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February 10, 2005

Valerie Jean's

[I've edited this entry to make the photos more accessible - Ron's Log, Nov. 23, 2009]

Valerie Jeans (2)

Valerie Jeans (1)

Valerie Jean's Interior

Valerie Jean's Timber
After the formation of the Salton Sea, the resulting scrap railroad ties and telegraph poles were free for the taking.
Valerie Jean's was built using these materials.

Valerie Jean's Interior Palm
A palm tree inside the store.

On old Route 86 as it passes through Thermal, California, you will find the now-closed location of Valerie Jean's at Avenue 66. Valerie Jean's opened in 1928 as the first place to retail dates directly from the growers to the consumers. They are responsible for creating all the trappings of date retailing with which we are all familiar: the date rolled in coconut, the almond-stuffed date, gift boxes of fancy dates, the mail order catalog, and [drumroll please] the date shake! This was Route 99 at the time, which bore all of the traffic through the area. Valerie Jean's was hugely successful and became one of the must-see California tourist attractions.

When this original building was constructed, they used railroad ties and telegraph poles left from the disaster that formed the Salton Sea. These were free for the taking.

Traffic passing this site declined over time due to the construction of I-10, Route 111 and the new Route 86S. That, coupled with declining demand for dates, brought Valerie Jean's to the sad state we now see. It is listed as a historical landmark — which I am fairly sure provides it no protection at all. Someone does seem to be living on the property.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Photography | permalink | February 10, 2005 at 02:39 PM


We knew Nick of the Valley. Last time we saw Valerie Jean we were given a crate or more of dates. Nick wanted to adopt my husband mom
We miss the good ole days

Posted by: Marshall at Dec 22, 2023 1:11:31 PM

We knew Nick of the Valley. Last time we saw Valerie Jean we were given a crate or more of dates. Nick wanted to adopt my husband mom
We miss the good ole days

Posted by: Marshall at Dec 22, 2023 1:11:31 PM

We knew Nick of the Valley. Last time we saw Valerie Jean we were given a crate or more of dates. Nick wanted to adopt my husband mom
We miss the good ole days

Posted by: Marshall at Dec 22, 2023 1:11:31 PM

I also was named after the town. Exactly the same spelling. I was born in 1954 and lived in Garden Grove. My dad named me and he died early in my childhood so I never asked him about the town and what he meant to him. I would love to see some type of postcard or anything with the name on it.

Posted by: Valerie Jean Harwood at Dec 13, 2022 7:02:09 AM

My Mom was also named after Valerie Jeans Date Shop! My grandfather was a truck driver when she was born back in 1954 and used to drive by there often. She’s just passed away and I’m so sad to see it’s closed.

Posted by: Corrine Luersen at Mar 11, 2022 2:15:59 PM

Very informative podcast, Nora Vetter. Thank you!

Posted by: Ron at Aug 13, 2021 9:44:36 AM

I recently had the honor of speaking to Valerie Jean's son, Russell (named after his Grandfather) for a podcast episode about the Date Shake. He very kindly shared some wonderful photos, resources (including this site) and many wonderful memories that can be heard in the episode. https://pnc.st/s/local-farey-tales/9ce70a33/the-local-farey-tale-of-the-date-shake

Posted by: Nora Vetter at Aug 12, 2021 11:42:45 PM

Does anybody know who owns this property now, and if it is for sale?

Posted by: Julie Schubert at Apr 10, 2021 10:40:44 PM

Thank you so much for posting this. My grandmother was married to Russell Nicoll for a short time. My mother had great memories of Russell and Valerie Jeans. It is heartbreaking to see these photos but will add them to the family album I am putting together to honor my mother and her life.

Posted by: Cynthia Grana at Jun 6, 2018 2:13:00 PM

ME TOO! I was little. I used to run around there in the palms and drink a date shake

Posted by: Rose at Feb 7, 2018 2:51:01 PM

I too was named after Valerie Jean....by the time I was born my parents lived in norther, CA. My husband and I and our youngest son and one of his friends got to visit the shop in the 1980's. I even corresponded with Valerie, Mr. Nicol's daughter. A very nice lady.

Posted by: Valerie Jean Lassiter at Aug 17, 2017 3:54:42 PM

I would work in Mecca and Thermal during the grape picking season during the summers. It was always so very hot and often at the end of a day's works my dad would take me to Valerie Jeans' to get a date shake. I lived in the San Joaquin Valley so dates were a treat since we didn't grow them where I live. When I came home from the US Army and my tour in Vietnam I made the 220 mile drive from home to Valerie Jeans to sit under the shade of Solomon the date tree and enjoy a date shake. Valerie Jeans represented a time in space in which life was less complicated and all it took was a date shake to make the day right. I often stop by there on my way to Phoenix AZ and remember the importance of a place like Valerie Jeans to touch people in ways they would never expect. Even in its current condition I can still remember all the people gathered their to by dates and all the other delicious goods they sold.

Posted by: David at Feb 8, 2017 9:39:22 AM

Yes, i am so sad, it has closed down, i grew up in Imperial & El Centro, Ca,
and we often traveled to San Jose, Ca, always stopped to have the famous Valarie Jean date milkshake, always...
Part of my old neighborhood.
i live in San Jose, i am 63.

Posted by: elena ponciano at Feb 2, 2016 2:47:46 PM

As a family we traveled from Imperial Valley to San Bernardino every summer to visit relatives and never missed stopping at Valerie Jeans Date Shop.

Posted by: Ginny Jorgenson at Mar 23, 2015 2:15:15 PM

My grandmother brought me a special box of the dates from Valerie Jean one year. I loved them & the special box they came in with my name on it. I remember thinking that I would save that pretty box forever. I was probably age 7 or 8 at the time. I never got the story that I was named after a date shop but am wondering now as my father was a traveling salesman at the time. I do remember my mom saying that she did Not reveal my name for a week or so as she thought family members would not like it. I have always loved my name & thought it was interesting as in my high school graduating class there were three Valerie Jeans.

Posted by: Valerie. Jean Buell at Feb 8, 2014 9:56:55 AM

well, been a while since 2- 08 but am reposting a remembrance about the smeads' and wondering about jean kelly and her time in the valley in those years 50's 60's I had to leave to santa barbara 210 miles north on the coast. No dates production there...finished @ san marcos high. worked for the sb news press8 yrs. till 78 then into bussiness ...doing repair and construction... just wondering about john webb, now in texas??...saw his mention on this blog and recently visited with the lyles from 100 palms...used to play many a game with them and the burrages... and smeads and angels and many friends just passing through that farming community and 100 palms... wondering if anybody is out there wants to chat g.w. shaulis 1-2014 55 yrs gone by in a blink...

Posted by: grant shaulis at Jan 18, 2014 12:15:18 PM

I'm working on a heritage scrapbook of my family and just discovered this site. I too was named after Valerie Jean's. My parents couldn't decide what to name me when they came upon the shop during a trip in the summer of 1948. It was decided!

Posted by: Valerie Jean Crowe at Aug 4, 2013 3:50:07 PM

My wife and I drove by Valerie Jeans on July 25, 2011. As you know it is all boarded up and in very poor condition.
My late grandfather Charles Bangle was acquainted with Russ Nicoll. He stopped there often for a date shake. He also wrote a short note titled "Romance of the Date" that Nicoll displayed at the 1942 Date Festival in Indio. After that, you could see it on the wall at Valerie Jeans along with the other displayed memorabilia. While I was in the area, I talked to the owner of the gas station across the street who said the place was striped, nothing left inside. I had hoped it might still be inside.
I have been trying to locate a copy of my grandfather's short piece to use in his biography. Does anyone remember seeing it? How about information about who might have the items from the old store?

Posted by: Rod at Aug 7, 2011 6:30:15 PM

I was partly name after this Date Shop. The story goes my dad was working I the area and called home every night to check on my expecting mother. He said in one of his calls that " I have a name picked out if the baby is a girl, Valerie Jean " My mom liked the name except for the Jean since there was too many Jeans in the family already. So name me Valerie Dale Darapiza . So when any talks about who they are name after. I proudly say "I was named after a Date Shop in 1954 "

Posted by: Valerie Darapiza at Jan 19, 2011 10:02:22 AM

By the urging of my Aunt Lea in North Dakota to look up Valerie Jean I came across this site. I too was named in part at least after this town. I was born and raised in Garden Grove, CA. My dad was in the Navy and spent time out in the area. He loved the dates here and also met the original owners and their daughter. So when he met my mom in 1965 and a month later proposed he told her that if they ever had a daughter he would like to name her Valerie Jean. In about 1996 while spending the day at Crystal Cove i met an artist named Valerie Jean who was also named after this historic town. Thank You Aunt Lea for urging me to look into my history.

Posted by: Valerie Jean Miears Barraza at Nov 7, 2010 5:25:56 AM

Here is the web address for the artwork I mentioned in my previous post:


OR go to www.ArtistLA.com

Posted by: A. Hale at Nov 2, 2010 7:55:54 PM

My husband Melvin Hale is an award-winning artist and postcard archivist who is collected worldwide for his vinage digital paintings of Palm Springs, Southern California and beyond. One of his most precious works is called "The Big Red Arrow at Valerie Jean Dates" c1945. It is based on an old black and white vintage postcard in his collection. I've included the link for those of you who love this place as much as we do. We did get a chance to visit the building, although long closed, but really loved the groves surrounding the place. Hope you enjoy the art, and it is available in limited edition.

Posted by: A. Hale at Nov 2, 2010 7:54:39 PM

When I was a kid growing up in Imperial Valley in the 50's-60's, we passed through Valerie Jean several times a year visiting relatives in San Bernardino. Our car didn't have a/c either, and it was brutal in the summer crossing that dessert! We always begged to stop to cool off (yeah that was a good excuse..ha) at the Purple Onion drive-in in Indio, and at Valerie Jean's for dessert. I loved VJ's dates stuffed with an almond then rolled in coconut (my kids love them now too)..but my favorite thing to order was not the date shake..but rather a cactus shake, and a date filled cookie. My mouth is watering just thinking about them! To the person who said they hate dates: I won't eat a plain ol' date, but I finally figured out that what I didn't like was the skin itself. But peeled and piped into the center of that chewy cookie they made..umm ummm!

Posted by: Paula McCollum at Sep 26, 2010 11:28:30 AM

Well, imagine this -- I was named after this place too! My name is Valerie Jean (no spelling changes, just the real thing). My parents also visted the date shop while "dating". I was born on June 9th, 1961. I have purchased two postcards, on eBay, of the Valerie Jean Date Garden and BOTH were postmarked 1961 !! I also have a brochure that reads "How about a date ... with Valerie Jean?" too cool :)

Posted by: Valerie Jean at Aug 11, 2010 11:30:13 PM

My family lived in the Wind Sand and Stars trailer park next door from 1951 to about 1953. Walked to the date shop many times. and passed there every day on the school bus. wish I could go back in time now live in Utah.

Posted by: Bill Plumhof at Aug 4, 2010 5:12:53 PM

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