The Malibu Colony Coffee Shop

Brian Merrick | January 22, 2024

The Colony Coffee Shop

For many years in the early days of Malibu the local hangout was the Colony Coffee Shop which also had a pharmacy attached to it.  Built in approximately 1957 the Malibu Colony Coffee Shop was the heartbeat of middle Malibu and home to generous portions of pancakes and eggs.  Designed by world famous Paul Williams it had an architectural pedigree which would be valued in today’s world of retro fashion and design.  However, in 1988 it did not fit the character of developers of the time and was considered old and obsolete. 

A Los Angeles Times article in 1988 lamenting the demise of the coffee shop had this to say: “At a time when most of the ‘50s-style diners have been built in the ‘80s, the cafe stands out as a weathered original. The vinyl booths are faded, the Formica tables a little unsteady, and the cash register is loud and bulky. And about the only thing digital in the place can be found on the wrist of a customer.”   

It was where celebrities and locals alike would gather each morning for breakfast or lunch.  It would be common to see Michael Landon, Joni Mitchell, Robert Altman, Rod Steiger, Burgess Meredith, Pia Zadora, Rob Lowe, Neil Diamond, and Ali MacGraw.  The person I most remember was Burgess Meredith, he was there almost every day.  The coffee shop was so beloved that the celebrities and locals placed an ad in the local Surfside News that was signed by over 2000 people in an attempt to save the iconic eatery.  The developer Roy Crummer, who owned most of Malibu in those days even took out his own add in defense of tearing it down and building the new shopping center.  “Unlike the coffee shop’s many patrons, who I feel are thinking with their hearts and stomachs,” he wrote in the ad, “I am going to make this decision like a doctor, with compassion, but with objectivity. I definitely want to retain the unique character of Malibu. . . ., but I want the town to have a world class restaurant, a first class coffee shop, and a local health and juice bar.” Crummer wrote.

The owners of the Malibu Colony Coffee Shop were offered by Crummer, the opportunity to relocate and operate the Trancas Restaurant at the other end of town but they declined.  The owners Herb & Natalie Brown did not want a restaurant so far from the center of town and did not like the Trancas location because the cafe was connected to a “wild and rowdy” nightclub.  The Brown’s went on to say: “We want to conduct a family business; the problem is that we disagree over whether there’s a place for a business like this. No matter how affluent the people of Malibu are, they still want a funky little place to go to where they can just wear their shorts and tennis shoes and be themselves.”

Unfortunately, the old oval shaped coffee shop did not survive.  The Developer agreed to save the building and it was lifted and put on support beams and moved across the PCH to the vacant lot at Webb Way and PCH.  There it sat for months and one day disappeared never to be seen again.  To this day there is no idea of what happened to it.  The old Malibu Colony Coffee Shop location is now home to the Ralph’s shopping center.   

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