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Retro Dairy Mart from “Say Anything . . . “

Jul 10th, 2017 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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“That’s L.A. – they worship everything and they value nothing.”  So says Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) while lamenting the closure of a historic jazz club and its subsequent transition into a samba/tapas place in La La Land.  Though I did not like the movie (as mentioned previously), I have to agree with Seb on this one.  Los Angeles does often show a blatant disregard for its history, regularly razing notable buildings and sites with a nonchalant swoop of its proverbial hand.  One yesteryear locale that somehow not only escaped the fate of the wrecking ball, but also popped up in La La Land is the Retro Dairy Mart in Burbank.  The property’s onscreen stint in the 2016 musical has been well-documented online for quite a while now, but I was completely surprised when Greg Mariotti, from Cameron Crowe’s official website The Uncool, informed me of its appearance in Say Anything . . . while the two of us were working on our round-up of the 1989 flick’s Los Angeles locales.  Since the drive-through market has been featured in two such iconic productions, I figured it was worthy of its own blog post.

Retro Dairy Mart was originally established as an Alta Dena Dairy market in 1962.

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The Alta Dena Dairy company began building the mini grocery stores in 1951, providing patrons with basic sundries like eggs, milk, sugar, and butter all from a convenient drive-up window.  The cash-and-carry markets, as they were referred to, became quite popular and countless outposts were constructed across Los Angeles throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Though not nearly as prevalent today, there were still 82 of the shops dotting the Southern California landscape as of 2006.

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The Burbank site remained in operation until 2014.  When it hit the market, recent retiree Patricia Franco saw an opportunity to revitalize the space, while still embracing its retro roots.  And revitalize it she did!  Patricia completely revamped both the property’s interior and exterior.  Over a period of five months, she added a front patio, implemented a red, white and black color scheme, planted foliage, installed new countertops and black-and-white checkered flooring, and expanded the inventory.  She dubbed her new shop “Retro Dairy Mart.”  It really is an adorable little spot and I am not at all surprised that it turned up in La La Land.  The site looked quite a bit different 27 years prior to that, though, when Cameron Crowe pegged it as a location for Say Anything . . .

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Masking as a Seattle-area gas station/convenience store, Alta Dena Dairy pops up towards the end of the movie, in the scene in which Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) asks some male friends – including a young Jeremy Piven – for advice on girls.  After they share some not-so-choice pieces of wisdom with him, Lloyd can’t help but question, “If you guys know so much about women, how come you’re here at, like, a Gas N Sip on a Saturday night, completely alone, drinking beers, with no women anywhere?”  Their response?  “By choice, man!”

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In the segment, Lloyd is pacing along the market’s east side (in the area pictured below, which is now covered by an overhang), while his friends sit across from him in front of the chain link fence that separates the mart’s parking lot from that of what is now the Burning Bonzai restaurant located next door.

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Lloyd’s positioning in the scene is denoted with a pink “x” in the aerial view below, while that of his friends is denoted with blue circles.

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Though the market no longer resembles its Say Anything . . . self, its slanted front roofline remains unchanged.

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As do the pipes and electrical equipment visible behind Lloyd’s friends on the Burning Bonzai next door.

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I cannot express how cool it was to stand there, in the footsteps of Cameron Crowe, John Cusack, Jeremy Piven, and Gregory Sporleder (Hello, Coach Romano from Never Been Kissed!), 28 years after the fact, and see those pipes and wires in the exact same positioning that they were in when filming took place.

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Even the ledge Lloyd’s friends sat on appears untouched, aside from a paint job.

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Though Retro Dairy Mart only popped up briefly in La La Land in the scene in which Seb grabs a morning coffee, a much wider view of it was shown than in Say Anything . . . Other than the fact that the front patio area was expanded for the shoot, the site looks much the same in person as it did onscreen.

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Unfortunately, the brightly-colored Californian Oranges mural seen on the wall of the Burning Bonzai building was just set decoration that was painted over after filming wrapped.

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Van Beek, the jazz-club-turned-samba-tapas place that Seb laments throughout La La Land, sits directly across the street from the Retro Dairy Mart.  As Sebastian explains to Mia (Emma Stone) in the movie, “I get coffee five miles out of the way just so I can be near a jazz club.”  In reality, that building is the former Magnolia Theatre.

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The Magnolia appears twice in La La Land – first in the scene in which Seb grabs coffee and then in a later segment in which Mia helps Seb destroy one of the bar’s signs.

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Though there seem to be differing reports about its history online, from what I have gathered the Magnolia Theatre was designed by architect Clifford A. Balch in 1941.  The one-screen, 797-seat venue was shuttered in 1979 when the owners lost their lease and was subsequently transformed into a recording studio named Evergreen Studios, established in part by Barbra Streisand.  Though the property has since been sold and renamed numerous times, it continues to operate as a music studio.  Just a few of the stars who have recorded on the premises include Frank Sinatra, Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, Plácido Domingo, Mariah Carey, George Martin, and Stephen Sondheim.

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La La Land is hardly the first production to utilize the Magnolia Theatre.

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Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) helps Lona McLane (Kim Novak) with some car trouble in the parking lot of the Magnolia after catching a flick at the theatre in the 1954 noir Pushover.

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In the Season 3 episode of Columbo titled “Double Exposure,” which aired in 1973, Dr. Bart Keppel (Robert Culp) perfects his use of subliminal advertising at the Magnolia.  The theatre looks a bit different in Columbo than it did in Pushover due to a renovation that took place in 1963.

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Thanks to the Dear Old Hollywood website, I learned that the Magnolia Theatre is where Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) discovers that his wife is having an affair in the 1975 thriller Night Moves.

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The Season 1 episode of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl titled “Glitter Rock,” which aired in 1976, also took place at the Magnolia, which the narrator says is located in a “seedy, run-down section of the city.”

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: Retro Dairy Mart, aka the Gas N Sip from Say Anything . . ., is located at 4420 West Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank.  The Magnolia Theatre from La La Land is located across the street at 4403 West Magnolia Boulevard.

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6 comments

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  1. Patricia Franco says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for the blog on my Retro Dairy Mart. I hope it is ok to share on my social media pages. Also when I purchased the dairy, it did not have the cow. Customers have told me of the cow. I would love to have a cow!

  2. Terry Guy says:

    One notable feature of the place when it was an Alta Dena dairy in the 1980s was that it had a fiberglass cow on the roof. I don’t know when the cow departed (to perhaps jump over the moon?) and regrettably I don’t have a photo of it, but the reintroduction of such an element I’d see as a crowning achievement in making the place truly Retro.

  3. Her mom says:

    There is a similar market on Washington west of Allen in Pasadena.


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