Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

California Restaurant, Raleigh, N.C.

This week for Flashback Friday we feature a rare interior postcard view of a long-time (and sadly, long-lost) Raleigh establishment, the California Restaurant. Gotta love those palm trees!

Famous for Old Fashioned Southern Cooking
Established 1900

A “Natural-Finish” Card Made by Graycraft Card Co., Danville, Va.

Leo and Gus Vurnakes (Vurnakes & Co.) opened a ‘confectionery’ store on Fayetteville St. in 1900. They sold ice cream, candy, and fruits. By 1910 they had relocated the store to 111 Fayetteville St.

In the 1920s a new owner, James Stathacos expanded the business and renamed it the California Fruit Store. His business partner, Peter Stathacos, added a lunch counter in the 1930s, and thus the ‘fruit store’ became the California Restaurant. Around 1940 the building’s facade was remodeled in the then fashionable art moderne style.

The California Restaurant closed in the mid-1950s, and Adler’s, a ladies’ clothing store, moved into the space. Adler’s and its next door neighbor, the Ambassador Theater were remodeled in a simple modernist style a decade later.

But, don’t go looking for the California Restaurant or the Ambassador Theater or Adler’s today. The entire east side of the 100 block of Fayetteville St. between the NC Supreme Court building and Empire Properties building was demolished to make room for a parking deck when the Wachovia Building (now Wells Fargo) was built across the street in 1991.

 Below is the California restaurant as it appeared in 1940. A corner of the Art Deco Ambassador Theater (1938) can be seen on the right.

Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives

The 1938 photo below shows the confectionery with its marble soda fountain. The restaurant dining room was located at the rear of the store.

Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives

I took the photo below of the 100 block of Fayetteville St. with my trusty Kodak Instamatic camera in 1966. If you look closely, you can see the ‘ghosts’ of the three second-floor windows of the  former California Restaurant. Next door is the Ambassador Theater with its 1960s modernist ‘googie’ canopy. “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews was playing at the tme.


This week’s postcard was published by the Graycraft Card Co. of Danville, Va.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Robert H. Sanford, Jr. owned and operated a company that produced black-and-white images all over the South. … His Graycraft Card Co. produced so many scenes from Southern communities that his cards today provide the core of many view card collections.


“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week-end treat!

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