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The Reef, Stockton, CA (restaurant)

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Name:The Reef
Street:236 Linclon Center, Pacific Ave
Phone:GR 7-9614

Out of business since mid to late 70's the building is now "Stockton Joe's" restaurant.

While I was doing research on the Kona Apartments I decided to see what the old Stockton Islander phone book add looked like. I opened the book to the restaurant section and found two other Tiki style restaurants in Stockton in 1969. One of them was “The Reef” and it was in Lincoln Center just like the Islander.

I took to the trail and made it over to Lincoln Center starting at the location of the Islander, the address numbers didn’t match any thing. The Islander actually was in Lincoln Center South and so I drove across the street to the “Regular” Lincoln Center. I followed the numbers and there I found it at what is now Stockton Joes. Before it was Stockton Joes it was Carmen’s Mexican restaurant. I used to eat there often back in the 80’s. Some time between 1969 and around 1980 The Reef Closed down.

The add lists “Exotic Tropical Drinks”, “Lani & Luau rooms” and “Cantonese American foods”

A few days went by and I was thinking about the place a lot. I went back out there, dug around a bit and, with the help of an old high school friend, managed to get my hands on a 1959 Arial photo of Lincoln Center that shows The Reef restaurant sign.

I’ll do some more digging but for now this is what I have.

Happy hunting!

[ Edited by: abstractiki 2009-09-16 19:07 ]

[ Edited by: abstractiki 2009-09-21 17:17 ]

I'm back from the library with two new items. The first is this 1958 Stockton phone book add. Interesting thing is that the sign in the add is the one in this 1959 aerial photo of Lincoln Center.

Here is a another Reef Phonebook add from 1964. This one obviously the best of the three.


Great diligence Abstractiki....Urban Archeology rules...keep digging and thanks for the update. OGR

Thanks OGR! yes it does, i will and you're welcome. A Sailor Jerry's cheers! and onward i go...

Onward I went and found these two pics from 1957. One of the owners in front of a fire place and the other is of the Luau Room. There was two 10x4ft paintings on the walls done by a local artist named Kim Leow. He was 34 years old in 1957. The restaurant cost $50,000. It featured a built in bird aviary and two aquariums. There were ceramic face masks in the interior made by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gray. The tower sign was 20ft high and included the Reef name in Neon. It was also a chimney for the fire place.

Elves Marengo and Pete Massei owners

Elves Marengo and another partner Frank Yip in the Luau Room

Also I saw a picture of Chuck Connors and Charlton Heston at the entrance of the place. They were in town filming a movie and went to have dinner.

Early morning hunting trip in Lodi, returned with this Wine List from the Stockton Reef restaurant. I paid less than a buck for it. On the back it has the tropical drinks listed. Note: "Tahitian Cooler","Zombie","Devils Tail" "Head Hunter" and "Koko Kiki" on the list. The Zombie is the most expensive and goes for $2.00.



Happy Hunting!

I just purchased these two pictures from the Bank of Stockton Archives.

This first one has an un-named woman (left), Reef Owner Pete Massei (center) and Reef Co-Owner Elves Marengo (right) at a ribbon cutting ceremony for The Reef's Grand Opening.

The Reef ribbon ceremony 1957

This second one shows Movie Stars Chuck Connors and Charlton Heston with an un-known woman and Owner Pete Massei at The Reef for dinner. They had been in Stockton filming the movie "The Big Country".

Chuck Connors, unknown woman, Pete Massei and Charlton Heston

I dug this up at a Stockton antique store last week. Its a crappy Reef ad in a 1962 Miss Stockton Pageant program. Reef treasure is kinda hard to find. The car next to the ad is a swanky Oldsmobile Starfire.

Well, I've been diggin as usual and some how this last dig led me to me! I am connected to the Reef! OK, ok its a stretch but hear me out.

My wife had a best friend in highschool. This best friend was in our wedding party 20 years ago as a brides maid. Going over my notes on the Reef I realized one of the owners last name was Marengo and I remember my wife telling me a long time ago that her best friend was connected to the Marengo shopping center on Pacific ave. in Stockton. Could this be the same Marengo as Reef owner Elves Marengo? She also told me her best friend has and uncle in Stockton. So figuring her uncle was older and should know more about it I google his number. The next day I call him up and he had to think a bit... then he told me yes indeed! Elves Marengo was his mothers cusin.

I gave him the usual interview, he told he did eat at the Reef but didn't rember to much about it. He also said that Elves had several brothers but they had all passed away. He had lost touch with any next of kin. So any way there you have it. My wifes best friend's uncle's mother's cousin was a co-owner of The Reef! :)

Ok back at it, the trail went cold and with no where else to turn I called a PI friend of mine. I asked him to see what he could dig up on Elves Marengo and Pete Massei.

He sent back a letter telling me that Marengo had passed away on 12/20/01 and Massei on 11/01/2000. It also had Marengo's last known address and a phone number for Massei.

Today I went to the address for Marengo and talked a lady living there. She confirmed that Marengo had lived there in the past and that she had bought the home from the Marengo's but didn't have any other info i was looking for.

I tried the house next door and talked to an older couple who had lived there since 1967. They remembered Marengo and the Reef. They even rembered Tahiti Iti's and they liked both places. They said Marengo was a nice man and that he had died in a boating accident. They gave me the phone number for his son Mori and I called him up a short time later.

Mori remembered the Reef as a small child but didn't have any pictures or other info. He said he has a younger brother but didn't think he had any info either.

Next I called the phone number for Massei and it turned out to be his nephewes number. He said that he had heard of the place and thought that his uncle was only involved in it for a few years before opening another restaurant in Lodi. He said his father and uncle had passed away several years ago and didnt have any other information other than that.

I only have one lead left at the moment. The older couple that lived next door to Marengo told me the name of a lady that worked as a waitress at the Reef. Ill see if i can track her down.

Nice work. I have seen that unknown women in movies before. I don't remember her name, but if I ever see a movie with her again, I will post here. Love the pictures.

It's Jean Simmons who was also in The Big Country


Hey Abstractiki!

Mahalo for all the detective work you're doing uncovering Stockton's Poly Pop past! Who knew that there was so much at one time? Although, sadly, the Islander and all the rest are only memories, you are keeping the memories alive... and uncovering information that would have never seen the light of day otherwise!

I'm sure anyone who has an interest in urban archaeology appreciates all your efforts!

Awesome story of your connection to the reef, by the way!

The other day I was searching a Manteca CA phone book for Tiki. Manteca is about a 10 minute drive south from Stockton. One of the things I found was this ad for Massei's restaurant.

The name caught my eye as I knew it was the name of one of the owners of the Stockton Reef restaurant. I looked further and found that it said "Formerly The Reef"

The ad appeared in the 1968 Golden State Telephone Co. phone book. so I guess 1968 was end for the Reef restaurant in Stockton.

Earlier this year I was contacted by Reef partner and kitchen manager Frank Yip's niece. She found me via Tiki Central. She put me in-touch with her mom who is Franks younger sister. I was finally able to meet with her yesterday and she shared many artifacts from this Stockton tiki temple.

She told me that the reef had tiki mugs in the early days but that people stole so many of them they stopped using them. They also had special Reef ash trays made in Honolulu and also Reef matchbooks.

Frank Yip also opened the Cathay restaurant that housed the Tiki Room at the Lodi Bowl bowling-ally. He sold his part in the Reef after a few years to Peter Massie who later turned it into Massie's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge.

We did not have a lot of time and we agreed to meet again in October. She was very nice and gave me a Menu from The Cathay restaurant Frank opened in Lodi. More on that later in the Tokay Bowl Tiki Room thread.

Cool matchbook.

Love the words printed right on the matches.

Backside of Reef Postcard sent from Honolulu Hawaii.

Reef Postcard, the best images of The Reef ever discovered.

Invitation to soft opening at The Reef.

Inside of Chinese New Year celebration program.

Close up of The Reef advertising on back of Cathay restaurant menu.

Blank invitation to the Reef's 3rd year anniversary open house.

Reef ash tray made in Honolulu.

Ash tray underside.

There is more treasure and artifacts I will post soon.
Happy Hunting!

[ Edited by: abstractiki 2013-09-22 09:02 ]

Aaah abstract's at it again! Good work!

And I think I had missed the Tokay Bowl thread before...


"The Tiki Room Teenage Nite Club -Featuring Mistic Frantic Recording Artists

...how trippy! :)

Thanks big bro, I tried searching for that mushroom band but couldn't find anything. I would Love to see a picture of them.

Here are some newspaper artifacts of the Reef I got from Frank Yip's niece.

She also showed me the Reef Guest book. I looked inside and found the autographs of Hollywood Actors Chuck Connors, Charlton Heston, Bob Morgan and Chuck Robertson. They were in town for the filming of Big country.

We all know about Connors and Heston but I found out that Bob Morgan and Chuck Robertson were big time stunt men with hundreds of credits between them. Morgan also had 46 acting credits and Robertson had 144.

Morgan once appeared in an episode of a TV show called The Islanders and Robertson was in an episode of Lost in Space as an "Alien Fighter".

I do also recognize several names of prominent Stocktonians.

Front cover of the Reef guest book.

Autographs of Charlton Heston, Chuck Robertson, Bob Morgan and Chuck Connors.

Back cover of Reef guest book.

Inside cover with big autographs. I think one is Jean Simmons but i cant make it out for sure.

Inside label

When I met Mr. Yip's niece she told me this story of how Fabian was in town once filming a movie and came to the Reef. She said something like it was crazy with teenagers mobbing and trashing the place. Never again she said. I didn't give it much thought because I never heard of Fabian coming to Stockton but i just did a search and found that he made the movie High Time (released in 1960) in Stockton.

High Times movie promotional poster.

Movie still shot.



Abstractiki does it again! Thank you so much for uncovering another facet of forgotten tiki from Stockton's past!

The interior shots you've been able to post are fascinating! It would be so great of these places were still around today.

I'd be interested to see the ceramic masks that are mentioned in the newspaper article... if you can dig up photos of those... or better yet, the actual masks, that would be awesome!

You really need to compile all of your discoveries into a book... and call it something like "Mid-Century Central Valley Tiki"... I know an artist who is dying to create work for it! (hint hint... that would be me)

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