by Timothy Rutt
The Altadena Chamber of Commerce has named its annual Citizen of the Year and, for the second time, its Business of the Year.
Citizen of the Year for 2012 is author/historian/activist Michele Zack, whose award-winning Altadena: Between Wilderness and City is the definitive history of the town.
Altadena's Business of the Year is Altadena Hardware, 849 East Mariposa Street. Altadena Hardware was already a local institution that was purchased by Jim Orlandini and his family in 2010, and today serves Altadena both as a thriving business and good community citizen.
Coming back home to Altadena, Zack immersed herself in the community, serving on the Watershed Committee and the Altadena Foothills Conservancy (now Arroyo & Foothills Conservancy) and serving three terms on the Altadena Town Council. She was also involved in the Altadena Hillsides Working Group, whose efforts resulted in the county's approval of an Altadena Hillside Management Ordinance to preserve the foothills from encroaching development.
Zack was just beginning her career switch from journalism to writing about local history when she was commissioned by the Altadena Historical Society to write Altadena: Between Wilderness and City, published in 2004. The book was recognized for excellence by the American Association of State and Local History, and in 2006 she received the Donald Pflueger Award from the Historical Society of Southern California.
In 2009, she published Southern California Story: Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre, commissioned by the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society. It was honored by the American Association of State and Local History at its 2010 annual meeting.
But Zack does not only write about local history: she makes it. You'll find evidence of her activity all over town, from the Marengo Avenue Pocket Park, to the the oak trees that now grace the corridor at Fair Oaks Avenue, and most recently as one of the key organizers of Altadena's successful 125th Birthday Bash on Nov. 3, a party that celebrated all things Altadena.
In 2011, she joined the The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West as Senior Advisor, Local History and K-12 Outreach. ICW pairs a great research university (USC) with a great research library (The Huntington) for a number of projects in doctoral education, public outreach, and thematic and innovative investigations of Western History. She is also an avid and ambitious home gardener.
Currently, Zack writes an occasional column for Altadenablog and is on the board of Altadena Heritage, the platform for much of her activism, where her husband Mark Goldschmidt is chairman: “We really are a team,” she says. As for being named Citizen of the Year, Zack says,"It's a big honor, and I'm very gratified and a little surprised and happy … I think of myself as an activist, sort of a rabble rouser, although I like to work in the institutions we have."
Altadena Hardware has been a community institution for over 80 years. After being owned by one family for three generations, it was for sale In 2010 and some feared it might close. But Altadena resident Jim Orlandini purchased the store, and he may have been the best one to take it on.
In the late 1970’s. Jim took over running the store on a day-to-day basis with sister Janet in the back office. Jim’s wife Paula has also worked there for over 30 years.
Jim and his family moved to Altadena in 1985, becoming actively involved with St. Elizabeth’s Church and School. Jim had been wanting to branch out, and Altadena Hardware had been on his radar for awhile. When owners Don Thomas and his sister Shirley Harrington wanted to retire and were looking for a buyer, Jim Orlandini stepped up.
Today, Jim still works at Newland Hardware, with his son Jimmy managing the Altadena store and wife Paula serving as its bookkeeper.
Since taking over the store, the Orlandinis have expanded the inventory and updated the displays, but Jimmy says that they’re determined to keep the vintage small town hardware store look and feel. They recently won the battle with county inspectors to keep the store’s original 1915 vintage scale for bulk nails in operation.
Altadena Hardware and the Orlandinis also give back to the community in many ways. They have helped the Pasadena Waldorf School Elves’ Faire, the local Church World Service CROP Hunger Walk, the City of Pasadena’s Human Services and Recreation Department for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the Pasadena Christian School, the Altadena Guild of Huntington Memorial Hospital, and the Sheriff’s Support Group of Altadena, among others. And, Paula says, “We are always willing to help Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.”
Citizen of the Year Michele Zack and Business of the Year Altadena Hardware will be honored by the Altadena Chamber of Commerce at an event at the Altadena Town & Country Club on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013.