Earlier this week Bernalwood presented the history of Brendan Lai’s Supply Co., the kung fu equipment store on Mission Street near the Randall intersection. But just as intriguing as the business itself is the building that houses it — the structure clearly looks as if it used to be something else. But what was it? Supersleuth Vicky Walker of the Bernal History Project takes on Part II of the mystery:
Store manager Al Lai recently asked the Bernal History Project to help research the landmarked building on Mission Street that now houses Brendan Lai’s Supply. Several customers and neighbors had told him the building might have once been a movie theater, because of its distinctive overhang and window design. But was it?
BHP got to sleuthing. According to city records, the building was constructed in 1930. In 1932, it was the office of real estate agent Edward H. Reed, who lived with his wife, Mary, at 103 Holly Park Circle. Edward began his real estate business at 3835 Mission in 1925. By 1932, it had moved into 3579 Mission. Here’s a clip from the 1932 city directory:
Edward Reed Sr. passed away near the end of World War II. His son, Edward D. Reed (b. 1920), took over the family business in 1948. He lived in Millbrae and later San Carlos with his wife, Shelagh. The Reed family ran a real estate office at this address for more than two decades; here’s the 1953 directory
BHP found some more clues in the background of two photos from the collection of S.F. streetcar and movie theatre historian Jack Tillmany. Jack’s pictures show that Reed Realty’s frontage and vertical sign are visible in a 1938 photo, which also features the 23 streetcar barreling down Mission near Randall on its way to the Geneva car barn. (Click to enlarge.)
Next door is the Cortland Paint Co., while at 3593 Mission is Schifano Ladies Tailoring, a clothes-cleaning store and tailor’s run by Joseph and Mary Schifano of 91 Whitney Street. The apartment building below the Lachman’s sign is now the Shell gas station.
And then there’s this stunner: A 1944 color photo from a similar angle shows that the paint store is gone and Reed Realty’s sign has been revamped in black and white. Schifano’s, just out of shot, is no longer listed in city directories and seems to have been converted to a residence.
The 1954 city directory shows Reed Realty still going strong, with neighbors Jebbie’s Restaurant at 3583 Mission (sister restaurant to Jebbie’s Hot Dogs at 1131 Ocean) and a clutch of real estate businesses.
By 1956, the building had become a State Farm office, and it stayed that way until very recently, when Brendan Lai Supply moved in.
So, alas, there was never a movie theatre here, despite its elegant frontage. Instead, his building has had a prosaic and orderly life – until the ninjas came to town.
(Find out how you can learn to research your own Bernal building.)
HISTORIC PHOTOS: Courtesy of Jack Tillmany