By Michael Picarella
Local businessman Vance Moran, 82, best known as the landlord and co-founder, with the late Art Whizin, of Whizin’s Mall in Agoura Hills, retired last week after Art’s son Bruce requested to take over the operation, according to Moran. Moran plans to relocate to his hometown of Covington in Louisiana.
Moran, a Camarillo resident, said he’ll stay in the area for several more months, but will most likely start up new businesses in Louisiana.
"I won’t have any spare time," Moran said. "I’ll get into something . . . I’m not anywhere near stopping work. I enjoy work. I mostly enjoy the people."
Moran has a brother and several cousins and nieces in Louisiana. He looks forward to seeing them soon, he said. But he does leave the area somewhat involuntarily. He probably wouldn’t have given up operations of Whizin’s had Bruce not asked to take over, he said.
"Bruce feels—and I don’t disagree with him—that he should’ve taken over the operation of the shopping center rather than me," Moran said. "If it was my father, I’d think so, too. The only thing is, his father didn’t feel that great about Bruce. Anyway, I’m not going to stand in anybody’s way."
A document states that upon Art Whizin’s death, which was about 10 years ago, Moran would take over all operations, according to Moran. Moran could fight to keep his position at Whizin’s, but has opted not to.
"One thing (Bruce’s) dad specified was that Bruce Whizin never get control of that shopping center," Moran said. "But I don’t agree with that. I think Bruce will do a good job with it."
Bruce said he’s not aware of any contract regarding Moran’s supposed take-over.
"There’s nothing in (my dad’s) wills or trust about Vance taking over," Bruce said. "My dad and I have always had the legal authority."
Bruce said he will take over operations of Whizin’s mall only for a brief time until he can find an on-site manager.
"Vance has been very loyal, good to us, good to the community and I hold him in the highest regard," Bruce said. "I wish him well."
Moran leaves behind quite a legacy. A book called "Ghosts of Time" describes that legacy and tells Moran’s life story. The book, written by Don Goodman, is based on more than 16 hours of recorded conversations between Moran and Goodman. The author describes Moran as a businessman, philanthropist and war hero, and said Moran is a genuine candidate to be included in Tom Brokaw’s "Greatest Generation."
"In order to be a hero you have to take risks and Vance has certainly taken a lot of risks," Goodman said.
Moran risked daily beatings by an alcoholic father and an angry mother who was frustrated by the family’s dirt-poor life. During World War II, Moran risked his life as a pilot, navigator and bombardier aboard the B-17s and B-24s that flew over Nazi-occupied Europe and North Africa.
At the age of 6 Moran had a job and was already making money. When he was 12, he went to work at a theater, where he also earned his room and board. Some of the money he sent home to his parents and his 11 brothers and sisters. Even the $8 he saved up to buy clothes for his senior prom he gave to his family to stave off bill collectors. Moran never made it to the prom.
But Moran learned a lot about business in his youth. The skills he learned allowed him to create an operate a very successful restaurant in Northern California, which he had to leave when his dad became sick. On his drive back to Louisiana to be with his dad, Moran stopped in Agoura Hills for a cup of coffee and met Art Whizin.
He and Whizin talked business, a discussion that influenced Moran’s move to Southern California. Moran and Whizin formed a partnership that led to the opening of a restaurant at Cornell Corners (now Wood Ranch) in 1954. In 1962, the two entrepreneurs built a row of buildings (now antique stores) on Roadside Drive. Six years later they built a market on Roadside Drive. In 1972, they built a bigger building that’s now the Canyon Club.
Today, Whizin’s Mall is known for accurately preserving the architecture and style of the area’s past.
Will be missed
Moran is given much of the credit for the success of Whizin’s and many of the mall’s tenants say they regret his departure.
"Vance was a mentor and a leader for all of us young guys trying to get businesses started," said Carlo Castelazo of Castelazo and Associates Insurance Services, a business that’s located in Whizin’s Mall. "When we were in trouble, he helped us out by keeping our offices open. He helped us out with furniture when we couldn’t afford to buy any. The man did so many things for us."
Moran also cooked soup for the tenants of Whizin’s every week, according to Castelazo.
"He’s an amazing guy and everyone is going to miss him," said Castelazo’s son Glenn, who also works for the Castelazo insurance company. "He’s like clockwork. He’s dependable and worthy."
Glenn said the tenants at Whizin’s shed tears over the news of Moran’s retirement and relocation.
"He’s like our mother bird, and he’s leaving the nest," Glenn said. "People moved into Whizin’s because (Moran) was the landlord."
Castelazo and Associates Insurance Services has been in business for over 35 years. Four generations of family work at the location in the Whizin’s Mall because Moran’s generosity as a landlord, Glenn said.
Moran has his regrets, too.
"I hate to leave," Moran said. "The place is always full—there’s never any vacancies. But I’m getting out when (business) is good."