Talking Walls & Good Mojo

If your walls could talk, what would they have to say? 

When we first stepped into our new building, all empty and ours, we knew it had a story to tell. It wasn’t until after the previous tenant had packed up and gone we could truly see all the spaces’ architectural elements and oddities. Painted walls, floors and beams seemed to be shielding its long history of tenants past. In readying this space we wanted to expose and restore this buildings’ story—which had curious tales. As we worked, people stopped in to share memories of the space and what they had been told of it: the ole Schwinn bike shop, the lovely ladies of Old World Charm, the caskets which lived in the now condemned upstairs (with or without bodies? Were friendly ghosts taking up residence alongside us??), and its move from downtown.

And then we started stripping paint, determined to expose the beams (they are our favorite part of this space!). Layers and layers came to the surface: red, cyan, yellow, brown, white…with each color our curiosity grew. After a trip to the SLO's History Center, we started to put together our dear buildings’ vintage. San Luis Obispo has a full history of its own, this place is worth a walk through! Here’s what we collected…

Before it was 1235 Monterey Street, its foundation was originally built downtown just after the turn of the century. After its move, it got into the postmortem industry, housing the Palmer Mortuary Sales Room (new caskets not old ones—no ghosts!) during the 1930’s. Then in the forties, SLO Cyclery replaced bikes with caskets. They shared the space with Lucille and Leslie Adams of Westside Auto Mechanics, on the corner of Monterey and Johnson at the time (the original MOJO residents). These two stuck around for quite awhile, into the fifties, new layer of paint, and a tenant switch. 

During this decade, our building housed offices for the County Farm Bureau, Occidental Life Insurance, and the Cal Farm Insurance Company. Starting to feel cramped with all these people, along with Leslie and Lucille, the Farm Bureau petitioned for more space. After being denied, they schemed amongst themselves, and noticing a few things in disrepair—markedly the stairway upstairs—they got the city to condemn the second floor as unlivable. Then the square footage of the entire space lowered, and forced the powers that be to transfer the Bureau to offices with more elbow room.

After this sneaky maneuver, the upstairs has remained locked and largely untouched (we got a peak and it is full of vintage fixtures-- not including caskets, dead bodies, or bikes). The first floor remained offices of agricultural bent until 1963 when a local general contractor, Dennis B Wheeler, Jr, took over. He began Ken’s repair shop, selling and fixing motorcycles and Schwinn bikes here and next door (currently the Antique Center). We saw remnants of his signage on the storefront as we hung our letters up! Until the millennium, it bounced back and forth between motors and petals, and even being filled with sand to display Sea-Doos (and we thought we had some creative display ideas!).

Here is where you may remember Tracy and Jenny of Old World Charm, who swept out the sand, painted the door with a wreath, and brought in the olds. Slotique took over for them the last couple years until we set up shop last month! 

So many have contributed to the good mojo we’re feeling at this spot. Come check out the leftover paint on the edge of the beams, and notice the original lathe plaster exposed around the rooms. If you’ve been a SLOcal for awhile and remember coming into Ruby Rose before it was Ruby Rose, we’d love to hear your stories of good times’ past!