Malibu Kitchen estate sale inspires memories

Malibu Kitchen partners Judith Haenel and Bill Miller take a breather after a long weekend of selling off 22 years of hard work. Photo by Ben Marcus

As they purchases restaurant’s supplies, furniture and decor, customers tell their stories of the place

by Benjamin Marcus
Special to Malibu Times

It was a gloomy, rainy December weekend for Malibu Kitchen to hold an estate sale: 22 years of tchotchkes, machines, rock and roll photos, Rocco art, chairs, tables and signs, signs everywhere signs. The line at the door at 11 a.m. Saturday was reminiscent of the line out the door of Malibu Kitchen on a typical weekend day when it was open for business. 

There wasn’t quite a Black Friday ugly riot, but people did clamor a bit to get in and buy a piece of history.

Disciples and devotees entering and leaving were asked to give their memories of Malibu Kitchen and what they would miss most. One of those people was Sean Cummings, a hotelier/restaurateur/raconteur/bon vivant and according to his bio “…developer of real estate, commerce, the arts, and New Orleans’ future” who owns the International Hotel, Loft 253 and a number of other properties in a city that has suffered as many or more meteorological slings and arrows as Malibu. 

Cummings regularly comes to Malibu and rolls a Porsche as he soaks up that warm California sun on Malibu Road. He knows Malibu Kitchen well and after reading some of the responses he gave this Acadian angle on the joint, summing up Malibu Kitchen as a “great good place”:

“I was a Hurricane Katrina refugee [2005] when I first stepped into Malibu Kitchen. Judith told me all about their pies and some memory-making trip to New Orleans. Bill seemed to think it was all my fault. But I came back every Thanksgiving and in the last five years much more often. Enough to appreciate that what Bill and Judith and Benny and Suzy had created was a local gathering place — like Ray Oldenburg’s book of the same title — “The Great Good Place.”

“Such places always have three things in common: low turnover, longtime staff, and local regulars who come there daily or several times a week and some visitors. After a few bites and sips, the secret is conversation. For in them, visitors start to navigate the town’s ways and locals are reminded why they love and choose to live here. 

“I’ll miss Suzy and Benny, those extraordinary pies, golden retrievers and most of all the marvelous mosaic of humanity that coursed through the door each day, particularly AC and B, among the terrific cast of characters drawn to Malibu Kitchen and who found an unexpected sense of community and belonging in each other.”