What’s next for Twohey’s, an Alhambra institution

Photo by Phoenix Tso.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Twohey’s has been an Alhambra institution for 75 years. Known for its stinko burger and its sundaes, the diner sadly announced that it’s closing its doors. We spoke to Jim Christos, who’s owned Twohey’s since 1997, about what’s next for the Twohey’s brand.

What happened with the lease?

We have been negotiating with the landlord for four years to extend the lease. Unfortunately, [during] the last of the negotiations, he wanted us to pay probably 3 or 4 times our rent, so you know, tripling it or quadrupling it is too much for us.

What is the legacy of the restaurant?

We’ve been a landmark for many years, probably I think the 45th oldest restaurant in southern California. We’ve brought a lot of people together. We’ve withstood how many wars? How many changes in America? [Laughs] So it’s proven the test of time in a lot of ways that brings back people of different generations. We’ve heard from so many people that they’ve met their wives and husbands there, and they brought their first-borns there. They remember the first time they’ve had a sundae, all we’ve been in their lives for a very long time.

We’ve had a loyal following, great, great customers, great guests and support. We’ve tried to keeping it in Alhambra for as long as possible, but we’re gonna have to close the doors very soon. I’m trying to work on an extension. Right now it’s Feb. 1, but we’re still in negotiations. I don’t know what it’s gonna be [next], but we’re trying to extend the lease to month-to-month.

Do you think you’d move to another building in Alhambra?

I’ve talked to a number of people in Alhambra for 2-3 years about finding different properties, We’ve had conversations with different people, landlords about buying an existing restaurant and then developing it, but nothing really seems to fit the profile in Alhambra.

The past couple of city managers — you know, we’ve met — they know our plight, but it’s within the landlord’s rights to maximize his profit for himself and his family, so no resolution.

What do you mean by profile?

It’s a pretty large entity. You know, we have a food truck, we have our catering company called Three Sisters Catering. We’re not just a restaurant, but we’re kind of a little bit of everything, so it’s 6,000 square feet, we can probably go a little smaller, but you don’t find those places like that. They don’t build them like that. Now it’s usually a lot smaller restaurants; it seems to fit the profile for a more successful restaurant. We’re just — we’re like a dinosaur in a lot of ways — but that’s why people like us so much.

You were in Alhambra for 75 years. What was the secret to your longevity?

Well, number one — quality of food and customer service, and just the fact that just over the years, the sundaes, I’d put them against anybody anywhere. [Laughs]

If you do close on Feb. 1, will there be a big celebration?

I think we definitely want to do something. We’ve already had a lot of requests. So we’re booking farewell parties, at different schools, reunions — I don’t know who we had — Alhambra, Temple City, San Gabriel, San Marino, I think. They want to come to the restaurant and have their last sundae, and give their farewell to Twohey’s. So we’re doing a lot of that. And there will still be online sales [of Twohey’s sundae sauces].

We’re gonna do a celebration for ourselves. We thought of maybe dressing it up, especially for the employees, we employ about 60-65 individuals, and support their families, so we are looking to find a place. We have not signed a lease as of today, but we are looking, and we have an idea of what we might end up doing, but moving within the area is definitely something we’re looking forward to doing. We’ll keep the name but we have to close our doors in Alhambra for sure.

But the catering and the food truck and the tavern is still going on, right?

Twohey’s Tavern is an interpretation of modern American cuisine of the original 1943 menu, with a full bar. That’s very vibrant and alive, and you can still get sundaes there as well in a totally different setting. But hopefully it appeals to a different generation of Twohey’s customers.

Is there anything else you want to add?

We just want to thank all the Alhambra residents, and the other San Gabriel residents that have been loyal supporters. We want to thank the powers-that-be in Alhambra for trying to help and save us and work through this very difficult time. So no pun intended but bittersweet feelings that we have to close our doors.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

1 thought on “What’s next for Twohey’s, an Alhambra institution”

  1. I’ve probably already said this too many times, but I keep driving by the site of the longtime Wahib’s on East Main St, which I always sad to see close last summer. Different situation: the owner’s wife wanted him to retire, and so he did it to please her. It is fairly large and has a banquet room, which could be remodeled, or the kitchen moved there to expand the main dining room. Different layout from Twohey’s, but no two properties are identical. And it has a small back patio and a few tables out front. It’s the only relatively large piece of property I have found that’s still in Alhambra, sittingvempty since August.

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