The Summer Store and The Artist’s Studio: Cottage #46

Summertime has always been high season at Crystal Cove, and the aqua-marine-colored cottage on the beach began its life as a summer store for Cove tent campers and cottage families.  First called “The Green Store” by Pearl Van Pelt who operated it with her husband Merle and son Lee, Cottage #46 was built in 1950 to replace the original 1920s-era red and white Soda Shack that was damaged by a storm.

“The Green Store” was seasonal, open only for business from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The store sold basic pantry provisions, as well as short-order grill items, penny candy, firecrackers, and “punch card” lottery tickets. It had an old-fashioned soda fountain with a counter and stools where Cove kids ordered a concoction they called “suicide soda,” made by mixing equal parts of all the flavored syrups with fountain soda. The store was known for its delicious hamburgers and breakfasts, and generous double-scoop ice cream cones. According to Lee Van Pelt, the majority of the store’s profits came in on summer weekends.

After tent camping ended in 1962, the summer store didn’t have enough business and closed for good. For a short time, it was a makeshift cottage for newlyweds Bob and Gen McMenomy who helped Bob’s mother Laura manage the Cove in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was the only time it was used as a residence. In later years, the cottage was outfitted as a surfboard-making shop, a storage facility, and then, starting in the 1970s, a working art studio for Cove artist Vivian Falzetti. For many years, Vivian created art and hosted informal art classes from the centrally located, ocean-facing studio.

When Crystal Cove transitioned to a public park, Cottage #46 was once again repurposed, first as a temporary Visitors’ Center, and finally as a venue for rotating public exhibits and gatherings. It’s no longer a store or a studio, but its historic seasons endure through the Park Interpretive Store, which is home to Crystal Cove’s art gallery as well as unique art-and-beach-inspired items for sale to the public.

Today Cottage #46 is an iconic landmark on the beach that’s been featured in many plein air paintings. It’s usually open year-round, inviting day visitors to walk through its exhibits, and to gather under the ocean-side pergola just as people once did when it was a seasonal summer store.

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