First published in the June 25 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Damon’s restaurant, known for its tiki décor and intimate atmosphere, celebrated its 85th anniversary recently with a night that featured a big birthday cake and a festive evening.
Craig Missakian was part of a group of investors who purchased Damon’s in 2005. He recalled the restaurant was initially located on Central Avenue, south of Broadway.
“Damon’s is a restaurant I went to when I was a little kid,” he said, adding that his parents went there when they were dating in the 1950s.
The city purchased the property where the restaurant was located through eminent domain in the late 1970s, Missakian said, and the businesses that were impacted were allowed to relocate to Brand, which is where Damon’s is now.
After Lincoln Damon, who originally opened the restaurant, died, his children took it over. They eventually decided to sell it, and that’s when Missakian and the investors stepped in and purchased it.
Missakian, who is now managing partner, said he decided to buy the restaurant more for sentimental reasons, rather than as an investment.
“It was a restaurant that held a lot of nostalgia for my family, so when the opportunity came up for me to be a part of the restaurant, to be a part of keeping it going, I jumped at the chance,” he said.
Damon’s opened in the 1930s, said Missakian, an attorney who grew up in Glendale and lives in Pasadena now. “It came out at a time … in the United States when, I guess, people had a need for a little bit of an escape.” He said it’s reflected not only the tiki décor, but also because it has no windows.
“The idea was that you would go in and you would be transported to this exotic place, a little respite from the mad, mad world that was going on outside,” he said, adding that people often say it’s a place where they feel very comfortable to go with family and good friends.
He said the owners and staff try to maintain that feel not only in the décor, but in friendly service.
Another partner in the restaurant is Vigen Ghazarian, who bought into the restaurant in 2010 when some of the investors wanted to sell their shares and Missakian approached him about investing.
Ghazarian, who is a licensed civil engineer — but hasn’t worked in that field for years, focusing more on investment properties — told Missakian he didn’t have too much experience with restaurant operations. However, he and his wife went to Damon’s and they loved the restaurant, and he decided to join in.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “A lot of work,” he added.
“When I went there, I felt like I was in my own dining room with some friends,” he said. “That’s the feeling I always get when I go there.”
Judee Kendall, president and CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, said the longevity of Damon’s has made it a community institution.
“For those of us who have been around a long time, it’s been part of our lives. It’s one of our friendly memories of Glendale,” she said. “And it goes through generations.”
When she goes there for a meal, she’ll order the filet mignon, but she often goes there to meet friends and they enjoy items from the appetizer menu such as coconut shrimp, potato skins and calamari.
Missakian acknowledged the restaurant’s staff is key to Damon’s success.
“They really are the heart and soul of the place,” he said.