Familiar sign adorns historic building

Something old is new again

Familiar sign adorns historic buildingBy ELIZABETH BABCOCK

Special to the News Review

Take a short trip down our main street and you’ll spot an amazing juxtaposition at a huge World War II-era Quonset building, 216 West Ridgecrest Boulevard, where the space-age “JT4” logo in the window appears to clash with a newly painted yet oddly familiar sign hanging overhead and proudly identifying the structure as “Victory Market.”

The continuing presence of that sign came about when the building’s owners and its new occupants agreed that the structure could signify both our town’s enduring history and the evolving need for change that exemplifies our relationship with the Navy at China Lake.

The building’s current tenant, JT4, is a Las Vegas-based company that provides engineering and technical support for multiple Air Force and Navy test ranges, including those at China Lake. The company operates out of several buildings in our valley, including the structure that had diverse uses before becoming today’s center for technical expertise.

The owners of the property are Teresa Jacobs and her son Tim, who run TNT Western Homes, a real estate and property management firm located at 219 W. Station St. in the one-story building at the rear of the Victory parking lot. They are the daughter and grandson of Mac (Amerigo) Rizzardini, member of a pioneering local family.

The Victory Market is descended from Ridgecrest’s very first grocery store, also named Victory Market, which Rizzardini opened in 1944 on the site of today’s Red Rock Books, owned and managed by Ann Rizzardini. You can see a rare photo of that first market in “High Desert Double Exposures,” a new Maturango Museum book by Mark Pahuta and me that you can purchase at (yes!) Red Rock Books, among other places.

Hiring was difficult in the immediate postwar era. Pat Farris, editor-publisher of this newspaper, remembers that she was only 13 when she got a job as the little market’s first cashier.

That first Victory Market didn’t last long; it was destroyed by a devastating fire in August 1945. By then the Navy had established a firm toehold in our valley, and a larger market was just what our little town needed.

By 1946 Rizzardini was ready to open the new Victory Market at its current location. The building’s 7,900 square feet of floor space encompassed nationally advertised brands of canned and packaged goods, meats, frozen foods, fresh vegetables, even a bakery — an inventory that’s standard in today’s markets but amazing to residents who lived with scant choices during the earliest postwar years.

After the market prospered for more than three decades in its Quonset building, it was replaced by Jim Wheeler’s Western Auto. In recent years, an antiques gallery and a martial arts academy used the venerable building’s commodious spaces. Photos of these four phases of the building’s life also appear in “High Desert Double Exposures.”

Last year JT4 representatives consulted with the owners with the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert about the historical significance of the building the company was about to occupy.

“They felt honored to be moving in there,” said Carol Porter of HSUMD. “It’s nice when a new contractor comes into the community and wants to keep alive the history of one of our early businesses.”

With the owners’ enthusiastic support, JT4 then renovated the Victory Market sign that now hangs above the “Rizzardini block” of downtown Ridgecrest.

Pictured: The historic Victory Market sign perches on a World War II-era Quonset building.

Story First Published: 2021-01-15