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Western Metal Supply Co.-Petco Park
Western Metal Supply Co.-Petco Park

San Diego Architecture Near Petco Park Worth Its Mettle

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Tip of the Week: June 6, 2009


"Everything about the Candy Factory was tailor-made for an artist. I felt that all I had to do was stand there with a brush in my hand, and the Candy Factory would take over and do the rest."
- Christine McGirr -
Former resident of the Candy Factory lofts
Artist, Photographer, Great Spirit

It's the bottom of the 4th inning. Nobody on base. Double-zeroes light up the scoreboard. Hot dog? Eaten. Peanuts? Gone. You're at Petco Park in downtown San Diego and the game has come to a standstill. You look across the field, beyond the outfield and you see the word. The word that brings an ache to your tooth. Candy. Showley Brothers Candy Factory. The better you focus on the building the more you realize it was a thing of the past. Curiosity sets in.

There's a long story to that building, but we'll keep it short and sweet. In the early 1900s and up until 1951, the Showley Brothers candy factory building was a fixture in downtown San Diego. Showley Brothers was a wholesale candy company producing a variety of products. They were known for the "Cluster Ruff," a milk chocolate candy with nuts and a maple nut creme center. Showley Brothers cranked out 10,000 pounds of candy in any given eight -hour period. The candy factory building, restored back in 2007 as part of the Petco Park project, sits in juxtaposition to the gentrification all around it. However, this beautiful old brick building barely stood the test of time.

At first, the Showley candy business was in the former Montezuma Hotel at Second Avenue and F Street, basically where Horton Plaza is today. Then, in 1908, the Showley Brothers Candy Factory re-located to the former Germania Hall at 625 8th Avenue. The Germania Hall burned to the ground in what was known as one of San Diego's largest fires at the time, back in 1924. Business continued in a temporary location nearby on J Street. W ithin six months, in 1924, a new building was raised at J Street. In six months, this 30,00-square-foot, unreinforced masonry 3-story building was built and still stands today. They don't construct buildings that fast and that durable anymore. However, the Showley building does not stand in its original location.

When the heat got too hot in the kitchen, the Showley Candy Factory whipped up production. In other words, when adverse circumstances occurred, the company pulled together. The Showley family took care of their employees and the employees took care of the business. For example, Showley Brothers paid their 75 employees a full time wage even though they were worked part-time after the major fire. The company came through that commercial meltdown of 1924, but then in 1931 during the Great Depression, fire broke out again. Nevertheless, the company rose again and the employees got back to work to churn out the confections and bring sweet success to Showley Brothers.

Lightning doesn't strike twice, but apparently fires can strike three times. In 1950, another fire hit the business. It wasn't a catastrophic fire, but by 1951 the Showly Brothers were burned out. They liquidated the business and called it a day.

Cats have nine-lives and this building also has had nine-lives. By 1982, there was a recipe for change. Folks were envisioning a creative re-use of old buildings. The candy factory was resurrected as the Candy Factory, a live-work loft development project.

The buzz word downtown was 'redevelopment' and Petco Park was the target. Build it and they will come. One problem. The old buildings downtown, some with historic relevance, were in the way. The candy factory was in the way. No problem. Just move it. Move it they did. A $3 million effort ensued moving this 30,000-square-foot building just 280-feet to the east. It took six and one-half hours to move. Why? Get this, 72 dollies, in what could be described as an 'electric slide, were synced together to move in unison at 10-feet per hour. It was a Herculean effort. Move it and they will build.

A stone's throw from the Candy Factory is another beauty. Surely, it catches the gaze of anyone sitting in the seats of Petco Park. Western Metal Supply Co. stands just behind the left-field foul pole.

When Western Metal Supply Co. began business in 1888, they were steel distributors of wagon maker's materials, blacksmith's supplies, and eventually, became a large hardware wholesale business complete with plumbing supplies, pipe fittings, auto supplies, equipment for automobiles and gasoline engines, roofing supplies and sporting goods.
Showley Brothers Candy Factory
Showley Brothers Candy Factory

Originally, Western Metal Supply Co. was at 5th and K, where the Old Spaghetti Factory is now and it was built by noted architect, Irving Gill.

In 1910, the company gave up on manufacturing and sharpened their business model and became distributors rather than manufacturers of metal products. The operation was moved to what we know to be the Western Metal Supply Co. building now out there in left-field at Petco Park. Western Metal stayed in business until 1975. Interestingly, in 1989 the Western Metal building was spared from a fire at an adjacent property. Holy smokes, what's up with all the fires?

The Western Metal Supply Co., just like the Showley Brothers Candy Factory, slipped from the grasp of redevelopment and kept off the demolition blocks. In the end, the new and the old co-exist bringing character to a modern ballpark and a new urban community. So, if you go to Petco Park, and you find yourself in the 4th inning watching a slow pitch and slow game, sit back and appreciate how these buildings have proven their mettle no matter how hot the kettle got.

Showley Brothers Candy Factory
HRB 162 -San Diego Historical Resources Board registry
8th Avenue and K Street

Western Metal Supply
HRB 131 San Diego Historical Resources Board registry
215 7th Avenue

Take a look here for the location of both buildings.

NOTE: Western Metal Supply is marked by "1" and Showley Candy Factory is marked by "A"

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