Across Van Nuys this winter, they are demolishing some large buildings.

Prominent among the big, ugly ones now being hacked away and dumped into large containers, is the former Wickes Warehouse Furniture Store on Sepulveda Blvd. north of Oxnard.

The white, windowless, concrete structure, which housed perhaps the world’s ugliest collection of overstuffed and ungainly furniture, was “going out of business” for many years now. Down to only a few 15-foot leather sectionals, Wickes was doomed. Death came quickly. And the little old lady in Burbank cried for days in her beloved Barcalounger.

Located next to the Busway, on land where Metro once promised to develop housing near the bus, it is near many acres of unused Metro parking, within sight of Wendy’s, Costco, Fatburger and the Chevron oil storage yards. The enormous parcel could be the future sight of a walkable, green, agricultural and urban mass transit project.

But this is not Japan or Switzerland, Dubai or Chile, Italy or France, Canada or Australia, Malaysia or Singapore, India or China.

This is the United States of America. There is nothing we can accomplish if we keep talking and keep electing Congress. We talk big and build small.

To refute other’s grand visions and my own authorial imagination, this promising parcel will face insurmountable hurdles. Those obstacles will include tens of millions of dollars in legal, environmental and political challenges. Surely, it will one day emerge resplendent… an asphalt parking lot, perhaps to be rented by Costco for the convenience of its customers.

Chevrolet R.I.P.

On Van Nuys Boulevard at Burbank, near where they have just planted eternally green Astro-Turf, the old Chevrolet dealer building is a carcass of bent metal, piles of stucco, and spongy insulation hanging on steel rafters like just killed sharks on dockside hooks.

This is another prominent corner, where Van Nuys Boulevard becomes Van Nuys, and where the street is eight-lanes wide, full of cars and trucks who out-speed each other. No pedestrian enjoys walking here. The sad people on plastic benches, who wait so many hours a day for the bus, they are watched with pity by those sitting inside their car.

The Piano Store Reborn

And on the NE corner of Van Nuys Boulevard and Burbank, the former piano store, where no shopper shopped and no pianist played, has been emptied and is now under construction to become something that is only one story tall, on a street whose width is five times the height of any building on it.

Retail watchers are anticipating the opening of something small and forgettable!
The excitement of waiting for monotony has whetted the appetite of many a passerby.

What will open here? A yogurt store! A nail salon! Or maybe another uniform store! Nothing with any imagination or ambition would dare show up here or it might suffer the fate of the ¾ empty Smoke City Market down the street.

It is like 1939 again in Van Nuys. The Depression is ending and the ones with money are tearing down, speculating, building and buying at depressed prices, banking on a recovery that will once again make Van Nuys safe for bad cooking and fast cars.

21 thoughts on “Demolition Days.

    1. Before there was a piano store located on the N/E corner of Burbank & Van Nuys Boulevards, there existed the “Cracker Barrel Market”, which occupied that same old brick building, with it’s characteristic rounded front corner. The main entrance was located on the east side of that structure ( just off the parking lot) and sported a coin operated “rocking hobby horse” as you enetered the store. Once inside, the meat department was on the left, the main isle faced you (running the length of the store) and sported a row of old “National Cash Registers” which played their sychronous song throughout the store like the continuous drone of bees. The cashiers wore little rubber covers on their fingertips to keep them from getting too sore while manually depressing each mechanical key on their registers. The were two turnstiles that allowed shoppers to enter the grocery isles. The one closest to the main entrance had an ilse that curved around to the right where you passed infront of the dairy products, behind their vertical glass doors. The grocery isles predominantly ran perpendicular (North & South) to the battery of cash registers. I recall the scent as I entered the store, the activity and most of all I enjoyed looking at all the people standing infront of me when it was time to check out. I had to look up at everybody since I was between 3-1/2 and 8-1/2 years old, between August 1950 and July 1955. Accross the street on the N/W corner was the Bank of America where the shoe-shine boys ran their concession on the South sidewalk. How I loved the smell of boot polish and cigars. On the S/E corner was “Bill’s Ranch Market” and “Sid’s Variety Store” but I’ll save those memories for another day. Thanks for remembering…Bill Thompson


  1. Does any one know how to apply to the CVS that is suppose to Open . I searched on the internet and the store didn’t appear . Any help??


  2. I hope members of the neighborhood will track all of this. The WICKES store
    (LA Fitness proposed) is in Councilman Cardenas’ area. Running for Congress, he may well think “bigger is better”–and those who wish to say “better is better” –and suggest what they want to be “better” need to speak.

    People miss a lot–Van Nuys Neighborhood Council saw the CVS store one year ago–made some suggestions as to design. CVS will have a liquor license–if people had concerns, they had a “first look” to complain a year ago.

    Neighborhood councils lose themselves–and their audiences–through bickering–complaints–back-biting–but if you get involved, you can get a “first look” regarding these things.


      1. The developer was there–sketches–drawings–elevations–plot plans–
        the design as to how Van Nuys Bl and Burbank Bl would have a lane added—at developer’s expense–all available one year ago.


      2. Do you have any link we could see of the proposed and now approved construction of the CVS store at Burbank and VNB?


  3. Yes, Chipotle will be occupying the former piano store site @ Burbank & Van Nuys, while CVS Pharmacy will replace the former BofA/Chevy dealership across the street. Rumor also has it that the SW corner of that intersection will become a Chase Bank.
    Just a bit south and west of this intersection, technically in Sherman Oaks, is the aforementioned IMT, yet again, this time building a 49-unit apartment project across from the Post Office @ Magnolia & Kester.
    The former Wickes site will provide a new home for LA Fitness which will be relocatiing from its current office building location at Sepulveda & Oxnard, north of OSH.


      1. A reply regarding CVS store–Sorry, no downlink–VNNC can’t quite do that yet–those present at the PLUM and VNNC GENERAL MEETING got copies of the tenative building plan–saw the paid “zoning case rep”–got to ask questions. Those curious could contact Ira Handelsman who appeared as “community rep” for CVS. The design is a one-story typical of CVS–towards the back of the lot–with expectations of limited off-loading in the rear.


  4. Hey Andy, For those who have lived in the Valley a long time may remmeber the Rydel Chevy Plant on Van Nuys and Burbank used to be the Old Bank building for Bank of America.


    1. Art, I remember that too. And I think before the piano store(or was it there with it too?)there was Mexican Jones restaurant.


    2. And go even farther back–say the l960’s, the NE corner had a small cheesy market aptly named “The Cracker Barrel”–the NW corner just down Burbank had a Post Office where I visited in first grade, l960-something–the SE corner a funky Hughes market. And Sparky Anderson (the baseball manager) was selling used Chevys just beyond the NW corner–before becoming famous.


  5. Permits at Building & Safety indicate a Chipotle Mexican Grill at piano store site.
    Construction next to Wells Fargo at VN Blvd and Vanowen is a condo development . And in the works, an IMT residential “village” 340 unit development at former hospital just west of VN Blvd on Sherman Way.


  6. Why did that old piano store have to be so boring and sad? Such a shame. Once I went in there looking for sheet music about 8 years ago, and it was so dead and blah that I never went back. & what the heck are they building on VN blvd next to the Wells Fargo (just north of Vanowen, across from the giant Arby’s Hat)? Also let’s not overlook the massive dirt piles and the ghostly construction machinery sitting silently on the old Red Cross site on Sherman Way. For months it’s been like that….cricket, cricket. Actually I don’t really mind the delay, because I enjoy fantasizing that by some grace we might actually get some nice housing or some useful, decent businesses around here someday. Sigh.


    1. And the Editor’s comment about the slow economy is quite apt. VAN NUYS NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL had almost forgotten the new condos on Van Nuys Bl–across from Arby’s and north of Wells Fargo.

      Still–members of VNNC did mark our own concern that those units be “condos”–not “apartments”–because of Van Nuys’ need for more upscale housing and residents. We approved that project a year and a half ago–

      Hopefully, all are pleased also to see the old VA.LLEY FEDERAL building
      (now the PHOENIX building) finally get “tiurned around”.


    2. In defense of the piano store, I’ll say that my late mother had a wonderful time in there on one of her last trips out of the house at age 82. She really enjoyed having digital pianos explained to her. Meanwhile I found a book of Oscar Peterson exercises I didn’t know existed. But if it had been just me walking in there it might indeed have been blah.

      Thanks for the photos – I started noticing them on Flickr a while ago.


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