Karen Chu
Karen Chu

Many of the buildings in Westwood are turned into businesses different from what they were initially built for.

Yamato was first built in 1929 as the Janss Investment Corporation headquarters and stands as one of the oldest buildings in Westwood Village. Over the years, it was turned into businesses such as Bank of America and Eurochow.

The Italian restaurant Tanino on Westwood Boulevard was once Kelly’s music company.

Peet’s Coffee and Tea, on the corner of Westwood Blvd. and Lindbrook Dr., used to be Ralph’s grocery store in the 1930s.


Correction: The original version of this article contained an error. The UC Regents had first hired Allison & Allison to design Royce Hall, the Humanities building, Kerckhoff Hall and Kaufman Hall.

Westwood Village has changed in many ways since Edwin and Harold Janss first began its development in 1928, but remnants of that past can still be spotted throughout the Village ““ if you know where to look.

The UCLA campus, founded in 1919, was originally located closer to Hollywood. As enrollment grew throughout the 1920s, officials decided that a new home was needed for the university, said Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council.

The Janss brothers, hoping to increase the value of their land located in the area now known as Westwood, offered to sell a portion of their property to the UC Board of Regents. The regents accepted and Westwood Village began to grow alongside the university, Sann said.

The Janss brothers were responsible for developing Westwood, and they ensured that various elements would tie together the Village and the university, such as a Mediterranean architectural theme and the emblematic colors of blue and gold, which can be spotted on tiles on various buildings.

Over the years, new businesses have sprung up throughout Westwood Village, but various original buildings built in 1929 still exist and have been reused to maintain the college town that UCLA students know today.

Yamato Restaurant

When most people think of sushi restaurants, images of large domed ceilings and Spanish tiles may not come to mind.

But with Yamato Restaurant, that is exactly what people get.

The large dome building that houses Yamato is located in the heart of Westwood on Westwood Boulevard, and it is one of the most historic buildings in the Village.

It is the oldest building in Westwood and was originally used as the Janss Investment Corporation headquarters, Sann said.

In 1929, the Janss brothers hired the architects Allison & Allison to design their headquarters, he said. Their choice was far from random, however.

The UC Regents had first hired these architects to design Royce Hall, the Humanities building, Kerckhoff Hall and Kaufman Hall, Sann said.

To keep a sense of connection between the Village and the university, the Janss brothers hired the same architects to design their headquarters.

The building also features a blue-and-gold zigzag pattern painted on the dome and blue and gold tiles above the entrance.

Originally, the ground floor of the building had offices and retail shops, while the second floor housed the first UCLA men’s dormitory in Westwood, Sann said. The UC Regents only had enough money to construct four campus buildings in 1929, so they asked the Janss brothers to provide housing for students. The first women’s dormitory was at Holmby Hall, which is a building a block away from Yamato with a large clock tower on front, he said.

The Janss brothers stayed in the dome building until 1936, when the Bank of America signed a lease and moved in. The bank ended up purchasing the entire building from the brothers in 1954, Sann said.

In the mid-1970s, the Bank of America moved locations and sold the property, he said. Since then, the dome building has been used by a variety of businesses until Yamato took over in 2008, said Alex Chung, manager of the restaurant.

Not many changes were made to the space since it was transformed into a restaurant, Chung said.

But since the building was not designed to be a restaurant, there were some challenges that had to be worked around, he said ““ such as laying down electrical lines.

Despite these initial issues, Chung said the architecture helps business by creating an upscale ambiance that impresses customers.

Shirley Chan, a second-year sociology student, said that she goes to Yamato for the food, but when the name comes to mind, she thinks of the architecture.

“It doesn’t look like a sushi restaurant, but it’s definitely impressive for diners,” Chan said.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea/800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza

Supermarkets today are usually located in large warehouse-like buildings with rows of aisles. In 1929, however, the building that now houses Peet’s Coffee & Tea and the restaurant 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza was a Ralphs grocery store.

The building is one of six original 1929 buildings that still exist today, Sann said. The Ralphs was the first grocery store in the area and remained there until the 1960s, when the building became too small and the issue of parking became a hindrance, he said.

Since then, the building has been cut into a multi-tenant space.

Before Peet’s Coffee & Tea and the recently opened 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza moved in, a German-themed restaurant had replaced Ralphs.

The Bratskellar was a restaurant that occupied the space for several years, but various other restaurants replaced it later on, Sann said.

The particular unit that now features 800 Degrees used to be a Daphne’s Greek Café, said Anthony Carron, the owner of 800 Degrees.

The pizzeria leased the space a year ago and had to completely renovate the interior to match the new restaurant theme, said Carron.

The original architecture of the exterior was not altered, though. Similarly, with Peet’s, the original building facade has been kept intact.

The cylindrical building on the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Lindbrook Drive was designed to look like imitation stone. A saucer-like dome tops the coffeehouse, and an inconspicuous bronze plaque on the side of the entrance marks it as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

“It’s definitely some of the best architecture in Westwood,” said Marcie Shepherd, a third-year theater student and a Westwood resident who was sipping tea outside Peet’s on Sunday. “It helps create a cafe feel of grandeur.”

Shepherd, who often frequents Peet’s, said she would never have suspected that the building used to be a grocery store.