Cecil’s will be first to get the Park Avenue wrecking ball
The oldest building in the Park Avenue Redevelopment Project area will be the first to be razed.
Cecil’s Market, the general store built by Cecil Caple in 1940, will be torn down as soon as today, but more likely it will be Tuesday or Wednesday.
After withstanding 60 years of Tahoe’s blustery winters and summertime sunshine, the store that acted as a landmark at the intersection on U.S. Highway 50 and Park Avenue will fall to the ground in less than three days.
Trucks will haul away the rubble, leaving only a pile of memories in its place.
“I can remember looking down the stairs,” Ken Caple, Cecil’s son, said Friday. “And right over there, in the middle of the (Crescent V Shopping Center) parking lot, was Van Sickle’s barn and we used to get pony rides from him.”
As an endless stream of cars whizzed by on the congested highway, he described a skimpy two-lane road that passed in front of the family store. The store, which also served as the family’s house, stood alone on the block that now hosts a clump of crowded, deteriorating motels, gift shops and restaurants.
An entrepreneurial dream encouraged Cecil, who died of leukemia in the 1980s, to open a store near the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Cecil shared that dream with Jean, a summer vacationer who would later become his wife, while working at Globins market in Bijou Shopping Center.
It was 1939.
“He decided that he wanted to be in the grocery business and he loved the beauty of Lake Tahoe, and that was fine by me,” Jean Caple said. “My husband and one other carpenter started to build in October 1940, in ’42 he was drafted into the Army and the market was closed for part of those four years.”
Jean, who is now 80 years old and living in a San Diego suburb, recalled Tahoe’s lazy days as a summer tourist destination a thing of the past.
“It was so quiet although the summer months were always busy, but compared to now, it wasn’t at all crowded,” she said. “In September the tourists took off and you could count the cars as they left, some you didn’t recognize but the majority you knew. It was a real country atmosphere.”
When winter blew in, business deflated.
“The market did great in the summer but next to nothing in the winter,” she said. “There were the caretakers of different homes and they would come and chew the fat around the oil-burner stove in the market, but they bought very little.”
While living in an apartment above the store, the Caples weathered Tahoe’s testy seasons and had two sons: Ron in 1946 and Ken in 1949.
After a decade of service, Cecil Caple sold the business to the Wilson family in 1951.
“It was a tough business to be in, especially when it was such a summer-oriented town,” Ken Caple said. “It gave him ulcers.”
The store changed hands a few more times before John and Camilla Jovicich bought it in 1965. In that post-modern decade, a boon of building activity; roadway motels and gift shops closed in on the store’s space. They, too, await demolition this spring.
Outside of his empty market, John Jovicich said the fall of his building comes to his family with mixed emotions.
Like the Caples, they have invested their lives into the market. But moving out of the old building marks an end and a beginning.
“We’re just five months short of 35 years here,” Jovicich said. “Cecil’s market has been very good to a lot of families including mine but the building is old and tired and it’s time for a revitalization.”
As workers loaded Jovicich’s trailer full of items that were left from the store’s final sale, he told his take of the Park Avenue Project which will knock down buildings on 12 parcels near the store to make room for a new hotel, a gondola leading to Heavenly’s slopes and a new retail center with shops, restaurants and a cinema complex.
Jovicich owns about an acre plot at the corner and focal point of the project. He has arranged a land-swap agreement with the city that will allow him to move his store in the new development. The city will take his plot in exchange for the land where Paul Kennedy’s Steak House is located. He plans to lease to the restaurant until the building is demolished in two years for the second phase of the project, where he will rebuild his market.
“This has to be done,” he said. “We have a wonderful area but we don’t have the infrastructure to support the kinds of things that appeal to the younger generations.”
Jovicich’s new market will be slightly larger than the original and have an exterior motif that will match Park Avenue’s posh design. In all the changes, he said one thing will stay the same – the name.
“I think it will always be Cecil’s market,” he said. “It’s kind of a funky name but it’s catchy.”
And while they tear down the store that was built by and named after her husband, Jean Caple said she’ll be satisfied she’s not there to see it go.
“I’m glad I don’t have to be there – it’s sad,” she said. “I just feel that so many people are anxious to tear down the old things and up with the new, but then I’m old fashioned. I’m for progress but there are some things I think ought to stay.”
Ken Caple, who still lives in South Lake Tahoe, said he’ll watch the rickety building crumble this week.
“Maybe I’ll be able to grab an old 2-by-4 as a relic,” he said.
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