Valley surprise

Discover Canoga Park's unsung Antique Row
Matthew Jaffe

Towering palm trees line Sherman Way as it enters Canoga Park from the east, a remnant of the days when there were grand aspirations for this San Fernando Valley thoroughfare.

A more modest group of palms lines Sherman Way in Canoga Park's historic shopping district, home to several antiques stores. Among the best are Tattered Elegance (closed Mon; 21619 Sherman Way; 818/884-1979), where French antiques have a country flair, and Old Friends (closed Mon; 21517 Sherman; 818/888-1254), where owner Alan Beutler finds and restores Craftsman-style pieces.

"In some ways this area is better than ever," says Beutler, who has operated his store for 29 years. "We get customers from Santa Barbara to Laguna Beach. Somehow they manage to find us."

Many buildings here date back to the 1920s and '30s and come as a surprise in an area so synonymous with postwar boom years. But there's a more illustrious history here than one might imagine. Los Angeles Times publisher and real-estate developer Harry Chandler modeled Sherman Way after one of the world's great boulevards, Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. The 14-mile Sherman connected the then far-flung town of Owensmouth (Canoga Park's original name) to the rest of Los Angeles, with landscaping designed to dazzle prospective real-estate customers in the early days of the Valley's development.

Nowadays, Canoga Park's hodgepodge of businesses ranges from an adult bookstore to a custom motorcycle shop to a wonderful French-style patisserie, Pastries By Edie (21608 Sherman; 818/716-7033).

Somehow, it all works together quite well. So says Dovely Maffeo-Ober, owner of Dovely's (7207 Alabama Ave.; 818/884-8859), a shop specializing in furniture making and faux finishing. She recalls trying to find a spot for the business after relocating to the valley with her husband: "I had looked for a place for three months. I was literally sitting in the car weeping when I spotted this building for rent and thought, 'This will do. This will do nicely.'"

Treasure hunt

WHERE: Canoga Park's Antique Row is on Sherman Way between Topanga Canyon Blvd. and Canoga Ave. From westbound U.S. 101, take either Canoga or Topanga Canyon north to Sherman Way. Going east, get off at Topanga Canyon and head north.