By Emanuela Boisbouvier
Daily Press Intern
The City of Santa Monica has gone through many alterations since its founding in the late 1800s. Street names have changed, and buildings have been built. While numerous companies have disappeared through the years, some businesses have survived and have become landmarks and key parts of the city and its history.
Tegner-Miller Insurance Brokers
Tegner-Miller Insurance Brokers is one of the oldest continuously operating business in Santa Monica. It was created by Chas A. Tegner, a young Swedish immigrant, in 1902, when Santa Monica only had 2,000 inhabitants. It remained a family business for more than six decades, until Bill Aspinwall and Dave Nelson took over in the early eighties. They merged with Ken Miller in 1996 and have been called Tegner-Miller ever since.
The company has always believed in customer service, current owner, Dave Nelson, said. Tegner-Miller employees still make house calls and meet with their clients directly. They have remained traditional in that they prefer to establish human contact with their clients rather than handling affairs remotely over the phone.
“While much has changed since Mr. Tegner started our business in 1902, the ideals of honest, ethical behavior… have not,” Tegner-Miller said.
The business believes in civic engagement, often getting involved with local clubs like the YMCA or the Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re extremely involved in the community,” Nelson said. “Some of our clients have been with us since the sixties.”
The main challenge Tegner-Miller has faced has been getting their staff to Santa Monica due to traffic issues. While the business has kept an old-school approach to its business, employees are embracing some of the city’s changes. Nelson said he is excited about the new Expo Line extending to Santa Monica.
The Fairmont Miramar Hotel
The Fairmont Miramar Hotel was originally built in 1888 as Santa Monica founder John P. Jones’ 30-room mansion. The building has evolved throughout the twentieth century and it became the Miramar Hotel in 1920 when the property was sold to hotelier and real estate developer J. C. H. Ivins, according to a report by Ben Kutcher from Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal.
“Santa Monica has always been a popular tourist destination and the Miramar Hotel contributed to this dimension of the City’s identity,” the report said.
The hotel changed ownership relatively frequently, going from the hands of razor magnate King Gillette to the Japanese corporation Fujita. The Miramar continuously expanded, as extensions were added to the hotel as the years passed. The Moreton Bay Fig Tree planted by Jones’ second wife, Georgina Frances Sullivan, in the late 1800’s is a landmark that has remained and survived through the years.
Maritz, Wolfe & Company purchased the property in 1999 and made Fairmont Hotels the operator in 2000. The current proprietor is computer magnate Michael S. Dell, who has owned the Fairmont Miramar since 2006.
Pacific Dining Car
Another local landmark that has been in Santa Monica for nearly a century is the Pacific Dining Car restaurant, created in 1921 by Fred and Grace Cook. It is currently in its fourth generation of family ownership.
The restaurant was born in a railway train car parked on a lot in downtown Los Angeles, but the Santa Monica local was purchased and opened in 1990.
While the Cooks never intended to work in the restaurant industry, the little restaurant soon became one of the most popular dining spots in the area, the business said. Grace worked in the kitchen and was helped by her daughter Virginia, and later by her son-in-law, Wes Idol.
“(My mother) made the most incredible pies,” Virginia Idol said, according to the restaurant’s website. “What a pity it isn’t an inherited feature.”
Wes Idol II, Wes and Virginia Idol’s son, purchased the restaurant in 1975 and he remains the current owner to this day. This 24-hour quality restaurant marked the first time that Santa Monica residents had a real-alternative in late-night dining, the business said. While the Santa Monica locale opened much later than the one in downtown Los Angeles, the Dining Car’s hospitable features gladden the hearts of regulars and tourists alike, they said.
Fisher Hardware & Lumber
Santa Monica’s local lumber yard, Fisher Hardware & Lumber, was founded in 1923 by John Fisher and George Swartz. The business remained family owned until 1948 when Bob Sievers became partner. His son-in-law, Erik Jorgensborg, bought the store in 2005, and is the current owner. He has worked at Fisher Hardware for over 40 years, as he joined the company in 1975 and became president in1985.
“We’re at our third generation of customers and we create a personal relationship with them,” Jorgensborg said. “When people come in the shop, we know their name.”
The biggest challenge through the years has been competing with larger lumber yards that pop up, he said. Their quality and consistency of service is what has helped them survive, Jorgensborg added.
Fisher Hardware & Lumber gives back to the community a lot, as Jorgensborg is on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, and also belongs to several service groups like the Rotary Club.