Dear PoPville – Does Anyone Know What the “Menchini’s Califlorida” was an Ad For?

Dear PoPville,

I was at 18th and Columbia Roads and I noticed a still extant painted sign on building next to Sun bank at Columbia Road west of 18th that says “Merrini’s Califlorida” as I recall seeing it about 30 years ago there, do you know anything about it?

sssdc1 writes on flickr that it is:

“Menchini’s Califlorida Fruit Shop Ghost Sign, Columbia Rd NW DC”

I couldn’t find any more info online. Anyone else familiar with Menchini’s Califlorida Fruit Shop?

8 Comment

  • I heard it was on 18th and Columbia, and they sold fruit, owned by Latinos I think.

    : )

  • I am 40 and grew up in Adams Morgan. I remember that the bank used to be a movie theater and Columbia station used to be on that block (i think where DWR store is), There was a great cuban restaurant called el rincon next to where you are talking about….. but on that corner by the alley… nothing of note.

  • Good morning.

    This property with the “Menchini’s Califlorida Fruit Shop” ghost sign is the end property on the alley at 1824 Columbia Road, NW.

    Here’s a picture of my friend, Hierberto Gonzalez, who opened his first Americana Grocery there at 1824 Columbia Road in 1964:

    He would later move directly across the street to 1813 Columbia Road, what today is Mintwood Place and underneath Perry’s at 1811.

    Americana Grocery is today a regional Latin American grocery chain.

    I was just too young and cannot remember what was on the ground floor of 1824 Columbia Road prior to 1964, but it was likely an Italian or Jewish Deli of which we had several at what was back then, prior to the 1968 riots, upscale, urbane and civilized Gartenhaus Furs – Avignon Freres – Dart Drug – Ambassador Theatre – Showboat Lounge 18th and Columbia Road, that probably served up some Menchini’s Califlorida Fruit.

    • Just curious. Is Hierberto Gonzalez Cuban? My parents remember that there was a really great Cuban place next to that shop. Oh and I remember Avignon Freres when I was little.

      • Good morning, Brian.

        Yes, indeed, Hierberto is a Cuban native and in his 80’s now.

        El Rincon is still next door at 1826 Columbia Road, but is no longer Cuban.

        Spaniard Manuel Solloso is well into his third decade of owning both 1824 and 1826 and may well retire to Spain soon. PoP posted here last year about problems there and his trying to sell.

        1828 has long, long been vacant. The owners live around the corner on Biltmore and may just be waiting to see what happens with the properties that surround their 1828. (An historic note: Lauriol Plaza / Cactus Cantina’s Raul Sanchez (Cuban, too) opened his first restaurant, El Caribe, 45 years ago at 1828 Columbia Road.)

        1830 Columbia Road will likely change to something else as the estate of George Dravillas (who passed away suddenly two years ago next month, in the cold, on his home’s front stoop in Palisades during the Blizzard of 2010) will likely settle in the next year or two. (George had his real estate and property casualty insurance office there continuously for a remarkable 57 years.)

        So there could well be some changes coming for that commercial strip of 1824, 1826, 1828, and 1830 in the near future; hopefully solid, substantial positive change like that across the street at the new Mintwood Place at 1813.

        At 1832, back in the mid to late 1970’s, Domingo and Miguel Machin’s El Dorado served up some good Cuban fare as well. Both brothers passed away in Hialeah, Florida. The Peruvian Chicken coup now there at 1832 will likely remain. Owner occupied Havana Village at 1834 is well established there, too.

        Lastly, Pietro Orcino’s Avignon Freres was quite an attraction, a Washington institution on Columbia Road, and it was so lamentable, a crime really, when those highly ornate interiors with that fabulous wrap around second level mezzanine was demolished entirely to make way for that high ceilinged discount shoe store that’s now closing there.

        You felt like you were in New Orleans within Avignon Freres, and oh, oh, the delight of the daily early morning smell of fresh baked bread, sweet rum cakes, and exotic, elaborately prepared pastries from their bakery as you lined up in queue at The Riggs Bank or at Alan Lock and Key.

        Gotta go, Brian. My telephone number’s in the D.C. phone book, same number, same street more than 50 years now. Our Prince has my e-mail address.

        Best wishes,



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