Monday, June 17, 2024

Meet the couple with big dreams for historic 440 Elm Ave. building in Downtown Long Beach

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440 Elm Ave. one of Long Beach’s oldest church structures, having survived the 1933 earthquake after its 1913 construction—or it could very well be the dream location for a “Bridgerton” shoot on Netflix. Despite which lens you view the historic building in Downtown Long Beach through, the small business owners who are now overseeing 440 Elm Ave. have big plans for this massive, gorgeous ode to the Classical Revival style from famed Los Angeles architect Elmer Grey.

For residents and visitors alike, the allure of 440 Elm Ave. has never ceased to exist

The towering Classical Revival facade of the building sitting at 440 Elm Ave. in Downtown Long Beach is largely hidden by two massive ficus trees lining the front—but once one steps up to the structures black metal gating, the awe of a building that will likely never be built in mimicry due to the sheer costs it would require to do so strikes a chord with many visitors.

It’s an extremely bright building for a space that is largely dominated by far newer structures and apartment complexes throughout the Downtown—and for architect Elmer Grey, it was the second of three churches for the Christ Science sect: The first one in Los Angeles was completed in 1910 at a cost of $100,000—or what would now be about $3.2M—and, as a national historic landmark, exemplifies Grey’s obsession with decadent, ornamental architecture a la mixing Beaux Arts, Italianate, and Spanish Romanesque Revival styles. And then there’s the third one in Palo Alto in the Spanish Mission Revival style, completed in 1916.

Grey’s pedigree speaks for itself: From the Beverly Hills Hotel and Pasadena Playhouse to the Huntington Library and Wattles Mansion, his obsession with and adoration for decadent, ornamental, captivating architecture has made him a SoCal legend. The Long Beach Church of Christ Science is no exception, looking like it belonged to the Greeks—and like its other siblings, it garners constant adoration.

And that very much included the owners of Bite Catering Couture, Chef Elizabeth Goel and her husband, COO Vijay.

What 440 Elm Ave. is shifting into, both in the now and in the future

The Goel pair faced a dilemma that all caterers faced when the pandemic hit: They were in this to do events—and events were all but effectively annihilated from the social stratum. But given their success, they were at a better position than most to take advantage of that exact problem.

“We had always been looking for a larger kitchen and we thought, with the pandemic, maybe someone had decided to give up,” Vijay said. “And then, in the deep bowels of LoopNet, I came upon this and we were just in shock because it was viable. Like, how the heck can a small family business do this? And yet, here we are.”

Beginning the work on acquiring the building in October of 2020, the Goel have spent the past several years getting the building back up to its former glory and, in the hopes along the way, hope to turn it into one of Downtown Long Beach’s most sought after event venues.

“We’ve begun the process of cleaning up not just the inside but the outside as well,” Vijay said, pointing to the property’s northern facing outdoor area that is now lined with pavers, growing fruit trees, a 120-foot wall of passion fruit perennial vines, and the ability to expand event size even further beyond the building itself.

Even more, the Goel family have big plans: The original piano that came with the building? Vijay hopes it will eventually touch the fingers of music’s finest for intimate concerts. The main room’s vasty array of stained glass windows and chandeliers? Hopefully act as a back for food events, weddings, dance parties, and more.

“It’s just crazy Long Beach doesn’t celebrate this place—so we’re here to make sure that happens,” Vijay said. “That’s why we’re so excited to be opening our doors to the public for the first time to invite them on a tour with Long Beach Architecture Week.”

Yes, you can take a tour of 400 Elm Ave. to see it in all its glory

In honor of celebrating Long Beach Architecture Week 2024 as well as their ability to host events, the Goel family will be hosting a $20 ticketed tour of the building on June 5 at 6PM.

After the tour, guests will enjoy a glass of wine while color expert Sara Mclean leads the crowd through the story of historic 20th Century color trends from 1900 onto the 1970s—and how human patterns, behaviors, events, and socio-political attitudes shaped them. In other words, whether you are directly interested in the color palette Elmer Grey used for 440 Elm Ave. or if you want to know why avocado green and mustard yellow kitchens were the thing for parents in the 1970s, this is the tour for you.

Even more, you will be among the first locals to see the renovation Vijay and Elizabeth put into the space, meander its grand halls and even grander main room while sneaking away into the many smaller rooms and details of this Long Beach historical landmark.

Because why wouldn’t you?

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Long Beach Heritage is giving this building restoration an award at our annual Awards Luncheon on May 29 at 11:30 at the Bembridge House.

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