After a Hungarian restaurant went out of business on her street in 1994, food marketing specialist Patti Londre had an idea. Why not convert the building into a customized headquarters for her own company?
She had been thinking of moving her five-person firm into a larger space. And the vacant restaurant structure on Barham Boulevard in Los Angeles had one thing the foodie had long been coveting: a large kitchen that would allow the team to create recipes and photograph food for clients such as Kahlua and Dole.
But first there were some major hurdles to clear. At that time, the 4,000-square-foot building was, in Londre's words, "flooded, creepy and a wreck." A bad roof and faulty drainage had left part of the ceiling crumbling off in chunks. It lacked air conditioning, and the city was unwilling to give Londre Co. a permit for the huge commercial kitchen it desired.
"They weren't even going to let me have a stove," Londre recalled.
After months of battles with city officials, Londre succeeded in getting the project approved, not as an office, but as "a private kitchen." And she began work on the surrounding office, pumping all of her time and money into making the then-shabby space workable.
To create a lobby, Londre moved the front door and enclosed a gazebo. At one end, she installed a big picture window overlooking the kitchen. To make sure her view of the cooking was unobstructed from her office, she gave the room French doors.
"You don't want to close off the connection to the kitchen," said Londre, a former home economist. "That's the heart of the building."
To help pay for it all, she leased extra space to other entrepreneurs: a graphic designer, a courier firm and an architect. But the building still retains the flavor of her business, right down to the framed pictures of risotto and chocolate souffle, and a sign that mimics a boast at her favorite bakery: "fresh ideas daily."