During the past year or so, retail business has been hit hard by a combination of struggles, not the least of which was a complete shutdown in an early effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants and other businesses are trying to salvage what they can in the wake of one of the most grueling economic catastrophes witnessed since the 1930s.
One local family, whose name is synonymous with Old Town Monrovia, has seen it all. Their legacy lives on but their retail presence is no more.
On the morning of July 31, 2018, Monrovia awoke to the news that one of the true treasures of Monrovia, Pam Fitzpatrick, passed away from complications of throat cancer. In addition to having four children, she had three sisters, one of whom, Nancy, predeceased Pam as did her brother Jim. A year later, her sister Jennifer Ranger also passed away.
The family business that stood the test of time for 30 years, the Dollmakers’ Kattywompus, would leave Monrovia’s Old Town for good the following year in April 2020.
Pam’s many accomplishments are legendary in the city and Old Town in particular, to which she devoted her business life with vigor and her celebrated boundless energy. In 1987, Luke and Pam Fitzpatrick moved to Monrovia. Four years, later in 1991, the Dollmakers opened at 109 E. Lemon Ave., later becoming the ever-popular Dollmakers’ Kattywompus. The store was truly a one-of-a-kind shop where children (and parents) were encouraged to have a hands-on experience with toys and games they offered. None of the ubiquitous “Look don’t touch” philosophy there.
Pam left behind four children: David, Wil, Luke and Katie, who collectively have continued the entrepreneurial tradition in one form or another. The family matriarch raised her children to work hard, work together and work honestly, according to Luke.
“This work ethic gave the family a firm foundation and opportunity to be a part of the transformation that Old Town Monrovia experienced over the last 30 years,” he said.
As time went by, Luke opened his own business, Monrovia Tech Support, a mobile computer networking company for those of us who know little about these machines that dominate our lives.
Wil opened a store in 2012 that reflected his and Luke’s passion — nay, obsession — for fishing, and for the next eight years he became a major hangout for legendary anglers of all ages in a little shop on the north end of Myrtle Avenue. Unfortunately, Wil’s Sport & Tackle closed its doors last week.
COVID-19 and the subsequent stay-at-home orders have been an extreme burden on all businesses and, naturally, Monrovia is no exception. Combine that with serious health issues Wil has faced over the years, it seemed only logical and timely to put the fishing rod away and reel in some much-needed family time.
“Just like our local community, the fishing community is small and most really embrace small businesses. Although there have been struggles over the last year, our closing Wil’s Sport & Tackle was due to some growing health issues that my brother has. He can now spend time with his wife and work from home if he decides to,” said Luke.
Although both the Dollmakers’ Kattywompus and Wil’s Sport & Tackle may be gone, the Fitzpatrick legacy lives on in Monrovia in perpetuity.
“If I had to pick one accomplishment to be most proud of it would have to be that we, despite disagreements and differences of opinion, have been able to be a symbol of teamwork and community in a world where it often feels like people are only looking out for themselves.” Luke told Beacon Media Friday.
Luke’s mother’s passion didn’t stop at the storefront. Pam wanted to change the world of Monrovia and in 2003 she ran, albeit unsuccessfully, for City Council. The political let down didn’t dissuade this powerhouse of a woman. Instead, she put her heart and soul into all things Old Town Monrovia. The formation of the Monrovia Old Town Advisory Board (MOTAB) became a liaison for merchants to the city powers that be.
In the early 1990s, there were empty parking lots and Monrovia was considered less than desirable for business. The late Mayor Bob Bartlett is unquestionably credited for reviving Monrovia and attracting businesses such as Trader Joe’s and Home Depot to the city. Pam was always there, too.
Pam rarely missed a Tuesday council meeting. After her death, members of the community wanted to get her name engraved on her seat in the public viewing area of City Council chambers. In lieu of that, a memorial bench for Pam was unveiled on March 8, 2019 right outside the former location of Dollmakers’ Kattywompus.
Many of our readers will remember Pam for her insightful, fun column that appeared in Monrovia Weekly until she became too ill to write. “The Old Town Report” was part history, part retail news and always fun and inspirational for the business and community at large. As an homage to Pam, one of her long-time friends Shawn Spencer now pens “The New Old Town Monrovia Report” which appears weekly in our newspapers.
She was active in the Chamber of Commerce and was president of MOTAB in 1997. She was also co-chair of the Foothill Unity Center Auxiliary and the president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Foothills. She lectured on topics regarding business at colleges such as Pasadena City College and the Andrew Jackson School. Her accomplishments earned her the Dick Lord Award and she was honored by State Senator Jack Scott and Assembly members Carol Liu and Dario Frommer for her exceptional work as a community volunteer.
The family connection and commitment to the city remains, despite the closure of the two businesses.
We asked Luke what’s next for his family. “The question of ‘what’s next’ has been asked many times over the last few days and I don’t know that I have an answer exactly, but I can say with absolute certainty that it will include Old Town Monrovia and that, although we don’t have a storefront, my truck will still be all over, and Max will be teaching music lessons downstairs at 50 W. Lemon. Old Town is our home and as business owners and active community members we will continue to be here supporting it day in and day out,” Luke said emphatically.
Despite the heart-rending losses in the family, somehow Pam Fitzpatrick’s legacy continues to command attention in the Monrovia community
Steve Baker, Monrovia’s historian, had some wonderful memories of Pam and her commitment to Monrovia. He kindly shared some of his thoughts.
“In June of 1996, one of my long-time tenants, Patricia Boye, died after suffering a heart attack. Pat had no immediate family. Her mother, also a resident of Monrovia, had died several years earlier. While burial arrangements were under discussion, Pam stepped forward and volunteered to lead an effort to raise funds for Pat’s burial at Live Oak Memorial Park. I didn’t realize until later that Pat, who had an interest in dollhouses and miniatures, had been befriended by the sisters at Dollmakers. Pam did not want to see Pat buried in a pauper’s grave, so she intervened to see that Pat received what Pam considered a proper burial,” Baker recalled.
“On two later occasions I worked with Pam in connection with the Monrovia Day celebration. We adapted the idea of having essentially a scavenger hunt in Old Town Monrovia and we called it ‘Birthday Bingo’ in honor of Monrovia’s birthday. Each participant was provided with a Bingo card and a list of questions relevant to businesses in Old Town. If a participant found the location and asked the right question, their bingo card was stamped. The goal was to entice potential new clients into businesses on Myrtle Avenue that they might not have frequented otherwise. The game was replete with volunteer guides and hint-givers on every corner, and a treasure trove of gifts assembled by Pam for the contestants with the greatest number of stamped spaces on their bingo cards. I am not sure if much new business was generated, but it did achieve the goal of increased exposure to Old Town by the general public.
“Our second Monrovia Day project was limited to Library Park and environs. This time the questions were multiple choice and related to landmarks in and around the park: how many sides to the fountain in the park, how many bronze plaques on the armed services memorial, etc.,” he shared.
“Pam’s brother, Jim, who did yeoman work during the holiday season as Santa at Christmas and chief installer of candy canes on light standards, preceded Pam in death by several years. Jim died, as did Pam, from throat cancer. I can remember the staff at the Monrovian Family Restaurant telling me with some distress of seeing Jim in the restaurant on a number of occasions attempting to eat a meal and lowering his head in defeat,” Baker said.
Monrovia Weekly has reported for years on the family. To read more, see “Summer in Town: A Happy Place at Monrovia’s Kattywompus”.