country bar, Ban-dar.
–Fosters Freeze: Since 1946, best known for their Corn Burritos (bean filled taquitos), a local “cult cuisine”, covered in melted cheese and slathered with a spicy red sauce. Check out the “I Love Corn Burritos” Facebook fan page (577+ members and growing). Other CB havens: Corrales and Tony’s Burrito Hut.
–Golf-n-Stuff, Skating Plus, and Buena Lanes have entertained us for over 40 years. Venturans recall these as perfect date spots. Generations later, our kids do too.
–The Cross at Grant Park overcame controversy and continues to stand proudly over our great town.
-Historic Pierpont Inn still stands and is currently managed by Wyndham Hotel Group.
-The Calico Cat Bookshop (est. 1975) continues to sell used books at its perfect corner location.
Still pluggin’ and chuggin’: Ventura Majestic Theater, Salzers Mercantile, Ferraro’s, Johnny’s on the Avenue, Corrales (moved from the original location on the Avenue), Great Central Steak & Hoagie, Hong Kong Inn, Vagabond Restaurant, Sea Things, The Sportsman.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
–Top Hat: Our iconically downtown cute wooden “hut’ hamburger stand.
–Ventura Bowling Center: “vintage” bowling alley with world-class dive bar serving up stiff drinks and notable greasy fare. Now in its place is polished up Discovery with state-of-the-art bowling lanes, stage, and (nowhere near divey) bar.
-On top of my “miss list”: Rosarito Beach Cafe. Known for their hot-off-the-press whole wheat tortillas served with a perfecto spicy pico de gallo. Add the best margaritas in town. Like many other fans, I’m hopelessly waiting for Chef (turned former mayor), Sandy Smith, to reopen.
End of an era…after a successful 48 years serving Ventura, Arby’s will soon be closing. Recently announced was the closure of Avenue Hardware, a mainstay for 75 years.
Other missed notables: Wild Planet, Bank of A. Levy, Cartwright’s, Noren’s Market (Tri-tip, anyone?), Strimples Bagels (cheesy jalapeno, please!) and…always packed to the gills, Sushi Marina.
THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW
THEN: Kodani’s, the crazy popular teriyaki/tempura diner in the unique “boat” building. The hardworking husband-wife team served up entrees with scoops of sticky rice and a heap of shredded cabbage mixed with a dollop of mayo/soy sauce. No one could ever forget the wife (Mama-san) who was the only server. Mama-san was sharp (always remembering what you ordered and exactly how you liked it!), efficient and expertly handled the patrons (boy, she had us trained well). Orders were tallied using an abacus.
NOW: home to popular Spencer Makenzie’s, Ventura’s famous fish taco spot.
Seaward at Pierpont
Kitschy and colorful Mexican decor (matching the bubbly blonde owner, Joannafina herself!) and famous tamales.
The original intimate spot before moving to the pier. Remember the life-sized wooden Viking statue that was stolen?
A lively local hangout with a charismatic owner (George).
A Pierpont classic (which relocated up the street) still hanging in there, especially for karaoke.
What’s there now: lively eateries Social Tap, Spasso Cucina Italiana and Sushi House have completely revitalized the area along with a renovated Duke’s.
-Loop’s cafeteria: a classic diner with its regulars
-Korb’s Trading Post: an icon in its western-style building selling an assortment of Levi’s, military surplus, camping gear, flannel shirts, and boots.
THEN & NOW
Jue’s Market –> Santa Cruz Market
Shakey’s Pizza –> Pizza Man Dan’s
Charley’s by the Sea –> Aloha Steakhouse
Tony’s Steak & Seafood –> Prime
–Buenaventura Center was an open-air shopping complex with the likes of Judy’s (contemporary junior’s fashions), Kaisers (the original Jamba Juice), Scott’s Apparel, Kimo’s Polynesian Shop and F.W. Woolworth with its iconic dine-in counter. Now home to our (enclosed) Pacific View Mall.
–Patagonia held its massive parking lot sales in the 80’s.
Do these ring a bell? Dittos Saddleback or high-rise pants. Paired with Candies or Cherokee wedge sandals. Ocean Pacific (OP) corduroy or Dolphin nylon running shorts. Hang Ten was in. On our feet: Slip-on Vans and Deckers flip-flops.
Does anyone still own a Red Head logo tee or Patagonia synchilla-lined jacket?
-Peirano’s market: The oldest remaining commercial brick building in the City is currently under construction to bring it “back to its roots” with locally sourced deli, gourmet market, and coffee counter. Plans include revitalizing then utilizing both Mission Park & Figueroa Plaza for community gatherings.
-Tony’s Pizzeria: Serving up slices in the charming beach shack since 1959. Honoring its tradition yet getting a spruce-up included the newly installed vintage-ish neon sign!
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
-Cross-town rivals for years: Buena and Ventura High Schools. Bulldogs vs. Cougars! Our entire community thrives on rooting for their favorite team and likely, alma mater.
-Downtown is lined with antique, thrift and vintage shops. Well-known antique dealer Nicholby’s is dearly missed, but its legacy lives on in Ventura’s signature vintage style.
Ventura will be forever known for its endless summer weather, famed surf, rich agricultural fields, cultural diversity and laid back beachy charm.
OUR FUTURE… “looks bright, I gotta wear shades!”
As time marches on, Ventura is evolving for the better. Our past is beautifully preserved, yet moving forward with exciting new changes ahead.
Great things are happening on the horizon…open preserved spaces from passionate local conservancy groups. Our community will soon enjoy exploring our magnificent outdoors to its fullest.
Thank you, Ventura (San Buenaventura), for the fond memories…you will always be a classic!
P.S. What did I miss? Please share your favorite memories with #VisitVentura