With the news that the owners of the property where the old Golden Way Garage once stood may build a new building for the North County Christian Thrift Shop, there is a new possibility for further downtown renewal. We also learned last week that there won’t be a second movie theater on the site along with other retail spaces in that area of the old downtown.
The owners of the property, Mary Beth (Hoff) and her husband, Tim Alvord, both graduated from Atascadero High School. They have roots in the community. It was Tim, when he was a student in my radio production class at the high school, who dubbed me “The Fly.” I have yet to know why.
I read that the owners have been in contact with officials of the thrift shop to rebuild the facility and rent it to the school. The thrift shop was a major fundraiser for the Christian school.
William E. Kulgren built the Golden Way Garage in 1925. The Golden Way block extends along El Camino Real, which then was Highway 101 through town, south from Traffic Way to the little gas station (now a coffee shop). A miniature golf course stood where the gas station was eventually built. On the same property, Kulgren eventually built an “auto camp,” a service station, a number of retail shops at street level and the Atascadero Hotel on the second floor, which included 40 rooms. The hotel/retail building was destroyed by fire in 1965.
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The Golden Way Garage served as an auto repair center, a Chevy dealership and a storage center before it took on the life of a thrift store supporting the private Christian school 30 years ago. Its loss to a major late-night fire in March 2009 brought the building down, along with a smaller retail space on the south side. The original Golden Way Auto Camp service station and office stand empty.
The building sets back from the right-of-way, which was filled in with landscaping almost two decades ago. It would be neat if reconstruction of a new building could take advantage of that setback and include the service station overhang, just as it looked in the 1920s and ’30s.
I hope that the owners of the property work with the builder and city planners to bring about a pleasing but historical re-creation of the building that once stood there. I hope that Atascadero’s “Golden Way Block” can be retained while at the same time provide a new venue for the much-needed thrift store that goes a long way in supporting a fine local school.