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What is Brown Derby?

by Ratan Srivastava
Brown Derby

Brown Derby was a restaurant franchise based out of Los Angeles, California. The first and best-known was shaped like such a man’s derby hat, an iconic image associated with Hollywood’s Golden Age. Wilson Mizner established it in 1926. Robert H. Cobb and Herbert K. Somborn founded the company within the 1920s. By the 1980s, the original Brown Derby restaurants had closed or been converted to other purposes, but the brand was revived inside the twenty-first century thanks to a Disney-backed nationwide franchising initiative. The Brown Derby was mistakenly supposed to be a single restaurant, as well as the Wilshire Boulevard and Hollywood locations are frequently mixed up.

A separate network of steakhouse restaurants, started in 1941 in Akron, Ohio, and franchised in 1962, is unrelated to this one. The Girves Brown Derby restaurant chain was created by Ted and Gus Girves, and its full name is “Girves Brown Derby.” Five of the Girves stores are still open as of 2019.

Wilshire Derby is the first of its kind.

The original restaurant, located at 3427 Wilshire Boulevard in a structure shaped like a derby hat, debuted in February 1926. At the period, whimsical architecture was popular, as well as the restaurant was built to capture the attention of passing motorists.

The name Brown Derby comes from a Malverne, New York-based diner of the same name that was a vaudevillian hangout inside the 1920s. Wilson Mizner started that as a modest cafe out across the street from Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove, a Hollywood hotspot. Wilson was a frontman; the land was owned by Herbert K. Somborn, and Jack L. Warner put up the cash. Almost every day, Wilson Mizner sat at booth 50. However, the original restaurant was tiny and had acoustic issues, with sound through one end of the house reflecting off the round ceiling and travelling to the opposite side of the room.

Uses after that

The Chapman Park Hotel and Bungalows, which owned the majority of the block between Wilshire Boulevard, Sixth Street, Mariposa Avenue, and Alexandria Avenue, sought to buy the balance of the block that it didn’t possess, including the land where the original Derby had stood. The structure was removed when the restaurant closed in May 1936, as well as the hotel was enlarged and inhabited by October of that year. The Equitable Life Building was built in 1967 to replace the hotel.

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