Example No. 14287 of how an innocuous photo of a horribly designed shopping center the year it opened can be worth a recollection of a thousand werdz.
In the summer of 1982, shortly after the Beverly Center opened that year as shown above, Barry Tietler, my boss at the old Hunter’s Books on Rodeo Drive brought to fruition a pretty interesting retail idea at the time and ended up quitting Hunter’s to build and open a combination bookstore and cafe on the street level of this side of the Beverly Center as shown. The shop was greatly named Food For Thought.
It opened around July, but he had left at the end of the previous year. There was some controversy in Barry’s exit from Hunter’s because shortly thereafter it was discovered that boxes containing the store’s collection of rare books no longer did. Much presumption and scapegoating was made given the timing of Barry’s departure and the disappearance of the books; that he had made off with them either to furnish his shop and/or to sell to help finance it. None of this elevated above gossip or was ever proven. The couple times I visited Food For Thought I saw no evidence to support it and when I told Barry what the scuttlebutt was he vehemently denied doing so. Fact is those precious volumes were kept unsecured in Hunter’s dungeon (aka the basement stockroom where I worked ) and anyone could have taken them.
Full disclosure/backstory/digression: I liked Barry. He was a good and fair boss. Middle-aged, short, graying, giant mustache until he one day shaved it and it looked weird from then on out, smoked like a chimney, never hesitated to share his cigarettes. I ended up working for him at Hunter’s because in chemistry class at high school I’d overheard a classmate named Marc Sugarman telling a friend rather disinterestedly that he’d been set up with a job there and all he had to do was show up that afternoon and it was his. I’d been out of work for awhile after getting fired from Swensen’s Ice Cream Shoppe, and was desperate for something/anything to help my mom out with the bills. So I ditched school at lunch and showed up, instantly falling in love with the huge old-school place. Barry asked if I was Marc and I told him I was not. He asked me how I knew about the job and I told him the straight-up truth; that I’d overheard Sugarman talking about it at school and figured I’d beat him to it and that, besides, he didn’t seem all that crazy about working there anyway. Barry smiled said, “You’re hired.”
PS. Sugarman never showed up.
Barry was cool in that he’d tap me on the occasional weekend or after-hours to help him with chores around his Manhattan Beach house. Once he paid me $50 for a couple hours work moving stuff. Fifty dollars! It was during that gig that he told me all about his upcoming plans, finishing off with “And I’m calling it ‘Food For Thought.'” Excellent name.
Unfortunately the great name didn’t translate to great business, and it closed in November 1984. I had no idea why until its demise made minor news a few years later when Barry successfully sued the Beverly Center claiming fraud and false promises and a jury awarded somewhere in the neighborhood of $625,000. I thought, good for him.
I also thought that was the end of the story, but the wonders of the internet never cease. A search both for “Food For Thought” and “Barry Tietler” yielded some interesting information: 1) a complete freakin’ copy of the Beverly Center’s filed appeal to the original verdict against it, and 2) a complete freakin’ copy of Barry’s filed response to the Beverly Center’s appeal. Links to those online docs are below. I was later also able to find out in another document that Beverly Center’s appeal was granted and a retrial occurred in 1991, in which Barry prevailed, though at a reduced award of $425,000. Again, good for Barry.
The last fact found was sad but not unexpected: Barry died last year at the age of 75. A resident of Cave Creek, Arizona, I’m guessing it was his smoking that did him in as his obituary requested that contributions in his memory be made to Lung Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Rest in peace, Barry.