The Country Kitchen, a longtime burger-turned-burrito joint on the east end of Malibu, staggered forward into 2015, operating on a month-to-month lease and an imminent closure hanging over its head since September.
Although owner Maurice “Maury” Kilbourne said he was hoping the ordeal would be over and the small restaurant, which has been operating near the corner of Rambla Vista on PCH since 1972, would be closed by December, The Country Kitchen has escaped joining the ranks of other Malibu businesses shuttered in 2014, including La Costa Mission, Diesel, A Bookstore and Howdy’s.
“We are actually probably going to be here for a little while,” Kilbourne said Monday.
According to Kilbourne, it has been a long and complicated process for the new owners to take over the strip mall, which includes a liquor store and a chiropractor’s office, although the details are still murky.
The City of Malibu’s planning department said it has two names on file involved with a Conditional Use Permit application for moving the neighboring liquor store — Carter Clark and Michael Deeb.
“I actually wanted to get out of here by the 15th of last month and get it over with,” Kilbourne said, “and it’s not because I don’t like it here, but it’s just a mess and you can’t really do anything.”
Kilbourne’s hopes of keeping the business open are slim, since the building’s selling price was so high.
“The thing is, even if they gave me a new lease, I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” Kilbourne said.
Kilbourne, together with longtime employees such as Joel Ruiz, did experience an outpouring of support from the community since it was first reported the restaurant had lost its lease.
An informal “save the Country Kitchen” petition on a clipboard at the restaurant has gathered upwards of 2,500 signatures, according to Kilbourne, who also says he’s spoken to old customers he hasn’t seen in 30 years, who came by to say a final farewell.
“A lot of the old people who used to bring their kids down here, now their kids have kids,” Kilbourne said. He also mentioned that no fewer than four local attorneys offered free legal services to him, and he’s currently being helped through the process by one of them.
Diesel, A Bookstore, was among the handful of Malibu small businesses that didn’t make it into 2015, closing its doors for the last time in July.
At the end of July, owner John Evans wrote in an email that the bookstore would again try its hand in Malibu, should the opportunity arise.
“DIESEL in Malibu is closed... for now,” Evans wrote in an email at the time, adding, “We will let you know if a viable location, with a reasonable rent, shows up.”
Another beloved business announcing its closure was 98% Angel, a children’s clothing store in the Country Mart that’s marked to be shuttered at the end of next month.
First opened in March 1993, owners and mother-daughter business partners Kathie and Zoe Shapiro discovered late last year their lease would not be renewed and decided not to move locations.
“I don’t know where else I would have a store,” Kathie told The Malibu Times in November.
“Our location is so amazing,” Zoe added.
The strip mall once home to Thai Dishes, Malibu Hot Yoga and various other small businesses has been shuttered for several months as well, undergoing a major renovation.
It hasn’t been all bad news for Malibu businesses, since new openings such as Vintage Grocers at the Trancas Country Market made grocery shopping for westsiders more of a joy and less of an ordeal.
Malibu native Zacarias de la Cruz worked for 12 years at the original Trancas Market and, later, HOWS Market. He then took the job at Vintage Grocers.
“Everyone in the community is … very excited about the opening of a new grocery store to serve Malibu and the surrounding area,” he said. “Our community is unique, eclectic and always interesting. Vintage Grocers seems like a perfect fit for it.”
Other locals, such as Cindy and Tim O’Shea, wrote to The Malibu Times to express their delight with the new shopping center.
“Well, OK, OK, OK ... it’s about time for a great new market in Malibu!” they wrote, “Congratulations, Vintage Grocers, you did good!”
Mangia Restaurant also opened at the Trancas center, along with Malibu Beach House design store.