Before the Altadena Ale & Winehouse moved in, the existing tavern at 2329 Fair Oaks was what you might call a horse of a different color. And that color was purple -- purple carpet, purple posters, and then purple prose on just about every surface. Obviously a great fan of minimalism-- the owner posted his flexible hours of operation on a torn piece of paper thumb tacked to the door.
It's not everyone who would have taken a look around and said, "Hey, this is just what I need for my British Pub." But Gail Casburn did.
"I love Altadena," she says. "We live here, we raised our boys here. We had been scouting the area for a place, and this really suited all our requirements."
The Ale House is strictly a family affair, owned and operated by Gail and her husband Judah, with frequent assistance from her college-age sons. Maybe that's why she knew, "if I could get my hands on this place, I could make it break-even within three months. And it did."
How did they go about letting everyone know there's a new kid in town? "We needed a good pub up here anyway, so a lot of it was just word of mouth, and getting the soccer crowd in. We flew flags to get further attention -- you remember our flags?"
And that's all it took; that, and serving high-end libations in a welcoming atmosphere.
"Also, local folks from Altadena and North Pasadena appreciate the fact that we're within walking distance. Drinking-and-driving is a big issue; our customers tend to either walk home or cab it."
Though obviously the Casburns had a well-thought out business plan, did anything come as a surprise?
"I think the biggest surprise was how supportive the community has been. I mean, in a grass roots kind of way. For example, our commercial pizza oven was a gift -- just given to us because someone no longer needed it; same with our beer cooler.
"The other surprise has been how easy it is to work with the County. They've been extremely supportive and non-bureaucratic."
And finally, why a British pub?
"My husband's English, that's why. I'm Irish, so who knows? Maybe someday we'll have an Irish Pub."