7101 Sunset: McDonnell’s Drive-In / Tiny Naylor’s

 

Melvin Andrew “Rusty” McDonnell was, along with Harry and Charles Carpenter, a pioneer of what would become a multi-million dollar eat-in-your-car cuisine industry in Los Angeles.

Born in North Carolina in 1875, McDonnell joined the Army while still in his teens. He served in the Philippines during the Spanish American War.

After leaving the military, he worked in and operated restaurants in Kansas City, Missouri for several years in the early 1910s before relocating to Los Angeles in 1916, where he managed a restaurant, Crawford’d Famous Chicken Fry Steaks, at 311 W. Sixth Street.

Located at 311 W. 6th St., Crawford’s “Famous” Chicken Fry Steaks didn’t last long. LA Record 1918

After the US entry into World War I, he became proprietor of the restaurant at Camp Kearney in San Diego.

By 1921, he had returned to Los Angeles and opened an eatery at 440 W. Pico known as “McDonnell’s Ever-Eat.” By 1922, he had five outlets.

There were 5 McDonnell’s Ever-Eat locations by the end of 1922: 440 W. Pico, 405 W. 8th St., 1237 S. Main St., 603 S. Figueroa, and 207 E. 5th. The Tidings, 12/15/1922

At the end of 1926, two “Ever-Eats” locations had been added: 454 S. Hill St., and 711 S. Hill St.LA Times 12/31/1926

By 1930, McDonnell was expanding to drive-in cafes, featuring chickens raised on his own ranch. The idea was a success. Despite the Depression, McDonnell continued to expand his chain of restaurants, both sit-down eateries and drive-in cafes, throughout the 1930s.

McDonnell’s Ever Eat drive-in cafe at Figueroa & Santa Barbara, opened April 19, 1930. Southwest Wave, 4/18/1930

The early McDonnell’s Ever Eat drive-ins were modernistic masterpieces. This location was at La Brea Ave. & Beverly Blvd. California State Library photo.

McDonnell got a permit for the drive-in at 7701 Sunset Boulevard, at the northwest corner of Sunset and La Brea, in July 1936. The architect of record was H.S. Johnson.

Another view of the Sunset & La Brea McDonnell’s drive-in c. 1937. LAPL photo.

Night view of the Sunset & La Brea McDonnell’s drive-in. LAPL photo.

May 1938 ad for McDonnell’s restaurant chain. There were now 8 sit-down dining locations and 6 drive-ins, including Sunset & La Brea. “Everything from a sandwich to a complete meal served in your car” – a sentiment destined to appeal to Los Angeles. LA Times.

In 1948, another restaurateur, W. W. “Tiny” Naylor, took over about a dozen of McDonnell’s then-17 locations, including the 7101 Sunset drive-in.

William Warren Naylor was born in Keswick, Iowa in 1898. He continued to live in Iowa, working on the family farm, into the 1920s. By 1927, he was living in Merced, California, where in November he bought an existing cafe, Mack’s Coffee Cup, only to turn around and sell it a week later. As of January 1929, he was operating the Monte Carlo poolroom in Fresno. A year later, January 1930, he leased space at 1034 Broadway, Fresno, for a waffle and coffee shop. It opened February 15, 1930. The whole wheat waffles sold like hotcakes.

The first Tiny’s Waffle Shop, Fresno. Fresno Morning Republican 2/15/1930

At a time when many businesses were going under, Tiny’s thrived. Before the year was out, he’d opened a second Tony’s Waffle Shop in Reno. In addition to running his own shops, Tiny and his partner, Bruce Breckenridge, also sold franchises. Soon there were Tiny’s Waffle Shops in Sacramento, Modesto, Stockton, Marysville, Merced, Los Banos, Salinas, Bakersfield, San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. A second Fresno outlet opened on Mariposa Street in 1936, as well as a motel on Highway 99. Cocktail lounges were added after Repeal.

Naylor opened a second Tiny’s Waffle Shop in Reno on December 13, 1930. Nevada State Journal 12/13/1930

Tiny brought in beer by airplane to his Fresno waffle shop right after it became legal to sell it. Though beer and waffles doesn’t seem like an ideal combination. Fresno Bee 4/6/1933

Tiny’s Bay Area locations: Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose. The ad claims that the first Tiny’s Waffle Shop was at 24 Turk Street in 1927. That address housed a Tait’s coffee shop as well as a notorious poolroom and gambling dive run by Frank Cator. SF Examiner 10/2/1937

Ad for Tiny’s Waffle Shops, 1939. “Chicken in the Rough” was a franchised restaurant chain that began in 1936. Fresno Bee 2/4/1939

Having relocated from the Central Valley to the Bay Area by 1940, after World War II, Naylor turned his focus to Southern California, where he was a familiar figure in horse racing circles.

Tiny Naylor, far left, with Geneivieve Woolf, actor Leo Carrillo, LA County Sheriff Gene Biscailuz in November 1949. Nayor donated the sale of a horse to help raise money for a George Woolf memorial. The famed jockey had been killed in an accident at Santa Anita race track in January 1946 while riding one of Naylor’s horses, Please Me. Naylor had since sold off his racing stable, citing heath reasons. LA Times 11/3/1949

In August 1948, Nayor opened the first of his namesake southern California restaurants at 1715  Cahuenga Boulevard.

Hollywood Citizen News 8/20/1948

In February 1950, Naylor got a permit to rebuild the former McDonnell’s at Sunset and La Brea. Architect Douglas Honnold would design the new, modern edifice.

The Tiny Naylor’s building replaced the old circular McDonnell’s drive-in building at Sunset & La Brea in 1950. LAPL photo

Tiny Naylor’s at Sunset & La Brea 1952. Julius Shulman photo

 

Hey, homely girls- don’t even bother applying! LA Times 3/25/1951

Ad for Tiny Naylor’s, 1955 The Sunset & La Brea location was one of 3. LA Mirror 6/14/1955

In addition to his namesake restaurants, Tiny Naylor also operated Biff’s eateries, named for his son. LA Mirror 6/14/1955

This spectacular Marvin Rand photo of the Sunset & La Brea Tiny Naylor’s is labeled 1949; however, permits to rebuild the round former McDonnell’s structure were not obtained until February 1950.

Melvin McDonnell died in December 1958 at age 83. Tiny Naylor died in August 1959. His namesake restaurant chain continued, however. The 7101 Sunset Boulevard location closed in early 1984 and the fixtures were sold at auction that March. The building was demolished in June 1984.

Thanks, I’d love to. 7101 was still doing the business, along with 16 other Tiny Naylor locations, in November 1982.  LA Times 11/14/1982.

Ad for the auction of fixtures at 7101 sunset. LA Times 3/4/1984

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Notes

Top image: LAPL photo.

McDonnell’s name was often spelled with one “l”, except on the restaurants.

The first McDonnell’s restaurant at 440 W. Pico continued to operate as McDonnell’s until 1962 when the McDonnell Corp was declared bankrupt.