Santa Monica Mall - Pre 3rd Street 3rd street promenade

What’s changed—and what hasn’t—about Santa Monica’s outdoor mall by Alison Martino

This modernist outdoor space was once home to Sears and Woolworth’s ($11.98 for a pair of Wallaby’s!) plus dozens o mom-and-pop shops, which made it unique. The list of smaller businesses included Kress’, Lerners, Hartman’s, Bartons Candy Store,  Leeds", The Smuggler,  The Silver Cup Diner, Nana’s, Texas Records, the Music Box, Apollo Electronics, Out of The Past, Muskrat, The Midnight Bookstore, Bay Music (which sold musical instruments) and Ralph’s market, which later became “Europa,” where my mother purchased the most beautiful lace curtains.   

When I became older, it was all about the "3 2 1 Club".  Good times! (Still trying to hunt down a photo). 

                                "Chuck's Bike O Rama" and the Magic Shop from the film

Some of you also might remember seeing this record store in "Pretty In Pink".  John Cryer did his best impersonation of Otis Redding here on location at  "The Music Box" in 1984.

Photo Julie Wilson

Photo Julie Wilson

Some of the stores still occupied Art Deco structures from back in the day such as the "J.C. Penny" department store (right), now a "Banana Republic" store.

During the ’80s the mall fell on hard times and rapidly became a row of struggling shops and vacant storefronts, something the popularity of Westwood Village may have had something to do with. But since the mall’s massive make over late in that decade, it’s completely turned around. Today as many as 15,000 visitors squeeze every weekend into each block of the narrow strip that stretches from Broadway to Wilshire. Meanwhile, Westwood Village is in need of a comeback itself. (That would be a magical, since most of the original structures are still there.)

Why am I writing about Third Street Promenade now? Because the outdoor mall has such a dear place in my heart. My favorite childhood treat was an Orange Julius and a burger from Magoos. My mother took me to this J.C. Penny for my back-to-school shopping at Thom McAnn for shoes and Contempo Casuals for the latest trends. When I became older, I was all about the 3 2 1 Club. It’s the end of summer now, and that makes me miss those good old—very fashionable, if I don’t say so myself—days. 

Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library - 1979

Here's a photo going back to Santa Monica in 1949! During the 1940s and '50's cars could actually drive through. The Criterion Theater is still there today. Last time I checked it was an AMC...

And this one goes WAY back... This is Third Street at Oregon Avenue in 1880, now it is the current home of Third Street Promenade

Alison Martino is a writer, television producer, columnist for Los Angeles Magazine, personality, and pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. Martino also muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram


  1. Was there a restaurant there named Horace Heidt's Java Time?

    1. Yes! I loved that place! Remeber the "Surfing Relief Sculpture" in the back room?

  2. Very cool. I was always curious how the Promenade looked way back when...

  3. Yes, Java Time had a crazy Tiki kind of decor. I had a huge fight with my mom in Europa, and bought bootleg records at Apollo Electronics.

  4. My grandfather lived off of Carlyle, and I have fond memories of hopping the 8 (now the 4) Big Blue Bus to Third St. and just wandering up and down.

    Horace Heidt brings back memories of his trailer park (although it has a different monicker) over on Magnolia Blvd. in the Valley, with the fake police cruiser out front.

  5. Thank you so much Alison for your facebook page and all the amazing pictures and videos you've posted. I am utterly fascinated with the LA of the 1910's - early 1970s. So much history. I especially love the contrast of the sunset strip of the 40's and 50's to the incredible strip of the mid to late 60s where cool stylistic fashion and awesome rock/folk/psychedelic music ruled the day.
    The pictures of you at the Stahl house almost look like they are out of a fashion magazine circa 1968-1972. You definitely have the look and style... and judging by the pictures that you've posted of your parents.. they too had a very cool style about them!!

  6. My father's company, Arganbright Bros, built that fountain in the 60's. Seems like only yesterday!

  7. I worked at the Criterion in 1976-77, so much fun. The whole mall hadn't been redone and we loved it & I miss it. Liz

  8. Who remembers Knobby Knits(sp) ??

  9. I've not seen a new mall that has anywhere near the charm and variety of the malls of the 50s and 60s. What changed us? What made us tear down the old instead of helping it survive?

  10. I also loved going to Orange Julius and my mom took my brother and I to JcPenny's for back to school clothes. I still remember going to the Criterion to see the movie "Rollercoaster" when they had sense around? You felt like you were on the Rollercoaster! Fun times!

  11. I worked in a fabric store on the Promenade, somewhere around 1971. I seem to remember it was called Sol's. A great little fabric store.


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