Part II: A Brief History of the Unusual Building That Is Now Home to Bernal’s Best Ninja Equipment Shop

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

9 thoughts on “Part II: A Brief History of the Unusual Building That Is Now Home to Bernal’s Best Ninja Equipment Shop

  1. Is Brendan Lai Supply related to the former ninja supply store on Mission, next to the armory? Lived near there for many years and always wondered about that place.

    • Yes, one and the same. Before being near the armory, they were on Mission near 17th, if I recall. That location had an awesome sign on the building, which I remember fondly.

  2. Oh My God…Lachmann Brothers Furniture Store on Mission was the place that everybody went to go buy their Furniture in the City! My Mother & Grandmothers all shopped there in the 1950’s, and 1960’s until the store went out of business. That Sign brought back a lot of fond memories of that store, and of Mission Street…

    • Yes. That building, and 150 others along San Jose Avenue and Guerrero Street were removed to widen those streets as part of the freeway plans.

  3. This is so cool! My great grandfather was the Ed H Reed. The article refers to my grandfather (his son) as Ed D Reed, but as far as I know, his name was Ed J Reed, J for James. Before the original building was revamped, there was also a piece of sidewalk in front of the entry way that had “Reed Realty” inscribed in it.

  4. Reply to Shelley and Luke: Wow, this is so interesting. Your grandfather’s name was Edward Daniel Reed, his brother was James (not sure of the middle name) Reed, your great uncle.
    I remember going to that office with my mother, Shelagh when I was about 5 or 6 and always wanted to know more about the location. Thanks, Luke!! Love, Lissie

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