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LA's Long-Gone Restaurants Live On at the Valley Relics Museum

Neon signs and bygone menus at the Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth

Inside the Valley Relics Museum
Clay Larsen
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Los Angeles’s sprawling nature means that plenty of cool finds end up hidden away in small, off-the-beaten-path strip malls and storefronts. It’s part of what makes LA so unique and consistently fascinating — even if you’re in the know about a large swath of what’s going on around town, you can still consistently find things to surprise you.

Case in point: The Valley Relics Museum. This non-profit space can be found on Marilla Street in Chatsworth, just off Topanga Canyon Boulevard and not far from the 118 Freeway. The space is only open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and admission is completely free, which makes it more than a steal because of what they showcase. It’s an absolute hidden gem that acts as a final resting place for much of the San Fernando Valley’s forgotten past, including its vintage neon restaurant signs.

The Valley Relics Museum is primarily the work of one man: Tommy Gelinas, who curates and collects everything inside (and much stored elsewhere) from his private collection. Signs and bikes and cars and ashtrays and loads more are either bought and paid for or donated outright to the museum, which opened officially in 2013 after Gelinas found himself swamped with artifacts and requests to show them off.

Now anyone can wander through the open warehouse space, passing bits of ephemera and nostalgia along the way. It’s all fascinating, but the biggest glow comes from the warehouse’s collection of lit up neon signage, from old Pioneer Chicken wagons to the original Henry’s Tacos sign and hand-painted menu board beneath. It’s all fascinating, and makes for a beautiful Saturday experience.

Check out some of the forgotten neon signs from across the San Fernando Valley below, and then make plans to go check out the Valley Relics Museum yourself soon. After all, admission is free (and so is the parking).

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