La Verne Magazine
"La Verne's Small-Town Businesses"
From the Editor
by Rob Strauss
The big fishpond with the goldfish swimming playfully... the relaxing
beanbags... the closet full of crackers that would provide an entire day's
snack for a hungry stomach. These are my most vivid recollections of the
visits I used to take with my sister to my grandmother's business when I
was young. "Esther's Typesetting" was my grandmother's career,
but to me it was a 7-year-old's playground.
Typesetting was the industry that heralded the computer graphics industry.
My grandmother put in long hours trying to make it a business of which she
would be proud. Using two Compugraphics machines -- one for body type, another
for headlines -- she would set type for fliers and posters, which would
eventually be sent to a printer for reproduction. With its home in the hot,
dusty city of Palm Desert, Calif., it provided a small-town touch where
the owner was not only a businesswoman to her many customers, but also a
This was what made me fall in love with La Verne on my first visit to
the University in 1994. The red and white stripes of the barbershop and
the neighborhood police and fire stations provided the small-town touch
and sense of Americana for which I had been searching. It gave me the feeling
as if I had walked into a past era where I could go down to the street corner
and visit a soda shop with its long slick counter and a jukebox playing
the day's hits.
This was not 1962, though. It was 1994, and the local soda shop had
been replaced by the corner pizza parlor. There was also a small doughnut
shop, a dry cleaners and a now defunct old book store that added to the
"everybody knows everybody" atmosphere.
The employees knew the customers by more than just their faces. The
workers knew people's names, and they knew them through the various conversations
they had. I would walk into many a shop as a complete stranger but not feel
that way coming out, as many of the employees would try to make conversation
with me. For me, it was reminiscent of seeing my grandmother with her clients.
The customers were not just numbers or another source of profit. They were
more special than that.
So what became of my grandmother's enterprise? As happens with many
small businesses, "Esther's Typesetting" is no more; my grandmother
is now retired. The business lost out to the computer revolution in 1989
and a print shop now stands in its place. She now only has one business
card remaining as a reminder of the company she used to own. Technology
has been the demise of many businesses as they strain to stay even with
the ever-changing scientific world. Some, like Z Graphics (Page 4) have
been able to change with the times and, as a result, stay competitive.
That business on 73744 Highway 111 in Palm Desert will always remain
a special memory to me. Every time I walk through the streets of downtown
La Verne, I think of the many times I sat on a beanbag with a Ritz cracker
box in hand, watching my grandmother do business the old fashioned way.
Back to Main Page