Malibu institution loses its lease

A&B Hardware is shown covered with "Store Closing" signs after announcing the loss of lease in early November. Photo by Julie Ellerton/TMT.

The quirky little hardware store that’s been serving locals for more than half a century is going out of business. A&B Hardware on Pacific Coast Highway at Rambla Vista was forced to close Nov. 30 when its lease was not renewed. The building dating back to 1942, was sold in October, and the new owners quadrupled the rent displacing A&B’s hardware, plumbing, and electrical business and also two long-term tenants living in two upstairs apartments.

“It’s so sad people are leaving because they can’t afford what he (the new owners) is going to charge them either,” said Cecile Valdivia owns the business along with her husband Lupe, known as manager and face of the business. The couple bought A&B Hardware 28 years ago from Al and Dottie Ciniglio, who started the business. 

Before that, the idiosyncratic building served as a grocery store originally built by Hollywood couple Phil Harris and Alice Faye. The new owners operating as an LLC gave A&B 30 days on the old lease terms. The Valdivia’s who sublet the upstairs apartments, agreed to pay the higher rent for an additional 30 days to allow their tenants two months to find new accommodations. “When you have long-term tenants, they have 60 days automatically, but in COVID times, everyone was allowed to stay in their own apartments unless you had cause to tell them to vacate. This is not cause to tell them to vacate, but that ended on Dec. 31.” 

The Valdivias say they have tried to help arrange “places for them, and they just said that because it’s Thanksgiving and the holiday season that they are finding it very hard to reconcile themselves to the thought that they have to move, and they want to take the full 60 days.” 

One tenant has been there for at least three decades, beginning his lease when the Ciniglios operated the business. “They were wonderful people,” Valdivia said. “They showed us how to run the business when we first got it. My husband has nine contractor licenses, but certainly, we had not run a hardware store before.”

The couple was thinking of moving the hardware store to Santa Monica but soon found it too competitive and pricey. “And there’s no parking in Santa Monica,” Valdivia commented. 

“We decided that really it was inevitable that we were going to need to move out,” Valdivia commented. In November, the Valdivias offered all items at half price. It’s been a Herculean effort to empty the roughly 4,000-square-foot store that is typically packed to the gills with hardware items, electrical supplies, beach accessories, and miscellaneous bits, bobs, and sundries. “I must say I could find almost anything in there,” Valdivia described saying she once found a football mouthguard tucked away on a shelf.

Even the shelving had to go. Valdivia said the quick sale of the building left them only 30 days to vacate.

“We had very little time to decide where we are going to go; what are we going to do? We thought it would be reasonable rent, but not four times the current rent.” Asked about the proposed increase that forced the closure of her nearly three decades of serving Malibu customers and visitors, Valdivia answered, “People buy real estate to make money.” She then chuckled and added, “It’s unfortunate, but it’s what people do.”

 “My husband is quite a colorful guy. He loves Malibu, and he loves the customers. He thinks that an old-fashioned hardware store is the best. The second he saw that store that Al had, he thought he was in heaven. He had a contractor’s toy box. He’s really appreciated the customers, and he’s glad he’ll still be working with them with his technicians, but he’s going to miss that hardware store. He enjoyed it every single day. It’s so sad that Malibu has changed so much. It seems that the smaller stores are having a hard time.” 

A&B Hardware is out of business, but the couple is keeping A&B Malibu Plumbing, Heating & Electrical. They also offer septic services. At the time of writing this article, the couple was about to sign a new lease nearby and plan to serve their Malibu and Topanga customers in the coming days. They will keep the same phone number (310) 456-8550.