I have always enjoyed driving East on Pico at night and encountering the Horizon Furniture sign on the south side of the street, one block shy of La Cienega. Painted in a mossy green and beige, a single incandescent bulb flashes on and off, illuminating "Horizon" then "Furniture." It' is so old-school and Luddite-ish, I always linger on it. For a second it feels like Pico circa 1937. The other day I drove past and saw big signs taped to Horizon's windows advertising their going-out-of-business sale. I stopped in hoping to get a deal on an armchair. What I got was a small encounter with history.
Horizon furniture opened in 1924, as The Southern California Furniture Company at Pico and Vermont, then the epicenter of Los Angeles. The store's name was spelled out in black and white mosaic in the sidewalk where it remained until just a few years ago. Film stars like John Barrymore shopped there, browsing the Chippendale, Sheridan, Tudor, French, Italian and Spanish pieces that were must-have styles of the day.
In 1937 as the country was recovering from the Great Depression and giddy with the New Deal, Sam's son Alan had a hunch that the city was going to grow westward. At that time the west side of Los Angeles was all mustard grass and farm land, but already new duplexes, homes and apartments were cropping up. Alan moved the store to "the suburbs" at 8600 Pico Blvd. He filled the spacious, new showroom with art deco sofas, glass and Lucite tables, bleached oak and silver fox finishes - pieces that Lana Turner and Bette Davis might have lounged upon.
By the 1940's most of Beverlywood and the surrounding area was built. Alan's son Don Behrstock was five years old and he remembers the Big Town Market that stood where 20/20 Video is now on the North East corner of the intersection. Across the street Lester Young and Nat King Cole were headlining at the Capri Club (where the Bank of America sits today on the NW corner). The Behrstock's first house was across from Canfield Elementary (where I am currently a parent) and a bean field. His family moved a couple of years later to Stearns Drive (where I now live). They bought their house for $7,000 (we paid just a bit more for ours). "I've never lived more than three miles away from Pico and LaCienega," 71 year-old Don told me. "Pico is the center of the universe for me."
In 1957 Sputnik was in orbit and twenty-one year-old Don launched his career at the family store. They were doing solid business in Mediterranean and Italian Provincial styles, but Don, having inherited the Behrstock gift for anticipating furniture trends, saw something new on the Horizon: Danish Modern. The store did brisk business specializing in the sleek, modernist pieces for many years.
In the 1980's Don renamed the store Horizon commissioning a commemorative poster by LA's iconic rock poster designer John van Hamersveld. Horizon has done brisk business in Stickley, Greene & Greene-inspired designs over the past twenty years.
Don is the third and last generation of Behrstocks to operate the store. His two children are not following him in the family business and he's ready to close up shop. A spry and forceful presence, he claims he could go a few more years if his longtime business partner weren't ready to call it a day. "It's tough to justify keeping an independent furniture store open," Don says without a hint of sadness, but it makes me sad to see another family business close its doors. It's one less special place in the world. It's a prime location, so I'm sure some franchised operation will jump right in.
Horizon still has a lot of inventory, so they'll stay open until the last of it has been sold. Then, after 83 years of furnishing the homes of mid-west Los Angeles, Don will switch off the lights and the flashing sign and that will be that. Fade to black.