Ginny Wylie is busy answering frequent phone calls from concerned neighbors and customers, something she does daily since State Parks bought the land on which her store sits.
The store – Wylie’s Bait and Tackle – is an institution for fishermen that has sat at the mouth of Topanga Canyon at Pacific Coast Highway for more than half a century.
“It’s absolutely old-time Malibu,” said Norman Leskovits, who has frequented the store for more than 30 years. “I went to Wylie’s before I moved to Malibu 17 years ago. I associated that that was Malibu.”
Wylie’s family has been renting the rustic tackle shop from the Los Angeles Athletic Club for decades. Now State Parks will take over the lease and decide if the store, along with other businesses and residents, should stay or go.
“You’re not leaving, are you,” customers ask, concerned about the possibility of losing this landmark business, one of the few remaining in the area.
This year has been particularly trying for Wylie, who lost her partner, Bob Wylie, when he died earlier this year. She now runs the shop all on her own.
The future is uncertain, but Wylie remains hopeful.
“I am happy. People are supportive,” said Wylie, who befriended many of her customers.
Wylie’s grandfather started the store in 1946. “We’re probably the oldest family owned store out here that has not changed hands,” she said.
Wylie’s day begins before the crack of dawn. The shop opens at 5:30 a.m. on weekends and 6:30 a.m. on weekdays to accommodate fishermen hopeful for an early catch.
Customers come looking for fishing equipment and advice about current oceanic conditions.
“I consider myself fortunate for the experiences I have had when shopping there,” said Leskovits. “I became friends with the owners.”
Leskovits said he started surf fishing 30 years ago and progressed to all different types of fishing, including blue water fishing. Now he mostly does inshore fishing, which is done off a kayak or a boat, by the sea kelp and beyond.
Although he, too, misses Bob Wylie, Leskovits is confident that Ginny Wylie understands what fishermen need and when they need it.
“I’m so proud of Ginny about this,” said Leskovits. “She has done a tremendous job of knowing what is going on with the water. She knows the conditions, what’s biting and what’s not.
“She was always behind the scenes when Bob was alive,” he continued. “She kept the books and he was at the counter.
“It’s not like she just jumped into this thing with her heart broken. She stepped back into the front. Wylie’s was a two-partnership type of business and it has not lost its spirit,” said the fisherman.
Wylie also enjoys the contact with her customers and keeps a positive outlook about the future for her business.
“I’m hopeful that we will be able to stay, because the business fits in with the recreational plans for the park,” said Wylie, who not only works at the shop, but also lives there. Her home is conveniently located behind the shop, allowing her to open early and not worry about a long commute.
The residents and business owners in the Lower Topanga area, including Wylie’s, now pay rent to Pacific Relocation Consultants (PRC), assigned by the state to handle leases and relocation procedures on behalf of State Parks.
When a PRC representative came to visit the properties, Wylie proudly recalled, “He brought his young son along and told him, ‘This place has been here for 55 years.’ “