Spires Closed – End of an Era

By: 
Kirt Ramirez
SPIRES RESTAURANT at Lakewood Boulevard and Willow Street closed on Sunday after serving customers for more than 40 years. Gene Simpson (center, white shirt) was a regular diner every morning at a round table where news of the day and politics were discussed. A Jack-in-the-Box and Starbucks – both drive throughs, are slated to fill the corner location.

The East Long Beach Spires has closed its doors.

Many sad and teary-eyed folks packed the iconic, circular restaurant at Lakewood Boulevard and Willow Street to enjoy a last meal and say goodbye on the diner’s final day, Sunday, Jan. 27.

Gene Simpson, owner of Gene Simpson Aircraft Sales, started going to Spires for breakfast 25 years ago. He would sit with friends and business people at the eatery’s only round table at 9:30 each morning. He sat in the same spot – where the table’s edge showed a slight damage measuring a few centimeters.

A friend once turned the table around so Simpson wouldn’t know where to sit. But it didn’t work and the table got turned back around with the marking “on point.”

Regulars at Simpson’s table over the years included business owners Don and Marlene Temple, philanthropist Mari Hooper, Vietnam Veteran and professional artist Tom Clark and others. Former mayor Beverly O’Neill would join conversations from the neighboring table.

“We met every single morning and shot the bull,” Simpson said.

As best friends with the late storage-unit mogul and philanthropist, Simpson shared many good times at the table with Temple.

“I’ve never seen Don laugh as much as he did right here,” Simpson recalled.

But Florence Dobbs “was queen of the whole place,” he added.

Dobbs, the widow of the owner of General Engine Power, also ate breakfast at Spires every morning and became a legend. She died in March 2016.

“She would have had a fit to know this place was closing up,” said daughter Dorothy Carrow, who dined with her husband, Bruce, brother Glenn and sister-in-law Margo at Dobbs’ table on the last day with a photo of her. “They called her queen.”

Carrow said her mother used to park where it said “F.D.” (Fire Department), thinking the space was reserved for her (Florence Dobbs) and the manager let her do it.

Dobbs’ favorite dish was the vegetable omelet at night. She would put everything on it; tabasco sauce and ketchup, the daughter said.

“She lived to be 92, so they did something right here,” Carrow said.

Regular customer Karen Foster declared, “I hate to see it go because everybody keeps me going.”

As friendly people chatted in the packed restaurant, Shannon Chesher gave a goodbye kiss to server Mayra Ortiz, who worked there 17 years.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” Chesher said. “And I came here with my kids and with my grandchild and now it’s closing.”

A photo of kids and cousins at Spires in 2004 was recreated the Friday night before closing, she said. The children are now in their 20s and late teens.

Chesher said she once saw Steven Tyler from Aerosmith walk to the restroom.

Customer Teresa Carter’s favorite was the teriyaki chicken.

“We’ve been coming here for years and years,” she said, adding she brought her daughter when she was little and now she’s 31.

The daughter, Trish, said her grandma would take her to Spires for hot fudge sundaes after school and kept the treats a secret from the mother for a long time.

“It was fun,” Trish said. “It was a good bonding thing for she and I.”

Julia Hasselwander has known Spires her whole life, as her parents would take her there. She and her husband started going there regularly on weekends in 2004.

The husband, Thomas Hasselwander, passed away in January 2010 when their son, Gabriel, was close to two years old.

The mother continued Spires visits with the son.

During dinner, if Gabriel was fussy, one of the waitresses would coddle him so the mom could try to eat in peace.

And Spires once sponsored Gabriel’s T-ball team, she said.

“It’s going to be hard with them gone,” Hasselwander said. “We’re definitely like family.”

Blanca Dominguez, who has been a Spires server for 20 years, expressed grief.

“Very sad,” she said. “And I feel bad because we have a lot of regular customers.”

Manager Daisy Ortiz said the Lakewood Boulevard branch opened in 1980 or ’81.

“Everybody cried all day,” she said at around 7:45 on the final night. “The customers started crying and we cried with them.”

She said many seniors frequented the establishment and gave and received love.

Ortiz said the place was busier than usual in the final three days leading to the closure. People dropped in to say goodbye.

She said the food ran out between 6:30 and 7 p.m. “We’re done.”

Councilman Daryl Supernaw, whose fourth district includes Spires, said in an emailed newsletter, “As we first told you in our June 8, 2018 newsletter, the Spires restaurant at Lakewood & Willow is being torn down to make way for three new businesses.”

He added, “A Starbucks and an unnamed fast casual restaurant will replace Spires in the “PAD-1” location on the site plan (left). A Jack in the Box is slated for the “PAD-2” location north of a remodeled tire shop.”

Later by phone, Supernaw explained, “This is a private development on private property and the city does not control the brand or the type of restaurant that goes in.”

With seven Spires locations in the greater Los Angeles area, the nearest one now is at 1935 E Del Amo Blvd. in Long Beach.

kirt@beachcomber.news

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Any way I could get a hard copy of this article so I can keep it? Thank you, Dorothy Carrow
5228 Sowma Way, Cypress 90630

Singlel copies of the Beachcomber are available at 5199 E. PCH #608, Long Beach 90804 (garage entrance blue box or in suite 608). Otherwise send a self-addressed 9x12 envelope with three first-class stamps affixed. Be sure to specify the issue date and add an extra stamp for each additional newspaper.

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