Saturday, September 03, 2011

Snack Shop becomes restaurant empire

John Reuben McIntosh and Audrey Forrow were both Marines at MCAS El Toro when they met. They married, and after leaving the Marine Corps they both started working in restaurants. In 1948, they both landed jobs at a restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Corona Del Mar -- John as a cook and Audrey as a waitress. They were there only two weeks when a kitchen fire caused a lot of damage and the owner decided to sell the place. The couple went to Audrey's father, John McIntyre, and asked him for a loan so they could buy it. Instead, he went into partnership with them. Together, they bought the place for $3,000.

The little restaurant, with only two tables and 10 counter seats, reopened on Oct. 19, 1948 as the first Snack Shop restaurant. Today, it still stands as the northern portion of what is now Ruby's Diner. (See photo above.)
Snack Shop #3, at 17th St. and Flower, Santa Ana. (Now El Pico de Gallo Grill.)
It was so popular and successful that a second Snack Shop opened in 1950 on South Main Street in Santa Ana. And by 1960 the chain had grown to include eleven coffee shops.  The McIntosh's remained very hands-on about their business. John is said to have been very detail oriented, and Audrey created many of the recipes and designed the decor and staff uniforms.
(Click on the menu to enlarge.)
Thinking beyond coffee shops, they also opened the first Reuben's restaurant in 1960. Snack Shops and Reuben's were just the beginning of the Far West Services company, which ultimately included such restaurants as Coco's (1965), Isadora's, Moonrakers, The Plankhouse, The Sandpiper, The Mooring, Baxter Street (dinner theater), The Whaler, The Reuben E. Lee, and more. At the top of their game, Far West was serving meals to 45,000 customers a day.
The Reuben E. Lee restaurants , in particular, were real landmarks, housed in what appeared to be old paddle wheel boats in Newport Harbor and on Harbor Island in San Diego. The one in Newport was dismantled in 2007.
But for some reason the original Snack Shop chain seems to hold the most memories for Orange Countians. Over at OC Then, nostalgia runs heavy for the Snack Shops' Nui Nui Burger and Chile Size. Here's a partial list of former Snack Shop locations:
  • Westcliff Plaza, 17th and Irvine, Newport Beach
  • 2323 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii (shown in photo above)
  • Pacific Coast Highway at MacArthur, Corona del Mar
  • South Main St., across from the old Sears, Santa Ana
  • Chapman Ave. at Shaffer, Downtown Orange (shown in photo below)
  • 17th St. at Flower, Santa Ana
  • Huntington Beach

Eventually, all the Snack Shops were turned into Coco's. Coco's, in turn, was ultimately sold to the Catalina Restaurant Group, which now also owns Carrow's.

22 comments:

Connie Moreno said...

Son of a gun, I learned something new today!

Chris Jepsen said...

It's a slow day when ya don't!

Doug said...

The Snack Shop in Orange was a special outing for our family.Thank you Chris....
Also, once upon a time, took a wonderful young lady to the Reuben E, Lee....for a prom celebration dinner.

CoxPilot said...

Chris: On May 10th, 1965, I went on a blind date to the Snack Shop on Flower and 17th St. That date led to two children, two grand children, a great grandson, and a long time companion and spouse to this day. Thanks for showing our favorite spot for years.

Chris Merritt said...

Great post! I wish I (or you) could find photos of the Santa Ana one I went to with my grandparents in the 70s... All that seems to be out there is a postcard of that Hawaiian location...

Anonymous said...

So that's what was at 17th and Flower (NW corner) in SA! In recent years nothing seems successful there ... a mystery how the succession of occupants keep the doors open.

BobG

CoxPilot said...

Anonymous: I think the only other Snack Shop in Santa Ana was across from the old Sears store on South Main at the corner of Berkley St. (Now is Los Compadres Mex Food.)

Anonymous said...

I remember these resturants they were I was just 6 or 7 years old.My parents always ordered me a plane cheeseburger and fris and a milk.I think I can still taste them

idreamoffrance said...

I love this blog! Never heard of the Snack Shop chain before, but recognize some of these buildings. P.S. Thanks for following us on Tumblr!

Chris Jepsen said...

@IDreamOfFrance: I'm pretty sure I'm NOT following you on Tumblr. Sorry, but I've got my hands full enough with Southern California without keeping track of other whole countries.

@Merritt: Your interest in old Snack Shop ephemera is one of the things that spurred me to look at this subject.

Anonymous said...

The postcard of the Snack Shop in Waikiki brought back so many pleasant memories. It was the first real job for several of us and made a lasting impression. The company was great to work for, the customers (the best!), the staff hardworking but fun. Wish I had some mementos.

Anonymous said...

A correction to this article. The second picture from the top is not the second Snack Shop. Snack Shop #2 was on South Main Street in Santa Ana, across from the old Sears.

The second photo shows the building of the old Snack Shop #3 which was located at 17th & Flower in Santa Ana. My first real job was there, other than mowing lawns for widow ladies.

Chris Jepsen said...

Thanks for the correction.

Michelle Lobdell said...

My dad sold all the meat to the MacIntoshes for the original Snack Shop in CdM. What a great memory. I can still taste the best chocolate milkshakes I ever had.

Alan M said...

846I stared out as a Busboy at the Snack Shop , 1965 @ 60cents an hr , Greatest Company ever , today if I could go back in time I would want my job with John MacIntosh ! great memories , My best friend today is still Bob Houston he was number one best cook in the Company at 3.75 an hour I was number 2 3,50 an hour , Today I am running a Restaurant company today because of MacIntosh .Love the memories !

Scott Adie said...

So far as I know and believe, the Snack Shop on McArthur and PCH was the first restaurant in Corona Del Mar to have a microwave oven. They had a caution sign on the door for people with pacemakers. We lived just about two blocks away.

Terry Hamilton said...

It was called a Radar Range

James R. Preston said...

Thanks very much for this article. I remember the Snack Shop on PCH well. We stopped there on the way to San Diego many times when I was growing up. If memory serves, the burgers came in little paper holders. Thanks again!

Ken Ristuben said...

Thanks for the memories! We ate many chili & cheese omlettes and hamburgers at the Snack Shop on East Chapman in Orange. My father was a dentist a few blocks east and he ate lunch there every day. We also had many dinners after school events across the street at St. John's Lutheran school. Great memories!! Thanks.

Bill Conrad said...

This is what the inside of Snack Shop #2 looks like now at 1717 South Main. Mairos Sahuayo is an amazing restaurant.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=941244965899158&set=a.116749301682066.14227.100000409904259&type=1

Janis Pollard said...

My first job was at the Santa Ana Snack Shop as a hostess when I was 15 1/2. Great job.
In college I worked at the Fashion Island Coco's with John Jr....sweet family, and the classiest set of guidelines for their staff. Miss those days when appearance mattered. Best ever strawberry shakes, fried chicken and house dressing. I used to take my children to the Snack Shop on Chapman in Orange after school and Immanuel Lutheran. Good days. Ruby's is this era's class act for family dining. J Pollard

Dave Wise said...

My best friend, Tom Howell worked at the Snack Shop in Orange and eventually became manager of a Snack Shop in Hawaii. Sadly, Tom passed away unexpectedly at age 52 from an aneurism.