Editor’s Note– “Around 1965, my mother took a carload of kids along with her to go grocery shopping at the only store in town, the 101 Ranch Market. After shopping, she loaded the kids back into the car and headed home. As she pulled into her driveway out in Ellwood, one of the older kids asked her where the baby was. She panicked, and realized she had left the youngest child at the store! She rushed back to the market in a flurry and found the young boy playing happily in the little rocket kiddie ride in front of the store, oblivious to any danger he may have been in.
That oblivious little kid was me. Fifty years later, I still go to that same market and walk right past those kiddie rides five days a week. Having worked there virtually my whole life, this page holds some significance for me. I hope you enjoy it.”In the heart of Old Town Goleta, this little market has been open for business for over half a century. But it hasn’t always been a grocery store. And it wasn’t always in this location….
This dashing young man was responsible for the construction of the building that today is known as Santa Cruz Market, but he built it as an airplane hangar. This is Earle Ovington, and he is a legend in the world of early aviation. He was an inventor, an entrepreneur and a successful businessman, but he is best known as the first United States air mail pilot.
Ovington moved to Santa Barbara in 1920 and built the Casa Loma Air Field at Samarkand, where the Municipal golf course is today. Around 1928, he built a small hangar on what today is the eleventh tee, and painted Ovington Air Terminal across the front. For a while, the Casa Loma was Santa Barbara’s only air strip, and it attracted such aviation celebrities as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.
The Ovington Air Field soon got a reputation as too dangerous to use by many fliers, as it was not level, riddled with pot holes and surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees, resulting in several crashes.This rare photo from 1930 shows the hangar in the background and Ovington being interrogated by State Troopers after an incident. Despite the hazards, Santa Barbara’s first ever commercial flight flew from the Casa Loma Air Field to Los Angeles in 1931. The Ovington Air Terminal officially became a commercial airport, offering round trip fights to Los Angeles for $9.51. The increase in air traffic brought noise complaints and safety concerns from the residents of Santa Barbara, who called for closure of the airfield. Later that same year, the City told Ovington to shut down the airfield, and decided to make the main airport at the Goleta airfield. A disgruntled Earle Ovington died from cancer in 1936.
In 1937, the Ovington family rented the hangar to a start up company that built blimps, but the Hindenburg disaster that same year put a quick end to that venture.
In 1938, Ovington’s family sold the hangar he had built at Casa Loma to Robert O. Giffin, who dismantled it and rebuilt it at it’s current location, on the corner of Hollister Avenue and Rutherford Street. It was rented to Joseph Moore and made into a Caterpillar tractor showroom and repair shop. It operated for about 15 years with just a dirt floor and the big hangar doors were perfect for getting the tractors in and out of the building.About ten years later, Giffin built this structure for Western Welding, that had previously been operating in the back of the old hangar. This building also survives today as Giffin Rental, right behind Santa Cruz Market on Rutherford Street.
This photo, taken around 1949, shows the whole building. The large door on the Rutherford side of the building was formally the front of Ovington’s hangar. Where it says Joseph G. Moore is where Earle Ovington previously had proudly painted his name.
This view from 1952 shows the market,(marked with an X), Western Welding right behind it and a brand new gas station built next door. Also worth noticing is how the cars are parked vertically on Hollister Avenue.
A great shot of the Caterpillar tractor shop from 1953, with the big side door open. Note the tractor parked outside and the diagonal parking on Hollister Avenue.
In the mid 1950’s, the hangar became a grocery store. They sealed the big hangar doors on the side, and Robert Giffin’s grandson Tom remembers watching workers with gas powered cement mixers pouring the new concrete floor inside. Owned by Jerry Ray, the new 101 Ranch Market became the main grocery supplier in the Goleta area. This photo from 1962 shows a corner of the parking lot, that appears to still be dirt.
Wonder where these kids are today! Notice the nice sedan in the background, and also notice the young lady is barefooted. Apparently 101 Ranch Market didn’t have a “no shoes, no service” policy…
But it was soon replaced with a more stylish design, and the much catchier phrase, “The friendly store that saves you more”. The same logo that Santa Cruz Market still uses today!The owner of the Ranch Markets was an aggressive and creative advertiser, with large ads in the paper and lots of fun graphics.
The Ranch Markets also held occasional promotions, like this autograph signing by Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Ron Perranoski, fresh from his 1963 World Series win. A pretty big deal for little old Goleta!
At one point, 101 Ranch Market had several locations. These three locations became Santa Cruz Markets when a wealthy investor named Irving Bomash bought them all in the early 1970’s. The Cliff Drive store is now Lazy Acres and the Milpas Street location is now Chapala Market.
The Santa Cruz Market chain included nine stores throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, with stores in Ventura, Oxnard and Santa Paula. The name came from the first store in the chain that was located on the corner of Santa Cruz Boulevard and Main Street in Ventura. They took the 101 Ranch Market logo and made it the logo for the whole chain…
In 1980, Mr. Bomash decided to get out of the grocery business and an employee was offered the chance to buy two of the Santa Barbara stores. Ralph Modugno was born in 1923 in Sylmar, California, the son of Italian immigrants, and had been in the grocery industry since he was a boy. He came to Goleta in 1963 and worked in several different grocery stores around Santa Barbara. Ralph was a supervisor for the Santa Cruz chain when the opportunity arose and he was more than eager to own his own store.Modugno purchased the Mesa store and the Goleta store, kept the Santa Cruz name and kept the same staff. Joseph Kunze, a Goleta native, managed the Goleta store from 1972 to 1997 and was loved by the community.
This historic building is coming up on 100 years old, but it continues to serve the community of Goleta in a useful way.In 1969, the terminal at Santa Barbara airport was named the Earle Ovington Terminal in honor of his contribution to aviation in Santa Barbara.This plaque is in front of the terminal today.
In 1992 this plaque was mounted on the front wall of Santa Cruz Market, giving a brief but accurate summary of its historic significance.
In addition to being a functioning business, the old hangar is a favorite of local artists for its unique style and of course, the quaint old S&H Green Stamps sign……
Recently, the building itself became a canvas for a local artist to recreate a scene from Goleta’s past. Where Earle Ovington once had his name painted across the front of his hangar, Larry Maser painted a condor soaring over Mescaltitlan Island and the Goleta slough. A fitting tribute to the history of Goleta on a building that played a big part in local history.
So the next time you’re in Old Town Goleta, be sure to check out Santa Cruz Market, the first commercial air terminal in Santa Barbara’s history!
Sources: Walker A. Tompkins, Airfields-Freeman.com, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Wikipedia, Herb Kunze, Joseph Kunze, Mark Sanchez, Patti Gutshall, Larry Maser, firstname.lastname@example.org, David Lange, Tom Giffin, Robert D. Campbell