When I was a kid there was this wonderful, magical place that I would sometimes get to go to. No, for once I’m not talking about Disneyland. I’m talking about Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. Founded by Bob Farrell and Ken McCarthy in 1963 in Portland, Farrell’s quickly became the go-to place for birthdays and other celebrations for many. Farrell’s was themed to the 1890s, with employees dressed up, often with a signature boater, and the Gibson Girl was their icon. There was a location in Eugene, which is the one I visited most often, and the restaurant was plastered with images featuring Charles Dana Gibson’s work. But as is the tale with many small businesses and local chains, they were bought, many locations closing in the 90s, while a few held out, becoming independent versions. The one in Eugene operated as the Pearl Street Ice Cream Parlour, and kept up with the Gibson Girl theme and maintained the candy shop in the front. I was lucky enough to visit it one more time while attending college, before it closed in 2006, the location is now La Perla Pizzaria.
But after a long legal battle Farrell’s reemerged from the ashes with multiple locations in California and I was overjoyed when I found this out shortly after moving. We visited the one in Brea, but arrived after dark, and I wasn’t able to take any shots of my Gibson Girl inspired outfit, so today I recreated that same outfit for a visit to the one in Buena Park, located just across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm.
Today Farrell’s is just as charming, and still serves up great food and phenomenal ice cream. I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself near one of their locations!
This early exposure to the Gibson Girl, and my parents’ interest in the Victorian era I think instilled a fascination with Gibson and his work, and I spent many hours pouring over original books featuring his illustrations and copying them. And in reality, the Gibson Girl was the first ever pin-up, and was the first centerfold, when Collier’s featured a two page spread in the center, where the staples were, for easy removal, in 1903. So, yep, we basically have Gibson to thank for pin-up girls.
UPDATE: This Farrell’s location in Buena Park has changed dramatically! The menu has changed a great deal, but more importantly the decor has changed! And in my opinion for the worse! The Gibson Girl and the Gay 90s vibe has pretty much vanished! I highly recommend visiting the Brea location instead. While it suffers from the same new menu, its ambiance remains the same as the older Farrell’s.
2019 UPDATE: As of December 30, 2018, this Farrell’s location has closed. The Brea location, which became independent after the tragic renovation of the Buena Park location, remains open and as entertaining as ever!
June 2019 UPDATE: The Brea location has now shut its doors. The man who is responsible for the changes to the Buena Park location still owns the rights, with no intention of giving them up, and sounds like a total jerk, being quoted with “I’ll hold onto it until I find another opportunity, even a smaller concept like a quick serve, and trademark it…I’ll put it on the shelf and wait for the right window.” Source. The reason for the closure has not been made public. I assume there was some sort of legal battle between the independent location and him, resulting in the closure.