Architecture and Design, Voices

My L.A.: Learning to Love Baskin-Robbins

Continuing this week’s Getty Voices theme of Our L.A., Getty Research Institute editor Liz McDermott explores what makes a hot-pink-and-blue box on Victory Boulevard such a community draw. It’s vernacular architecture at its most highly sweetened.

Burbank Baskin-Robbins ice cream store

Great architecture? Perhaps not. Community hub? Definitely.

Until I moved to Burbank a few years ago, I thought Baskin-Robbins was a relic from a bygone era, like Tower Records or Borders bookstores. When I was 12 years old, Baskin-Robbins was one of my top destination spots. My friends and I would ride our bikes to the local mall and crowd into the tiny store. I’d always order the same thing, a scoop of Pralines ‘n Cream, my favorite of the 31 flavors. That flavor was the perfect blend of cream, sugar, gooey caramel, crunchy candy pralines, and just overall goodness. I had assumed Baskin-Robbins was long gone, done in by Scoops, Gelato Bar, L.A. Creamery, and the proliferation of trendy, artisanal ice-cream shops.

But lo and behold, on a long stretch of Victory Boulevard, near a spate of quiet residential streets, sits what must be the largest Baskin-Robbins ever. To put it kindly, the architecture is completely unremarkable—it’s a two-story, plain stucco box with a bright pink awning over the entrance. But it boasts over 40 parking spaces, cement picnic tables with hot-pink umbrellas, a drive-through with a gigantic neon sign spelling out all the flavors, and even a poster out front that announces that it’s a training center for budding ice-cream servers.

After months of driving past that behometh, nondescript building, I finally decided to check it out. Nearly every parking space was filled, the drive-through was six cars deep, and it was shoulder-to-shoulder inside. But then I saw it in a big tub under the glass counter: Pralines ‘n Cream. I bought a scoop and it all came back to me. It’s not the sophistication of lavender or basil and lime (two flavors from one of artisanal ice-cream shops over the hill), but it tasted just as fantastic as I remembered. Now when I drive past and see the enthusiastic crowds that still show up, I totally understand why.

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      chivalry-project:

      The Chivalry Project in Person

      Join us Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26, for the first two installments of our free manuscript-making workshops with artist Becca Lofchie at the Getty Center. Create and illustrate your own rule of chivalry, be it newly invented or tried and true! Handmade rules will be featured here on The Chivalry Project tumblr.

      11am to 3:30pm both days.

      Also to see: Chivalry in the Middle Ages, which inspired the project.

      The Fourth Trumpet (detail), about 1255. (Text 2014.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig III 1, fol. 12v

      07/24/14

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