By RON SYLVESTER / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Joe Jost's is one place where you can still get a beer for less than two bucks and a house special sandwich for $3 and a nickel.
Owner Ken Buck said that makes the tavern at 2803 E. Anaheim St. that his grandfather started in 1924 as a barber shop a good predictor of economic fortunes in Long Beach.
“I've always thought of Joe's as being a bellwether, kind of canary in a coal mine,” Buck said. “Most recessions, we're not terribly affected by them. We're at the low end of the price structure.”
So when 2008 hit, the loss of business was noticeable.
“We did fine, but I actually felt it a little more, which tells me that this was more serious,” Buck said.
Joe Jost was a Hungarian immigrant who worked his way across the U.S. as a barber. After reaching the West Coast, he took a tramp steamer across the Pacific in search of more adventure. But after he ran out of money, his brother sent him a one-way ticket back to California and opened a barber shop in the newly annexed area known as East Long Beach. In addition to cutting hair, he ran legal poker games, and then got a license to sell beer after Prohibition ended. The state barber's board, however, said it wasn't safe to serve alcohol in the same place where razor blades gave men close shaves.
“He looked at his books, some of which I still have, and he saw the future was in beer,” Buck said.
It continues as one of the oldest businesses operating under the same family ownership in Long Beach. The family has watched the area grow and revitalize with new retail shops and other businesses.
“This area was a place you would come to get building materials, hardware,” Buck said. “If you go up and down Anaheim Street, you can buy lumber, you can buy a dress, you can get your car fixed. Everything you need in a community, you can get right here. And that's what we've tried to emphasize most.”