Houses of Spirits

A sampling of Los Angeles midcentury, atomic, and retro liquor stores by new contributor Diane Vallere. Read more about her here.

You don’t have to wait until the cocktail hour to appreciate the influence that midcentury modern style had on liquor stores all over the country, but you may want to act quick. The atomic aspect of these houses of spirits can still be seen, but disrepair, changes in management, and retiring business owners are letting these precious gems disappear. Here’s a sampling from Los Angeles:
Not sure when this Liquor Mart opened, but the one in Whittier joined the chain in 1976. What’s not to love about the groovy font and color pallete of the Liquor Mart on Hillhurst? But wait, there’s more!
#1 LMDig the roofline to the right, which is more fifties than seventies. Yes, the one right above the Going out of Business lettering on the window (*sigh*). One can only hope the next business to take over this location appreciates the texture of the yellow brick (seen on the yellow brick to the left of the building) and the clay-colored roof.
#2 LM
And then there’s Terner’s Liquor on Sunset Boulevard. If you look closely, you can see the curved arrow that indicates the entrance, but sadly, the sign has lost its original style thanks to the Rockstar logo that’s been added to the sign. (To see the original, check this photo on LA Facades )
#3 TernersNothing says “adult beverage” like a thirty-two foot tall clown outlined in neon, right? Circus Liquor remains a whimsical beacon in the middle of Burbank. In business since the sixties, you know the owners won’t be messing with him anytime soon.
#4 CircusGil Turner’s opened in 1953. Though somewhat understated compared to some of the others on this list, they hold the (rumored) pop-culture distinction of being the liquor store where Marilyn Monroe bought her last bottle of booze. Let’s make manhattans!
#5 GTThe Vineland Wine Cellar, founded in 1977, would be just another wine store if not for the font-astic mélange of lettering on the barrel that’s dissected by an arrow. And even though neon is better viewed at night, it even pops against that California sky!
#6 VinelandP&J’s Liquor in Hollywood is the Gloria Swanson of liquor stores. Sure, Photoshop could make her look like her old, glamorous self, but there’s an honesty to her faded red sign and missing Q. (But if you see Mr. Demille, start airbrushing so she’s ready for her close-up!).
#7 P&JI almost missed this beauty in Silverlake and ended up snapping the pic from the car. The colors and the shape of the building scream scifi, and the Silversun sign proudly eclipses the other businesses in the strip mall.
#8 SilversunThe Liquor Locker on Sunset Blvd, opened in 1951, captures the cigar-smoking rat pack vibe of the 50s:
#9 LL
And then there’s the leader of the pack: the House of Spirits in Echo Park. Not only does the marquis rival the fonts of Vineland Wine Cellar…
#10 HOS 1
But the façade of the shop (which did benefit from a bit of Photoshopping, but only because I couldn’t get the whole thing in one pic) has it all! Champagne coupe, a perfect little house with high pitched roof and puffs of smoke coming out of the chimney that reach over to the yellow and black sign.
#11 HOS 2

The next time you stop off for a bottle of bubbly or booze, remember to raise your glass to the ladies of liquor. They’re a dying breed!

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