Woven into the tight-knit community fabric of Toluca Lake is Ramsey-Shilling Associates, a boutique real estate brokerage that’s been promoting the neighborhood for more than 40 years.
Longtime residents Paul Ramsey, who lived on Toluca Road, and Lee Shilling, who lived on Sancola Avenue, opened their Toluca Lake office in 1964, after first opening in Hollywood in 1953 and then branching out to Hollywood Hills in 1960. In 1971, Toluca’s landmark Ramsey-Shilling building was built at Forman Avenue and Riverside Drive and has become a focal point for the community. “The building is where Santa sits and we give away refreshments during the annual Toluca Lake Christmas Open House,” says Michael Alley, managing partner and CEO of the company’s Hollywood Hills and Toluca Lake locations. “Residents also know us as the local polling place for voters.”
In addition, people may recognize Ramsey-Shilling as the sponsor of two charity events for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles each year at the Lakeside Golf Club or as a donor to the annual Pancake Breakfast put on by the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce. Locals likely know that “every Fourth of July, our agents put American flags at the end of the driveways of homes throughout Toluca Lake. In October, our offices give away pumpkins perfect for carving,” Alley says.
To say that Ramsey-Shilling is a big community supporter is putting it mildly. Six of its brokers have been or are the current president of the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce, Alley notes. Most of the firm’s salespeople either live in Toluca Lake or are members of the Chamber. Realtors are also involved with the Toluca Lake Homeowners Association, the Toluca Lake Garden Club and the Greater Toluca Lake Neighborhood Council, he points out.
Alley, too, has deep roots in the community. He moved to Toluca Lake from Studio City in 1979. Like his parents, he purchased his house through Ramsey-Shilling. In 1984, Alley left the music business for a career in real estate. He met with Bob Bacon, manager of the Toluca Lake Ramsey-Shilling office, then joined the firm shortly afterward. Five years later, Alley became a partner and manager at Toluca Lake. By 1991, he rose to become CEO of Ramsey-Shilling Associates in Toluca Lake and Hollywood Hills, overseeing 55 employees. The company assists clients with sales, leases and purchases of residential, investment, commercial and industrial properties.
“I enjoy describing the Toluca Lake community to people who newly discover it,” Alley says. The residents, business owners and employees work together “to address traffic, growth, parking and preservation of quality-of-life experiences in a village-like environment,” he says.
“Toluca Lake encapsulates Old Hollywood nostalgia, with on-trend spots,” he continues. “I remember first eating at Bob’s Big Boy and being served in the family car.”
Not only that, the neighborhood is also a favorite, er, haunting ground for many others come Halloween. “Every Halloween, I sit outside the home of a longtime friend and pass out candy,” Alley says. “Busloads of children come to Toluca Lake for the king-sized candy bars, and their parents can be sure that they are safe here.”
Ever the community booster, Alley shares that some of his agents’ favorite eating spots include Hungry Crowd, Prosecco, Malbec and Sweetsalt. “Forman’s [Whiskey] Tavern’s happy hour has been an after-work stop for agents,” adds Alley, who also gives a shout-out to PCMac Tech for its “excellent customer service.”
“If you enjoy history about Toluca Lake, stop by our office,” Alley suggests, noting that third-generation brokers are among its 35 full-time agents there. “The center lobby has a large aerial photo of the community from the 1950s, [and] we have a map from the 1930s that lists the celebrity homes of that era.”