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".  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


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  3. 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!

  4. 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:)

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  9. You absolutely nailed it. "It was seedy, but it was glorious." Thanks for the memories!

  10. 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.


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