Mecca for motorcyclists


When a director in Norway thinks of a scene for a movie shot in America in which he’ll have a little gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts, what does he picture?

Ed and Vern’s Rock Store in Malibu.

Actually, if you really want to get picky, the Rock Store is in “Cornell,” which is an actual town though Ed Savko, who has operated the store with his wife, Vern, since 1961, can’t tell you where the boundaries of the town are. He knows it is a separate town, though, as all his paperwork shows the Rock Store is in Cornell, virtually surrounded by Malibu Creek State Park.

The store is located on Mulholland Drive, a stone’s throw from the Peter Strauss Ranch, and is a Mecca for motorcyclists everywhere. It has been used for more than 60 film productions, including feature films and commercials.

Film location scouts are attracted by the rustic setting.

Ed and Vern aim to keep it that way. It started out as a grocery store and they still sell food, but 15 years ago a patio was set up for diners to enjoy their food. Most of the diners have been bikers in recent years.

“In the beginning there were the tourists from the Seminole Hot Springs coming over for a beer,” recalls Ed.

Then the bikers came, one of the first being the late actor Steve McQueen, the original “bad boy” biker. Now, every weekend there’s usually lots of entertainment folk, including Jay Leno and Arnold Schwarzenegger, mixed in among up to 150 motorcyclists.

Ed and Vern’s son helped out at the store when he was in high school. He went to Vietnam as a pilot, came back, and now is in the Air Force in Monterey. Now, a granddaughter helps with waiting tables. They’ve managed to build a reputation for themselves as a tourist destination and capitalize off it with t-shirts, beer mugs and assorted memorabilia, similar to what some chain restaurants do. But there’s only one Ed and Vern’s.

Ed was a biker once, but, at age 75, he no longer rides. He rode Harleys, as well as the rival, Indians. He admits bikers have a rowdy image but points out his customers are, “Doctors, lawyers, artists, actors – everybody’s riding a bike now.”

Ed and Vern are from Pennsylvania. Ed served in the Navy on a destroyer during the war in the Pacific Theatre.

He points out that the name “Rock Store” has nothing to do with rock-n-roll (though they play it on the PA system, along with ’40s tunes – more to Ed’s liking) but alludes to the rocks the building is built out of. The building dates back to 1909 when it was a stagecoach shop between Calabasas and Camarillo.

Although there have been many Malibu fires, the only one that came close to wiping them out was the Agoura fire. Fortunately, Ed had good water pressure and enough volunteers to hose down the roof and save the building.

Among the bikers at the store Sunday was Ken O’Neil of Ventura, a tall blonde man in full-leathers who, for a living, paints clay model prototypes of Volkswagens before they are sent to Germany. O’Neil rides a mint-condition ten-year-old Ducati 851, considered the Lamborghini of motorcycles. He has been through his Harley and Honda periods and now rides Italy’s best. He said he likes to ride down from Ventura to meet all the other bikers.

“This is the place to talk about bikes,” said O’Neil.

There’s a saying in the biker world: “There’s two kinds of bikers-those that have been down, and those that are going down.”

O’Neil has been down once since ’73, in one of the Malibu canyons but survived to tell about it. He is married and said, “My wife is a safety nut. She’ll only get on this bike when it has a roll cage.”

Two bikers who arrived astride one bike were Robin and Marty Davis, a married couple riding a yellow Honda Magnum. Robin is from England where everything is wet, but, he said, “I didn’t ride in the wet.”

He said he views California as “motorcycle heaven.”

Robin is in the world of computers and said he rides the bike for recreation. He has had four bikes and is building a Harley that’s lowered, though he resists the name “chopper.”

He said he makes a practice of ending each ride at the Rock Store to catch up with what’s happening and see the other bikes.

Robin said he isn’t worried about the heavy police presence near the Rock Store on occasion.

“They let the bikers know they’re there,” he said.

Upon leaving the store, another biker pulled up, a native of Chile, with his two pre-teen daughters aboard, one riding in a side-car. Another computer professional, he, too, finds his weekend recreational relief in riding to the Rock Store to talk motorcycles. With a sidecar, he points out, you don’t do any motorcycling stunts. “My wife isn’t too happy,” he said of when he takes off on a weekend morning in the Harley with the side-car and his girls aboard.

But the girls? They looked like they were loving it.