Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Pawn Shop Surprise

The former Brothers Collateral Pawn Shop at 5901 Melrose Avenue is getting a ready for a transformation, and preliminary work reveals a stunning historic facade covered over for decades.

You may have notice something interesting being revealed at 5901 Melrose Ave., on the 1934 building at the corner of Cahuenga Blvd. and Melrose Avenue, the longtime former home of the Brothers Collateral Pawn Shop.

“We knew about the era when this building was built that it would have beautiful bones. We could see the bow trusses and the huge ceiling, but did I ever think, this would be this beautiful, never!” explained an excited Diego Torres-Palma, whose company Ventana Ventures recently acquired the property. Torres-Palma told the Buzz he’s so impressed with the structure, they’re considering securing historic designation status for the building, something that panics typical developers. But Torres-Palma isn’t like most developers.

A civil engineer by training, Torres-Palma worked in tech before moving to Los Angeles six years ago. He says his unique background in real-world design and entrepreneurship drives his vision for a unique approach to adaptive reuse and real estate development. Rather than build and hope for a tenant, Torres-Palma said he creates a project with a tenant building out the space in a collaboration. Not only does the building not sit empty on the market with that approach, it also provides an opportunity to business owners who may otherwise have not been able to get their business off the ground – also a key value of Torres-Palma, who recently started a podcast called Startup To Storefront, highlighting entrepreneurs.

“When I moved to Los Angeles, I thought I would find everything already done,” Torres-Palma told the Buzz. “This is not the case at all. In fact, there are so many more places to eat and drink outside in other cities than in LA, which is so much more climate friendly. We starting with the idea of create a great place where you sit outdoors and have a good time for $20, before the pandemic. Now we look smart!”

Torres-Palma said his projects are really a great blending of expertise. His company  brings real estate development skills to restauranteurs who bring hospitality and community to his projects.  Like Benny Boy Brewing, one of his first projects in DTLA. Benny Boy Brewing is the first combination brewery/cidery in LA, and the only brewery in Lincoln Heights. It features 3,200 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Curato Design-Build (owned by his wife Natalya Curato, who recently also completed the build out of Holey Grail Donuts on Larchmont) oversaw the construction, the building’s 1920s bow truss ceiling, and installing a 55-foot bar from reclaimed wood.

Torres-Palma is still working out the plans for 5901 Melrose Avenue, so we can’t report on what the final project will be yet. But we can report that it will fall under their umbrella of creating a signature community gathering space that fits into the neighborhood, within the current footprint of the building. Torres-Palma expects the planning and development process to continue through the fall of next year.

“I love doing this,” said Torres-Palma. “LA has this wonderful sweet spot of 4,000-9000 square foot buildings that are too small for big developments but perfect for pairing businesses together to create a community gathering space. We love to buy really ugly things and making them nice again.”

What could be better for a  historic neighborhood than retuning a historic building to its former glory? Stay tuned to the Buzz for more updates on the project.

5901 Melrose in 1934 when it was a Cut Rate Drugs store.
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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Quite unusual they’re considering getting an historic designation. Usually older buildings around here are torn down. Now to get a peek inside. Great historic photo, when it was a drug store.

    • I had an office in this building for many years, until a couple of years ago. The interior is pretty funky, all divided up into tiny offices. I am also really glad to hear they are going to restore it and not demo. It’s definitely worth saving.

  2. What great news!
    We need more developers with vision in our community!
    It would be amazing if the building could be restored!


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