Pix of The Parasol - renovation-in-progress:
Article Launched: 9/11/2006 12:00 AM
A hamburger, Googie style
Former Seal Beach icon Parasol being replaced by L.A. icon Mel's Drive-in Diner, part of Rossmor Center renovations
By Don Jergler, Staff writer
Long Beach Press Telegram
SEAL BEACH - Residents here will have a serving of pop-culture with a side of "Googie" architecture to compliment their new "lifestyle center."
Mel's Drive-in Diner - a centerpiece in George Lucas' coming-of-age classic "American Graffiti," and a backdrop in the opening credits of HBO's series "Entourage" - will be the first new tenant to open in The Shops at Rossmoor.
The revitalization project will transform the former Rossmoor Center into an outdoor "lifestyle" shopping center where the communities of Seal Beach, Rossmoor and Los Alamitos meet.
The Shops is owned by Century National Properties Inc. The project area is on 8 acres and is located in the northern portion of the full 39-acre center at the westside of Seal Beach Boulevard where the street turns into Los Alamitos Boulevard.
The project will replace 118,500 square feet of commercial buildings with 125,784 square feet of new commercial, retail and restaurant facilities.
One of the only remnants of the old mall is The Parasol. Community outcry saved the pink-and-white, umbrella-shaped diner, which opened in 1967, from demolition.
And now it has given Mel's a home.
Saving The Parasol was a cause celebre among longtime residents who spoke longingly about the experiences shared eating at the restaurant, one of the few remaining in Southern California built "Googie" style.
Googie architecture thrived in the 1950s and 1960s and was marked by its use of bold angles, colorful signs, plate glass, cantilevered roofs and pop culture imagery, according to the devotee Web site, spaceagecity.com. Most often the architecture was used for coffee shops, diners and bowling alleys.
The building is being upgraded at a cost of about $1 million. Mel's is set to open in early April.
Developers had three criteria in searching for a tenant for The Parasol: A restaurant that could speak to the vintage of the building, a restaurant that served meals for around $10 and a restaurant that serves breakfast.
"Mel's met all three of our goals," said Shari Walker, project manager.
Following the fame the restaurant gained from "American Graffiti," Steven Weiss and partner Donald Wagstaff opened the first of a new generation of Mel's in 1985 on Lombard Street in San Francisco.
The restaurant, a remnant from the 1950s drive-in era, was followed by another location in San Francisco, then two more, one in Sherman Oaks and the other in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip - the former is the restaurant featured in "Entourage."
Mel's owners had been looking to locate in Orange County.
"When The Parasol restaurant became available ... we lucked out by being the ideal tenant to take over a Googie-style building," Weiss said.
Mel's is no stranger to odd buildings, he said.
Hollywood and Highland, and Sherman Oaks were both unique structures, and there's a Mel's in the old Max Factor building in West Hollywood.
Tenants remaining in the shopping center are Kohl's department store, and Rossmoor Cleaners. Other tenants have left over the years, many before the remodeling was announced. Gone is the old Super Saver Cinema 7, which last charged $2 for second-run shows, Blue Mountain Bagel, and Rossmoor Brunswick Bowl.
The Shops will have 18 retailers and restaurants, including "a wide variety of fashion, a spa, banks, food, books and electronics," Walker said. "This is going to be what we call in the shopping center industry the lifestyle component."
The developer will be delivering spaces to tenants in April, and stores are expected to be open in late summer 2007.
Construction on the parking lot work is under way right now, and that work is expected to be completed by November.
Negotiations are under way with several tenants, she said. Plans call to start announcing tenants in mid-September.
Among the planned stores will be a board sports store, which will likely include skate, surf and snow, a small-format electronics store and a bookstore, she said.
Another component will be a large Mediterranean spa.
"Our goal is to have a little bit for every age group," she said.
The cost of the project is around $30 million.
"What we're doing is creating an environment where you will go to four, five, six of them at once," she said.
Staff writer Felix Sanchez contributed to this report. Don Jergler can be reached at email@example.com
or (562) 499-1281.