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Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspacesby Barbara Beckley

Alhambra Preservation Group congratulates Mike McCollum on the beautiful restoration of one of Alhambra’s many historic structures.

Mike McCollum knows a great building – and its potential — when he sees it. “People value and appreciate restored buildings that have character – they have a human quality,” he explains.

As the successful attorney-owner of McCollum Counsel, which works with international and Chinese multi-national companies, Mike was looking for an office in Alhambra to be closer to his clients.

Alhambra.Road.Iona.Workspaces.McCollum“This building caught my eye,” he said, of the sprawling, single-story brick structure that has graced West Alhambra Road between Curtis and Electric Avenues since 1918. He knew right away its picturesque brickwork and multiple spaces with large windows looking out on a tree-lined residential street had “office potential.” Its location, near Huntington Drive and easy access to Los Angeles and other San Gabriel Valley communities was an added plus.

Lucky for the building – and Alhambra – Mike loves to restore vintage structures. As a high school student in Los Feliz, his first summer job was cataloging historic courthouses for a preservation group. He was hooked. Since then he’s made a hobby of refurbishing vintage buildings with his father and brother, restoring aging gems first in Angelino Heights and then in Silverlake, Hollywood, Echo Park and now Alhambra.

Why? “For a love of old things and history. And the satisfaction of being able to bring something back to life that has stood the test of time and restore it to again be beautiful and useful.”

So in 2015 Mike bought the building at 1500 West Alhambra Road and began researching its history. “I love this building’s history,” he says. With so many individual spaces, it housed flourishing neighborhood businesses for decades. Among the longest running were the HM Pease & Co. Grocery, opened in 1918, along with a drug store, fruit specialist, butcher shop, barber shop and tailor. Small businesses came and went, including in 1932 a carpet store; 1937 a beauty shop; 1941 a lawn mower store; 1946 an upholsterer; 1949 a drapery boutique; 1952 a variety store; 1954 a doll shop; 1956 a plastic products manufacturer and in 1964 a café, and Golden West Books publishing, which occupied the building up until the early 2000s.

Mike was also pleased to learn that during the Great Depression, the grocery store owner, Alhambra resident Howard M. Pease, organized the donation of more than 1.5 million loaves of bread and other supplies to local residents in need.

“Hidden treasures” were also discovered during the renovation process – a bunch of wires going into a back room looked like they had been put in after the Great Depression.  “I’m guessing it was probably a bookie joint,” he surmises.

Mike began the renovations in 2016. Using his own good taste and love of vintage architecture, he added skylights to open up sunny spaces, and exposed the original brickwork, original beams, and concrete to give the building a stylish, vintage/contemporary feel.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.2What’s the highlight of his reborn space? “All the beautifully preserved, and now exposed brick, and solid redwood beams. These beams shouldn’t be destroyed. We should be exposing and celebrating this rich beautiful wood. I love to see and celebrate the old brick, the wood and the concrete, and the new steel – the beauty of form and function.”

Work was completed this past summer. Mike threw a community party, in partnership with Brethren Shoes a new e-commerce company founded by an old friend, on September 9, 2018 celebrating his beautiful new Alhambra-based IONA Work Spaces. Mike chose to highlight Brethren as a nod to the original owner’s community service. “Brethren sells stylish shoes at reasonable prices — and for each pair they sell, they donate another pair to the homeless. Howard Pease would be pleased!” Mike adds.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.3“Everyone is always impressed with the space,” he says. “Warm. Inviting. Calm,” is how his clients, visitors and prospective tenants describe this newest of Alhambra’s retro gems. “People like that they can have a beautiful office and natural light,” he says.

IONA Work Spaces features a collection of unique offices, common areas and meeting spaces, with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and large spaces opening onto an historic street. “We’re getting a lot of interest from a mix of professionals including design and architect, consulting and real estate firms and tech oriented business who find IONA an ideal space to run their businesses and meet with clients. There are also a lot of neighbors within walking distance with home-based businesses who want a desk here as their ‘home office,’” Mike says.

A large “living room” space is perfect for after-hours events, like the informal chamber music performance put on by one of IONA Work Spaces new members. Mike hopes this space can be used for ongoing similar gatherings for its members.

More than a beautiful office building, Mike is looking to IONA Work Spaces to be a center of attraction to Alhambra. He hopes to use it to strengthen and promote Alhambra’s position as a center of all the economic activity coming from Pasadena, Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. In particular, “I would love for IONA to be a hub of China-related businesses,” he declared.

IONA Work Spaces is currently accepting tenants. To learn more, visit IONA Work Spaces or email info@iona.work.

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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