Photo by James Bunoan"I didn't realize I was preserving anything," says Roy Hall, owner and operator of Seal Beach's iconic Parasol Restaurant. "I was just doing what I do best: running a business." And as Hall tells it, the Parasol isn't going to fold any time soon. This 1967 landmark (at 12241 Seal Beach Blvd.) is doing just fine as a place to eat, but it's also developing a shadow life as a place that's really cool just to look at.
Architecturally, the Parasol has always been a combination of the 1930s onomatopoeic style (i.e. businesses that look like what they do, like the hot-dog-shaped Tail O' the Pup) and lavishly overdone late googie. Culturally, the place has started to make its presence known as a pop artifact. UCLA students and LA Conservancy members visit just to gape; cartoonist Bill Griffith even had his Zippy the Pinhead stop in for a bowl of rice pudding. "This is like church to me," Zippy the Pinhead sighs.
"Our customers demand, 'Don't paint it, don't change it—we love it the way it is!'" says Hall. "It's really got a cult following, in a way. And it's finding a whole new generation—18 to 25 to 30—who are coming in and saying, 'Wow, this is different!'"
Hall never bothered remodeling or renovating; he said it's the ain't-broke-don't-fix it principle. He's been with the Parasol since Day One, moving up the ranks to manager and finally owner; right now, he's just back from a few years off-duty. His kids took a shot at running the place themselves but passed it back to him, so he thought he'd take over again, just to see if the magic was still there. And, he says, it was.
"Everything is unbelievable!" he says. "The formica they put in here? Solid as a rock! They just do not make formica the same way they did in 1967. We probably utilize everything just as we did in 1967. We're still using the original cash register we opened with. It still works!"
And as long as everything still works, he says, he'll stay open. "This being my restaurant," he says, "I think I'd like to see it go on forever."