L.A. (South Bay) Dopers: What on earth is up with Alpine Village

My wife and I were in the area last Saturday, so we stopped at Alpine Village and had a late lunch in the restaurant. Good food, very reasonably priced, but I felt like I was in a time warp. The menu actually offered chablis wine, which I haven’t seen…well ever. I think even by the time I was old enough to order wine in a restaurant, chardonnay had supplanted chablis as the standard white wine.

Then we wandered around the shops in the village. Without exception, every shop was small room, overflowing with merchandise, overseen by a forlorn proprietor who seemed to look wistfully at the door, hoping someone would come in. There was a window display of wooden toys, and a little placard explaining that the miners in the Erzgebirge had turned to making toys for a living after the ore ran out…that is, in the Erzgebirge of the German Democratic Republic. It was an old yellowed bit of cardboard, which had clearly stood there since before 1991.

On the other side of the Alpine Village parking lot is a low swap meet where mostly junk changes hands; they share the lot.

Coming to my question then, does anybody know how Alpine Village is able to continue, when every year it looks more and more moribund?

As a former South Bay-ian…I dunno either. Although, I’ve got to say, there are a lot of moribund-looking places in the South Bay–Beverly Hills it ain’t. There were a few places in San Pedro that hadn’t looked like they’d been spruced up since the 70’s.

To be fair, there is an undeniable kitsch factor to the Alpine Village. At the college I worked for, we had at least one student trip there, if you can believe it. I can’t believe the kids were taking it very seriously.


THIS past Saturday, October 30, 2004? I was there too, with my wife, between about 2:30 and 5:00! We spent about 3 minutes in the horrid “swap meet”, then bought a cuckoo clock from the glassware shop and did what browsing we could. We had a late lunch at the cafe next to the market, which we did not enjoy much, although my goulash was half-decent.

I had never been to the place, and my wife hadn’t been in about 22 years. The whole scene was a little sad.

I don’t know if Oktoberfest is still a big deal there (that’s what we went for but the stench of retail death hanging over the place made us want to leave instead of waiting around another hour and a half for the beer garden to open). If others are not turned off though, and just want beer and oompah bands, that might be enough to keep them running. Keep in mind also that most retail establishments make the vast bulk of their money at the holiday season, and the wares at Alpine Village just drip with “quaint”.

Did you notice, also that the Toy Shop is for sale? The shop owners may not be renters, and the mortgages are probably long paid off, cutting down on overhead costs.

In between Christmases, I assume the places are kept somewhat afloat by all the older German immigrants who have been coming there for years to get the few items available there that no one else around here sells (their Americanized children shop at the malls). That’s why they have things like chablis wine. They are appealing to their existing client base, and hoping they don’t need to invest anything to attract new customers. I saw a number of window signs and stickers that had obviously been their since the Carter Administration. Why, many of the stores accept BOTH “MasterCharge” AND “BankAmeriCard”!

As their loyal patrons die off, so will Alpine Village. These things don’t happen overnight.

Alpine Village still runs the same TV ads for its Oktoberfest celebrations that they first aired back in the early 1970s. The videotape looks it has sent through a thresher.

I’m sure it will close one day in the not so distant future. It could be that no one has made the propietors a good offer for the property. There already is a big mall anchored by an IKEA on the other side of the freeway.

I lived in Torrance, in the nid-80’s . Even then, Alpine Village was a dump. The germans can now go to better restaurants, and nobody buys much from germany anyway-it is far too expensive. However, the food there was quite good-you could get a good german dinner a a very reasonable price.
I guess some day the wreckers will come…and Alpine Village will become a shopping mall! The land must be worth a small fortune.surprised the place has lasted this long.
For you LA Dopers…are there places that have escaped the So. Cal. real estate boom? Places like “Bell” CA? San pedro is a dump-why is it so depressed? It ought to be worth as much as Palos Verdes!

San Pedro is not a dump. The median home price there according to the latest figures (August 2004) is $455,500! Granted Palos Verdes prices are twice that, but San Pedro is far from a dump. The mayor of L.A. lives in San Pedro!

Perhaps you are thinking of Wilmington (aka “The Heart of the Harbor”) but even there the median home price is $352,000.

The only parts of Los Angeles County where there is still relatively cheap real estate is way out in the boonies in the Antelope Valley. Places like Llano or Pearblossom.

. Some cities have poker clubs to produce revenue.

EVERY shopkeeper was complaining that the switch to the Euro is making eveything more expensive to import. Their import costs are jumping 20% in the not too distant future, they told us.

Seems to me that German imports have always been expensive. In fact, it’s interesting to me how the relative cheapness or expensiveness of imports, according to country, hasn’t changed all that much since the days of individual currencies. German wines are for the rich. French wines considerably less so, in that you can find good “appellation” bottles still for under $15. Italian and French wines are even more reasonable. I wouldn’t think of even looking for a German “auslese” for less than $30.

I meant to say, Italian and Spanish wines are even more reasonable.

Wow, my commute takes me past the Alpine Village twice a day! (Stupid traffic lights on Torrance Ave always back up there.) Never went there, though, never a big fan of German food.

We haven’t tried the cafe near the market, but the indoor full-service restaurant in the main building was was pretty good. They brew beer onsite, too. Whatever happens to the rest of the property, I hope the restaurant can continue. But come to think of it, there seem to be fewer German restaurants than there used to be, at least in my vicinity.

My wife tells me that the market is quite viable. Their back wall is lined with quality awards for their deli department.

When did you eat lunch? When we were there, the restaurant didn’t even look like they were serving, although that could have been because of the incredibly low population density that day.

We probably crossed paths without even knowing it.

Back when we lived in So Cal, Mr. Pug and I used to pop into a German market there and stock up on weisswurst, veal loaf, German potato salad and lots o’ German bottled beer. Everything we bought at that deli was wonderful. Is the market still there?

I grew up in the area and haven’t thought of the Alpine Village for probably 20 years, nor been there for 30. Thanks for the nostalgia trip.

Next time I’m in LA, it’s a must-do, decrepit or no. I just hope I get out there in time to beat the wrecking crew.

I don’t think Alpine Village is going anywhere in the short term.

I haven’t read any stories about a replacement for the area.

Reading old articles about Alpine Village, the owners were going to get an award from the Los Angeles City Council for refusing to serve a group of Neo-Nazis who walked into their establishment back in 1987, but representatives of the Neo-Nazi group ended up starting a fight in the City Hall chambers with a Jewish group.

We were in the “Alpine Inn”, where they hold the dances in the evenings. It’s probably the largest building on the place; in the back you can see the stainless steel brewvats. It always looks empty during the day because it’s such a big room, with only a small part of it devoted to a long bar, and another given over to tables and a few booths.

In spite of the shops being mostly empty of customers, I noticed two stark exceptions. The dentist’s waiting room was full of people, and then, of course, the little grocery store was packed. We wanted to pick up some stuff but decided the store was too crowded. Mmmmmm…the cheese…the cold cuts…if only it wasn’t such a hassle to make my own sandwiches in the morning. Which is really a moot point, because I recently downsized my lunch to a bit of rabbit food and yogurt.

I was there a few weeks ago for Oktoberfest. Uh, pretty good attendance, but not SRO by any means.

I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, or something. The chicken dance seemed a little, well, too surreal. But it wasn’t because of Alpine Village.

It was the first time I’d been there in 25 years. Correct, it’s always been a little dumpy. No, I don’t know how it hangs on.

And to continue another semi-hijack, I don’t understand how real estate prices here can have risen so much, yet we have the same old neighborhoods we’ve always had. Or maybe we just don’t see the change from day to day? Or… I think I should start another thread with where this is going.

Wow. I’ve always been curious about Alpine Village, but could never muster up the enthusiasm to go and take a look. I even recall seeing Alpine Village from the freeway when my Dad would take us to Redondo Beach for a few hours on the boardwalk, back in the '70s. Always wondered what was in the darn thing.

Now I know. (And knowing is half the battle :wink: ).

And speaking of past-their-prime South Bay stuff, am I the only one who thinks the Del Amo Fashion Center should be torn down and replaced with an ass-kickin’ new outdoor mall? I mean, The Grove does an impressive job with the shoebox lot it has; imagine what could be done with the real estate of the DAFC…

Oh Lord, don’t get me started on the Del Amo. I used to live about six blocks from it…what a hell-hole. Starving dogs would have turned down scraps from the food court. The floors of the place were so old, they shouldn’t have bothered cleaning it any more. I could go on, but I won’t. Ugh.

Still there, still wonderful.

We got some fresh Black Forest Ham, some Jarlsburg, and the best Muenster I’ve ever tasted. I also got to sample some Mozartkugeln candy, which I’ve hardly seen since a trip to Austria about 20 years ago. We picked up some Mozart chocolate liqueur as well.

I don’t think the market will go anywhere anytime soon, but the rest of the village probably only has about 15-20 years to go, max.