By Katherine Hon | Past Matters
The view has brightened on the northwest corner of Ray Street and North Park Way. Salvage Salon has moved into the former chiropractic office at 3800 Ray St. and let in the light of the original historic building.
“This salon and everyone who dwells within these walls are what lights us up. We feel humbled to be a part of this neighborhood and we do not take it for granted,” Salvage Salon owners Mike and Jessica Anderson said on their website.
They also note they “love old chippy things,” which is obvious from their careful restoration of the building and installation of unique furnishings. Their warm community attitude and pride in their business continue the more than 90-year commitment to excellence by various companies in this location.
The corner building, with the original address of 3804 Ray St., was constructed by prolific North Park builder Charles M. Williams in 1926. It first housed a grocery store that was owned and operated by George Wittman. He was president of Ideal Grocers, Inc., a cooperative wholesale grocery firm organized in 1925. By 1927, the organization counted nearly 60 independent grocery stores as its members and touted the group’s buying power that enabled each store to offer important grocery items at very low prices.
Ideal Grocers, Inc. also emphasized community roots wherever its stores were located. A full-page advertisement in the Evening Tribune’s Sept. 2, 1927 issue announced:
“When you buy an article in an Ideal Grocery Store, you are assured of courteous attention and the personal interest of the man who OWNS the store. Your Ideal Grocer and his family are a part of your community, and they are vitally interested in seeing that you are absolutely satisfied with each and every purchase.”
Additionally, in 1931 — during the Great Depression — Ideal Grocers, Inc. helped support their community by donating food to the needy.
The Wittman family lived next door to their store at 3812 Ray St. When George Wittman died in 1947, his sons Huber and Harold Wittman continued to operate the store for a few years. Abramson’s Furniture and Carpet Company later moved into the space in 1950.
Abraham Abramson was a native of Hungary who came to the U.S. as a young child with his family in 1907. He moved to San Diego in 1945 and worked as a salesman at Charles Rowbens & Co. Furniture, Rugs and Appliances on El Cajon Boulevard before opening his own store in North Park.
In July 1950, Abramson’s Furniture and Carpet Company switched their focus to carpet only and held a massive clearance sale of furniture. Imagine buying a “High Grade 3-Piece Sectional in raspberry frieze” for only $169.50, as advertised in the San Diego Union’s July 23, 1950 issue.
The carpet store anchored the corner for 20 years. Abraham Abramson died in 1970, and the business was sold to Sid’s Carpet Barn of National City.
The new owner, Sidney Rubin, intended to operate the North Park carpet store on Ray Street but announced in the San Diego Union’s Aug. 15, 1971 issue that conditions had changed and “We Quit This Location.”
Another long-term business that occupied 3804 Ray St. was Parliament Builders, which moved to North Park in 1975. This home remodeling business set up “a home within a showroom,” according to an article in the San Diego Union’s May 6, 1975 issue.
A half-page advertisement accompanying the article illustrated real-life displays of patio, kitchen, recreation room, study, bedroom and bathroom created inside the building.
“We’ve used every bit of available space here to set up our facilities,” Parliament Builders President Norman Troyan wrote in the newspaper article, adding that this “leaves less to the imagination and to chance for the customer.”
The Parliament Builders’ advertisement with renderings from the street and as a bird’s-eye view provides useful historic information about changes to the original 1926 Mission Revival-style building. The drawings illustrate that transom windows above the awning had been covered up and stone veneer added to the exterior facade after Abramson’s Carpet left.
Fans of North Park’s authentic architecture welcome the restoration accomplished by Salvage Salon. With great care, the Andersons uncovered the original transom windows and replaced broken pieces of glass. They painted the false stonework on the facade to blend with the exterior walls, opened up the interior and removed the dropped ceiling. The overall effect is bright, light and more historically accurate.
—Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-294-8990.