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Pig'n Whistle Still Eyeing Downtown Return

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, April 27, 2009, at 01:04PM
Pig'n Whistle in the Fine Arts Building Keystone Photo Service / USC Digital Archives [digarc.usc.edu]

A 1933 photo of the Fine Arts Building, showing Pig'n Whistle and Bank of America as the building's retail tenants.

At last week's DLANC Planning committee meeting, a familiar name again came up in discussion of a restaurant space in the Fine Arts Building on 7th street. Among those looking at the space is Hollywood eatery Pig'n Whistle, who was previously linked to the same space in 2007.

At the time, neither the Pig'n Whistle nor the Fine Arts Building had any idea that the once-chain had occupied the space decades before. In fact, Pig'n Whistle was quite the prolific Downtown brand, making its debut on Broadway in 1908.

John H. Gage opened the first Pig'n Whistle at 224 S. Broadway in 1908, next door to Los Angeles' City Hall. The store was a candy shop, and an ad from December of that year boasts that "Our candies are absolutely the finest you can buy -- unless it's from the Pig'n Whistle it is not the best." The menu offered a light luncheon, afternoon tea and "real" french pastries.

It appears Gage was a century early to the abbreviated conversation of text messaging, with an ad from January of 1909 telling customers to "'S-L-Y' -- See You Later at the Pig'n Whistle, where To Lunch is To Feast."

Gage expanded quickly. It's unclear where the shop's second store opened, but "The Pig'n Whistle the Third" debuted on December 8, 1914, at 712 S. Broadway. The L.A. Times praised the beauty of the fittings and decorations, and said that the store was filled late into the night on its opening day.

Pig'n Whistle candies also appeared in stores around Los Angeles, including Coulter Dry Goods at 7th and Olive.

In early 1926, the various operations of the company were combined into one corporation and 60,000 shares of stock were issued. At the time the company had no debt and $1.2 million in assets. It had ten stores, including two under construction.

On July 4, 1926, an article in the Times announced that the Pig'n Whistle had taken a fifteen year lease in the Fine Arts Building, then under construction. The same year, the firm acquired the Melody Lane confectionary shop and restaurant at 744 S. Hill. It would later expand that brand into a chain with multiple locations Downtown.

For the month of January 1927, sales across the chain totaled $216,893. By March of that year, it was up to thirteen stores.

In early 1928, an ad touted the firm's order of thirteen "Genuine Claude Neon Signs" for eight locations in Los Angeles and five to the north.

Gage passed away in 1938, and the chain began a slow descent. It posted losses in 1952 and 1953, and the fixtures from the location in the Fine Arts Building were auctioned off on September 25, 1952.

The company attempted to become a retail brand, spinning off Pig'n Whistle Candies in 1954 and the next year launching a line of Pig'n Whistle Self-Service Candy Shoppes in grocery stores. By 1957, the bakery at 1045 S. Wall and the candy business were up for auction.

As of 1968, though, there were still three Pig'n Whistle restaurants, all Downtown. The eventual end seems to have come with a whimper. The Times reported the company's sale to King Kastle corp of Illinois in 1968, but gives no record of the last stores' closing.

The present-day Pig'n Whistle re-opened in Hollywood in 2001.

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