The Hollywood Ranch Market

The intersection of Fountain Ave. and Vine Street in Hollywood once had a corner of madness. Its southeast quadrant was occupied by an institution called The Hollywood Ranch Market. A grimy sign atop the sprawling complex claimed: WE NEVER CLOSE.  The clock hands always ran backwards at high speed. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Ranch Market dispensed everything from rutabagas, roach powder, and bobby pins to booze,  hot dogs, tacos, and cassettes tapes. They even sold flocked Christmas trees and tender turkey legs for a buck. 
Photo courtesy of Nick Faitos  

It wasn’t unusual to see personalities like Frank Sinatra, Ava Garnder, or Red Skelton at the Hollywood Ranch Market’s snack bar. Kim Novak could be seen shopping there twice a week when she lived at the Studio Club in 1955, and Orson Welles in his beat-up hoarder car was a regular.

 It was a real eclectic mix of new and old Hollywood. One of the last photos of James Dean was taken across the street on that fateful afternoon in 1955. He had stopped in earlier for coffee and donuts before driving up to Northern California. 

You can see the Hollywood Ranch Market in the distance. 

At night, it was more than a dispensary for your hedonistic was the Oasis to insomniacs and other nocturnal creatures of Hollywood -- including, presumably, vampires and out of work actors in-between gigs.  There was a hotel across the way for struggling actors.  The Hollywood Ranch Market was one of the few places where a person could cash a check in the middle of night. It had metal turnstiles, pinball machines, but no doors. The swarm of fruit flies hovering over the produce section was epic. The customers looked like rejects from novels by Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald, or extras in "Adam-12” and is featured in James Ellroy’s novel, Widespread Panic”. 12". 

It was normal to see gals in their robes buying cigs from the machines, and teenagers scoring fake IDs. Some have even claimed that their funky 4AM snack bar saved their lives. Altogether, it was an odd scene, that island in the night.  It was seedy, but it was glorious. A collection of eccentrics like nowhere else. You can practically smell the smog and car fumes coming out of these images. 
The Villa Elaine Apartments in Los Angeles, home to Man Ray, Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles and many more. (Still there!)

The Hollywood Ranch Market was wildly popular with the 1960s youth culture since it was close to the Hullabaloo, The Whisky A Go Go, Gazzari's, the Sea Witch, Padora's Box and P.J.'s. Musicians could could usually score a joint from dealers roaming the aisles after midnight. KHJ Disc Jockey, Robert W. Morgan had a tough time saying what he wanted one morning in 1968 implying that the orange juice that he bought at the Ranch Market might have been spiked with LSD. It was comedy gold. 

After Steve Allen left NBC's The Tonight Show, he had a TV show on ABC which used the Vine Street Theater across the street from the Hollywood Ranch Market. On dark, drizzly nights, a shuttle of production assistants would fetch bags of bread, soda, salami and cheese to bring back to the set. As a result, Allen did a lot of sketches and man-on-the-street interviews at the Hollywood Ranch Market. Story goes Steve Allen also used to hide speakers in the produce department, and would start talking to people. I give him full credit for basically inventing the original CANDID CAMERA.  Must have been hilarious watching Ranch Market customers talking back to the tomatoes. 

Steve Allen and Comic Louis Nye as an Arab
 Steve Allen goes up the new flag pole at Hollywood Ranch Market.

A rare snapshot of the Steve Allen Playhouse on Vine next to the Hollywood Ranch Market Photo : Nick Faitos 

Peter Bogdanovich and his buddy, Orson Welles, stocking up on munchies at the Hollywood Ranch Market on Vine Street in 1971.

Gene Wilder on location at The Hollywood Ranch Market on Vine with TV producer Lewis Freedman in 1972. He was making "The Scarecrow" at the time.

screen grab from Minnie And Moskowitz (1971)

 I believe I also saw a flash of it in an old Cassavettes movie recently, and there's a quick shot of the clock in "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls". Sadly, the Ranch Market lost it's local monopoly of madness, and it burned down in the early 80s. Today it's a strip mall - the sad epitaph for most Los Angeles treasures that are no longer with us.  Sure, looking back it may have been labeled as sleazy, dirty, and seedy, but it was just right. It was reality TV before such a thing even existed. 

Photo: L.A. Times
Son of owner Larry Fredrick, his brother, Bill and 3rd partner, Nate Gilbert

Exterior night view. The market's neon sign with a clock reads, "We never close" and "Shop around the clock."Sadly, they did. 
 Source: LAPL

Photo: Robert Frank, Ranch Market, Hollywood, 1955,  printed 1977
 Back in the day the market had been called the Mandarin Market.

 Notice the same Oriental roof on the Hollywood Ranch Market 

The smell of over ripe bananas and rotting oranges still fill my 

Interior of the Hollywood Ranch Market in 1976. Photo Bruce Torrance

Former site of the Hollywood Ranch Market 

In 2015 I presented original Ralph Story episodes from the 1960s at the Billy Wilder Theatre courtesy of UCLA Archives. One of the episodes features the Hollywood Ranch Market. DJ, Rodney Bingenheimer was in attendance and actually spotted himself in the footage! Great moment!

Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to CityThink and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram


  1. Really cool page. My dad moved to LA from Stockton in '57 and I love learning about the places he would have seen and remembered. Sadly, he died in December of last year (2017) but I did get to hear many stories about the southern California that he knew. In fact, we had a great time discussing many of the locations in the game LA Noire a few years back. Thanks for putting this together, I would have loved to share it with him!

  2. Chris Lerude USC Class of 1989May 29, 2019 at 7:53 PM

    I found this because I googled Hollywood Ranch Market after reading about James Dean's last day. Very funny, love it, Comedy Gold indeed. I lived on the corner of Fountain and El Centro, a block east, in 98-99, used to walk over and look at Competition Motors and also used to go to El Pollo Loco and Winchels right there. Also near there was an orphanage where I think Marilyn Monroe was placed as a baby and at night I'd run and jog by it. You could feel all the Hollywood Ghosts and energy! Love your Stories as I too love old L.A. and BH and SM, HW..lived in L.A. for 18 years including 4 at SC:)

  3. It was the Northeast corner. Look at the street signs.

    1. Signs on light poles are alerts to up-coming streets.

  4. WONDERFUL overview of The Ranch Market. Astounding to see the photo of the original bldg./ collection of Chinese pagodas from 1929 - "The Mandarin Market," that only lasted about 5-6 years before being covered over & transformed into The Hollywood Ranch Market. Considering the craftsmanship standards of the 1920's, you know those pagodas would've looked authentic, just like on a movie set at one of the old studios - no plastic or cheap reproductions like today. Thank you for this article.

  5. I worked in that very market from 1975 to 1980. I started working there at 16 yrs old in the produce dept. went on to a total of 26 yrs in that industry. That was a wild place especially at night. Had met a dear friend who was living across the street at the Villa Elaine.

  6. Hi! I live across the street at Hollywood Fountain North (next to Paragon cleaners!) Great neighborhood. Lot's of history.

  7. I remember the Ranch Market well from my first visit to Hollywood plus watching two tapings of Steve Allen's show across the street. Steve loved to have someone bring one of the big slamis from the market to swing around and give away, and he's send his Men on the Street to cause havoc there and at the bar across the street. Fun days. Sad to see so many landmarks gone now.

  8. I remember it closing only one time, and that was when JFK was assassinated. Because there were no doors, they had to have staff outside of the store.

  9. My family came to California via Route 66 in 1959 and we lived several blocks east of the Ranch Mkt. In those days there were no big supermarkets so the Ranch Mkt. was ours. I have years of memories of going there, of getting our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner ingredients because you could find things at this mkt. that you couldn't find anywhere else, and since my mom was European, she found the ingredients to many of her traditional recipes there. As a child it was exciting going there with all the sights, sounds and smells of the food, it was always crowded. I remember that we bought many of our Christmas trees from their side lot. In those days ( mainly the 1960's ) the area was far from seedy. It was a safe neighborhood to walk in even at night, and the store was filled with well- dressed shoppers. I'm sure it changed later, I haven't been in that area since 1976, so I was surprised to hear it was gone. Well, that's L A for you, they never let a landmark or historical building stand for too long.

  10. Wow, this brings back some memories. I moved to LA when I was a teenager in 1979 and my first apartment was two blocks away from the HRM on Lexington Avenue. I used to do most of my grocery shopping there, and to kill time in the evenings I'd play video games on the machines that were right by the doorway. There were some, um, "interesting" characters hanging around there. At Christmas my mom came for a visit and wanted to buy a Christmas tree for my apartment and the HRM sold them so we went there to get one and two guys got into a pretty violent fight on the sidewalk right by the tree lot...welcome to LA, mom!

  11. Alan Funt was the inventor of the concept of Candid Camera. Steve Allen stole some of it from Funt. Funt had his TV show on in the 1950's and his radio show in the 1940's.........I'm a fan of both men, not crapping on Allen, Funt did it first and is famous for it

  12. As a student at USC, I had a night job at Bovard Auditorium. When late rehearsals were over, we used to go to the Hollywood Ranch Market for a late night snack, and it was always brightly lit up, humming, and safe. I'm sorry to see it gone. Another favorite of my friends was Otto Schirmer's Sausage Kitchen on Jefferson, a short walk from Founder's Hall. It was a gleaming white tiled place and was so ethnic looking, it could have been in Bavaria. Good food on a student's budget.

  13. Actually, the Hollywood Ranch Market appears to be ACROSS THE STREET from location you show as where the market once stood. Look at the Fountain Ave. street sign. Also James Dean's car is parked in that famous photo there because is buddy (shown in the photo with Dean) lived at the Villa Elaine

    1. I think you might be confused by the default photo because it appears to headed the opposite direction. The market was where I mentioned it was. The east side of the street.

    2. It was on the East side of the street. We lived in Hancock Park. When my Mother was cooking for the holidays and needed something to finish a recipe, she would send me, her 16 year old to this market at all times of the night. Never worried to go there late! A great memory!

  14. Thanks again Alison! From a great photo of my old VW fastback parked in front of Tower Records on Sunset to my former residence at the Villa Elaine across the street from the Hollywood Ranch Market. What fantastic memories!!!!

  15. Our LA culture that no longer exists - most fascinating. Really a nice treatment.

  16. Back in the fall of 1979 we were out in L.A. recording an album. We were booked in during the day, so we had our nights free. I remember one late night in West Hollywood we were just hanging out when someone asked another local guy next to us: "so where do all the hookers hang out?" The guy immediately answered "Hollywood Ranch Market!" Whether it was true or not I have no idea.

  17. I remember a very beautiful lady working the snack bar making fresh donuts everyday.

  18. I remember the Hollywood Market very fondly. I met several"dates" there and
    remember shopping there while being "stoned" and enjoying it immensely!

  19. Back in the mid-sixties, I was an aspiring actor living on Fountain Ave. at the El Centro apartment complex at the end of the street. I was recently discharged from the Marine Corps, and I hung around the Ranch Market mostly at night. I did meet many actors from the Golden age of Hollywood there. I loved those navel oranges! I also liked the tato tacs and fried chicken livers at the concession on the end near the parking lot entrance. I had a girlfriend that lived across the street in the Villa Elain apartment complex. I became good friends with the actor who ran the floral concession, under the tent setup at the parking lot entrance. One afternoon, I was enjoying a coffee and a bagel, when a Rols Royce got a flat tire and I offered to change it for the old lady. When I finished, she gave me fifty dollars and told me her name was Mrs. David Selznick! She gave me her phone number and said if I needed any help as an actor, to call her because her husband was a movie producer! A couple of years later, I got a job as a chauffeur for Mr. Jack Warner and his wife Ann. I lived on the sprawling estate in Beverly Hills. I'll never forget the night I drove up to the Ranch Market in the Rolls Royce I was allowed to use once in a while, and picked up Ann Divorack -who also lived at the El Centro when I lived there.- I took her for a reminiscing ride. along Hollywood Blvd. I often returned to the Ranch Market during those years I lived in Hollywood while pursuing an acting career. I loved that place!

  20. I have a vivid memory of the night that I called my agent, from the coin telephone on the corner of the market. I had read the sides for the audition of Braddoc, the lead in The Graduate, and I was calling my agent to tell her that I wasn't going to make it to Mike Nichols house for the interview the next morning. I was under the impression that it would "typecast" me for future acting roles! The next day, she dropped me as a client. Later that year, the part that I turned down, was given to Dustin Hoffman, who went on to be nominated for an oscar for the role! With all due respect to modesty; I was told that I was perfect for the role, by a Hollywood actress whom I eventually worked for as her chauffeur! She took me to the Premier at the Carthy Circle theatre, along with a reporter for the Hollywood Citizen. I "blew it" as the saying goes! The Hollywood Ranch Market was my nightly hangout for those five years while I pursued an acting career.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts