(Editor’s note: CTN ran the story about Kayndaves selling the Palisades restaurant. Co-owner David Licht wrote such a lovely piece about the first restaurant that this editor wanted to share it.)
BY DAVID LICHT
Special to Circling the News
We just learned that the Museum of Neon Art (Glendale) wants to hang our neon logo in their space because our head logo dates back decades.
When Kay and I bought Topanga, on October 16, 1991, our tiki head was a broken hunk of yellow neon on the side of the building.
I had only enough money for the down payment to buy the restaurant. I didn’t have the money to fix our signs. Within a month, I maxed out my credit cards. We were living hand to mouth, literally rolling up our change to barely meet payroll every week.
One of our customers – Bill Alsup (now deceased, I think) – offered to fix our two broken neon signs for a few nickels and a bunch of tacos.
He lived off the grid up in Topanga (in a trailer) and was unreachable. A month passed. I thought he disappeared with my nickels and tacos, which I could ill afford.
But six weeks later, he showed up in his old beat-up Ford truck, spent the better part of the day working on the lower sign, and at dusk summoned Kay and me outside. He made us stand facing the sign, went to the electrical panel and popped on the light.
The only thing he fixed was the yellow neon logo.
And we adopted it then and there as not only our logo, but our greater conscience that would watch over us and keep us committed to making our place a cozy, friendly, affordable spot offering good honest quality food every second of every day.
We certainly missed our mark many days. And tested our customers patience more often than we wanted to. But looking back, we did put our heart and soul into our places every day for the past 30 years.
I’m attaching our menu the day we took over in 1991. The front cover had a hand drawing of our place with the neon logo scribbled onto it – as it was on that neon sign. I’m also attaching our opening day menu in the Palisades. Each one had color markings that were put there by Kay and me – the night before we opened (we were up until 2 a.m. doing that).
On a side note, my dad grew up in Glendale (which is the site of the neon museum and where our neon may come to rest). His folks, who I was lucky to know and love, immigrated from Lviv in 1915.
I’m not sure Glendale was a great pick for Jewish immigrants as it was a bastion of antisemitism back then. My dad’s grandma Dora (who I’m named after) had a little restaurant in Boyle Heights back when it was predominantly filled with Jewish immigrants. Funny how my great grandma – who I never met and was named after – was a small-time restauranteur like me.