By Nick Diamantides
That famous Bixby Knolls icon, Arnold’s Family Restaurant, closed its doors forever on the evening of May 10. Painful as that decision was, now owner Mike Johnson is eager to put the past behind him. One way he hopes to do so is to sell off all the equipment, furniture, art and accoutrements that were part and parcel of the eatery during its 59-year lifespan.
“We are having an auction to get rid of everything so we can move on,” Johnson said. “We will also be selling the antiques and collectibles we have accumulated during the past 50 years or so.” He added that basically everything that is not attached to the building will be for sale.
“There are auction houses that do this for a living, and one of them will be sending one of their auctioneers here,” Johnson said, adding that most of the buyers will be other restaurateurs looking for good deals. “I also think there will be some people looking for some sort of a keepsake from Arnold’s, like a small pot or pan, a Tiffany lamp or one of our lighthouse paintings,” he said. “The last time we remodeled, we went with a Cape Cod lighthouse type of motif, so we have a lot of lighthouse pictures and knickknacks that we will be selling. We do have plate collections and old cash registers and very nice oak tables and chairs that some people will enjoy having, and we have kept many of those things in the upstairs office.”
Johnson said that since the restaurant closed, he and his wife Cindy have been too busy to be sad over it. “It’s bittersweet. It’s been a long history,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and so many of our customers have been coming by. It’s been beautiful. We talk about old times.”
He added that many of his longtime customers, especially seniors who live in the area, have expressed their sorrow over the closure. Some have left notes on the door and others have approached the Johnsons in the area behind the building. “A lot of them felt that this was where they would eat for the rest of their lives, and this is really hard on them,” he said. “We feel blessed that we were able to do this all these years.”
The auction will be conducted by Anaheim-based Kohn-Megibow Inc. and will take place in the restaurant itself at 3925 Atlantic Avenue starting at 11am on Wednesday, June 2. “We are going to open at 9:00,” said auctioneer Steve Grove. “From nine to 11 it will be wide open for people to take a look at the items that will be auctioned.”
Grove has been conducting restaurant auctions for 35 years. “It’s mostly restaurant owners and equipment dealers that come to these things because it’s a way for them to save a lot of money on equipment and furnishings,” he said. “At Arnold’s, there are also quite a few collectible pieces, so I am sure people who like to collect things will also come to this auction.”
Grove said it would be hard to estimate the value of the antiques and collectibles. “Something that cost a dollar when it was new in 1905, would cost 30 or 40 dollars new today,” he said, adding that antique items are often worth more than their new counterparts. “The restaurant equipment itself would certainly cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if purchased new,” he noted.
Grove added that the auction at Arnold’s will be unique because of its long history in Long Beach and the sentiment that many people have toward it. “The restaurant has been around for many years,” he said. “It’s well known, and Mike and Cindy are highly respected in the community. We should get a good turnout.”
Johnson said that he and Cindy have a very positive attitude about the next phase of their lives. “We are going in a different direction with our sons and their pizza-delivery business, and we are excited about that,” he said. “We are going to take some time off to get rejuvenated, and then we will be ready to go into our new venture.” He explained that he and Cindy will probably take trips to Lake Tahoe and Colorado on their motorcycles. “We like seeing places on our motorcycles,” he said. “Other than that, we probably won’t be doing much for the next couple of months.”