19 May 2011

[pdx] Urban Archaeology at the Burlingame Fred Meyer (updated x 2)

2626.(Update, 23 May 11 1957) Just came down from the high induced by watching this posting being mentioned on local TV. KGW's "Live @ 7" program, broadcast weekdays from 7-7:30 PM, mentioned it as a part of the "Web Links" section, selected by producer Aaron Weiss and reported on by Steph Stricklen. Not only was Steph's reporting on the bit articulate and nifty, but she said my last name correctly! Seriously, you'd be surprised how many people have trouble with the name Klein.

Not only does this solidify my Live @ 7 fandom, it bears witness to the fact that, while all the Portland TV stations are fairly nifty, KGW's crew - and especially the Live @ 7 staff - are the most adept at connecting with viewers and fans on the Intartubez and the twitter-device. For your handy reference, the twitter-point for Steph Stricklen is @StephStricklen and for producer Aaron and the Live @ 7 production juggernaut is @TheSquare. This post is also linked from the Monday Links section at http://www.kgw.com/thesquare/inside/Mondays-links-122477424.html. And thank you, guys!

(Update, 20 May 11 0915) A friendly indvidual, fellow-traveller 'sputnik housewares' from the comments, pointed me at a nifty vintage picture of the FM Burlingame sign going in. Please see the bottom of this postng for the goods.

The Burlingame Fred Meyer store, located near where Terwilliger Blvd and Barbur Blvd meet I-5 in southwest Portland, is one of the oldest stores but has survived over the years where stores like the old Hollywood store (NE Sandy and 41st) and the Rose City (NE 72nd, where Sandy and Fremont cross) haven't perhaps because there aren't any other good Fred Meyers in convenient distance. Thanks to its small size, it's been presented as a "Fred Meyer Marketplace" (a term, I understand, for smaller Freddy's such as this one and the Stadium store), and boasts about the last vintage Fred Meyer sign that I can find.

During this season, Fred Meyer closed the store to put it through a balls-to-the-wall remodel. Everything was cleaned out, out to the walls of the old building. The Chase bank brand moved a couple hundred yards east, to the old Hollywood Video store on the west side of SW Barbur between Bertha Blvd and Terwilliger, but the rest won't be back until this Fall, according to the banners around the site. At this point, the building is extremely cleaned out:

Burlingame Fred Meyer 1

Naturally, having the outside off the way it is, the building has had its skin removed; we're looking at the bones. It's more interesting than I thought it would be. For instance, in the above photo, notice the slanting-out faces of the vertical supports. They have details on, some grooves in the masonry that add visual interest, and there are mansard-style caps on each of them.

The vintage sign bears mention at this point. I'll refer back to it presently:

vintage Fred Meyer sign

My understanding is that the style of sign used to be Fred Meyer empire style; I don't know how many old Freddy's it graced, but I do remember the old one, exactly similar in style, that used to perch over the corner of 39th (now César E Chávez) and SE Hawthorne Blvd at the Hawthorne store. It was smaller. After the Hawthorne store got LEEDed to the gills, a new sign - an inferior version, IMHO - was placed at the corner of SE CEC and Main. Here, you be the judge:

FMH sign

Meh, amirite (thanks, Google Street View, BTW).

Pulling this digression train back on the tracks, there were two most visually appealing palimpsets that I wanted to point out. At the eastern end of the building (Barbur is a N-S street but this is on an almost east-west kink in the road due to the low-spot in the hills that also hosts the famous Terwilliger Curves) is this:

Burlingame Fred Meyer 2

Fred Meyer stores have long had a tradition of having additional retail spaces for things like salons and cleaners and the like. This is particularly intriguing because of the obvious human touch; the HAIR FASHIONS manifestly created by sight and hand as the uneven kerning and awkwardly sized S attest.

Just on the left of this art is a light blue angle, before the outer skin of the building ends. I wonder what that must have led into. I hope someone else captured it.

The big prize was on the east end of the building, nearest to Bertha Blvd:

Burlingame Fred Meyer 3

In the state the building is in, this is as good as it got, but it's nice, no? Referring back to the vintage sign above, notice that the script style is all but identical (the descender on the g and the low-hanging bottom of the e being the giveaways) with the script on the sign styled to fit in with the backslanted sign edge. It's a small point to note, I suppose, like the Dude's rug, this ties the sign and the building together irrevocably.

As with the other bit of wall art above, I don't know if there was more to reveal. The building has got to be, oh, I don't know, at least 60 years old. I only got this; if there was more, I hope someone else noted it.

If you jumped down here because of the note at the head of this post: in the comments of the post, a commenter by the name of sputnik housewares posted a link to the following picture on Flickr, of the above sign going in at the first:

 Fred Meyer

You'll note the sign at the bottom …My-Te-Fine Foods Drugs. As any dyed-in-the-Doug-Fir Oregonian knows, My-Te-Fine was the FM house brand, before the chain went through a series of sales which eventually made it a subsidiary of Kroger (which is why you can find Big K, the Kroger house brand, in Fred Meyer stores latterly.

Thanks, sput! Nifty!

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Isaac Laquedem said...

I remember the Raleigh Hills Fred Meyer sign having the same typeface for "Fred Meyer" (which was the company standard) and also having "Raleigh Hills" in the same cursive type as the "Burlingame" in this store's sign.
When this store was built around 1960 (about the same time the freeway appeared), there was an Albertson's just to the east, at the corner of Terwilliger and Barbur. (It was later a Pay 'n Pak. An A-Boy store is in the building now.) Fred Meyer announced that he was building on this site, and Albertson's, seeing the writing on the wall, bought its property at Shattuck Road and Highway 10, built there, and closed the Terwilliger store.

sputnik housewares said...

I am an Admin for the Flickr site Modern Oregon and here is a photo of the Burlingame sign being installed! http://www.flickr.com/photos/securitysigns/3470422400/in/pool-modernoregon

Samuel John Klein said...

@Isaac: I remember the same sort of sign on the old Hollywood store as well. I didn't see too many others. For example: the old sign on the Oak Grove store was much more "Mod"-ish, perhaps beacuse (I'm guessing) it was built some time during the late 1950s/early 60s.

I wish more was recorded about the history of grocery stores in Oregon. I grew up in Silverton, so I heard about the Bazar markets, but never visited one. Latterly I learned that Portland had its own Piggly Wigglys, also an Alpha Beta or two. Must have been interesting times.

Joe Albertson was wise to move his store if Fred Meyer was bearing down on that location. What else can be said about that?

Samuel John Klein said...

@sputnik housewares: that's a brilliant photo - not only with the lower panel up (who remembers the My-Te-Fine brand, I wonder?) but actually in the act of being installed! Nifty! Thanks for sharing that!

Isaac Laquedem said...

I recall My-Te-Fine: my grandmother used almost nothing else in her kitchen. Once in the early 70s I was in the Stadium Fred Meyer, two spots in line behind Mr. Meyer, who had a basket full of My-Te-Fine products. In response to "Does he come in here often?" the checker said proudly, "Oh, yes, Mr. Meyer does all his shopping here!"

Samuel John Klein said...

Hee Hee! I couldn't imagine Fred Meyer shopping anywhere else.

I wonder if he got the employee discount …

Isaac Laquedem said...

I think he paid retail, but he owned 1/3 of the company's stock and most of its real estate, so he came out ahead even without it.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall that Burlingame also had an Eve's restaurant at one point, but dim childhood memory may be confusing it with the (then brand new) Tigard location.

Samuel John Klein said...

I'll bet your right about the Eve's though. I remember that the old Hollywood store had one, and it was pretty small, about the same size as the Burlingame store is, was my impression.

Samuel John Klein said...

Hi, Mario!

Thanks for sharing your memories of the Oak Grove Fred Meyer as well as that wonderful old ad in your Flickr photostream, which I think I'll break off into a post of its own.

I loved the old big-beautiful-celebratory ads and stuff that attended a Fred Meyer opening. And all the free stuff they gave away ...

Anonymous said...

In what years was the brand "my-te-fine" used by Fred Meyer. I recently restored a automotive license plate frame that I bought in the early 70's and I was wondering what years the logo was used. Across the top of the license plate frame it says "IN PORTLAND" and across the bottom it says "IT'S MY-TE-FINE"

Anonymous said...

In what years was the brand "my-te-fine" used by Fred Meyer. I recently restored a automotive license plate frame that I bought in the early 70's and I was wondering what years the logo was used. Across the top of the license plate frame it says "IN PORTLAND" and across the bottom it says "IT'S MY-TE-FINE"

Samuel John Klein said...


I'm not sure when the My-Te-Fine brand was discontinued. I remember it existed at least through the late 70's/early 80's, then, IIRC, replaced by "Presdient's Choice".