With enduring appeal, a handful of longtime businesses remain amid the new chain stores and restaurants

While the Thursday night crowd at Freddie's 35er bar in thriving Old Pasadena isn't nearly as large as the one at the Cheesecake Factory just down Colorado Boulevard, it's still not a bad showing.

The 35er's dozen or so casually dressed patrons sit or play pool, in stark contrast to the mass of tweed-and-khaki-clad diners at the nearby chain restaurant just across Fair Oaks Avenue.

At the 35er, the vibe is laid back and sociable. Even if they don't know your name, the regulars are affable and happy to engage strangers in conversation. It's scruffy and a little worn. But in a good way sort of like that frayed-at-the-edges bathrobe or those old tennis shoes that are worn out but so damn comfortable.

The 35er's not going to win any awards for d & #233;cor, but it gets bonus points for its lack of pretense.

In fact, the 35er seems to recognize what many Old Pasadena boosters don't. "Not everybody who comes to Old Town wants to eat or drink in a trendy chain," asserts Stacey Shaw, who has tended bar at the 35er for six years. "Boosters cling to the history of Old Pasadena, but they're making it almost impossible for old businesses to operate. We're still here after 37 years because people want an alternative."

Indeed, the 35er is one of the last survivors of the days when Old Pasadena was seedy. Along with the X-rated Le Sex Shoppe and the Crown City Loan & Jewelry pawn shop, the bar provides a gentle some might say embarrassing reminder of the district's somewhat checkered past, when men were men and women of good repute wouldn't be caught dead on this side of town.

"This store's been a pawn shop for 47 years," boasts Mike Robinson, manager of Crown City Jewelry & Loan at the corner of Colorado and Raymond Avenue.

Robinson's father bought the business and the building in 1990, just as the area was coming into its own. But Crown City is no stereotypical pawn shop. It's bright and airy. The merchandise mostly musical instruments, bikes, scooters and jewelry is nicely displayed and priced to move.

People with items to pawn enter through a door on Raymond while retail customers and tourists come through the door on Colorado. The only real evidence that you're in a pawn shop is the signage (required by law) proclaiming the dangers of firearms, which aren't displayed.


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