By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
First came coffee—and community quickly followed.
Frank Langen, a longtime Palisadian Realtor who specializes in Santa Monica Canyon, had a decade-long dream of creating a nearby hub, complete with a coffee shop and place for local residents to gather.
Now, Canyon Square, located on West Channel Road, is home to a group of tenants who bring just that, with modifications as the center makes its way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Frank’s idea behind it is to foster community in the way the Palisades used to be,” DeeDee Wright, who works closely with Langen on marketing and communication for all things Canyon Square, shared. “The way the old village used to be.”
She added that many residents miss Benton’s and Norris—and Canyon Square was designed to help fill that void.
“As you can imagine, it’s not straightforward to continue a viable business center comprised of providing culture, food and retail in the current environment,” Langen shared with the Palisadian-Post. “Nevertheless we are optimistic about our continued success due to our fantastic neighbors and strong, like-minded support.”
Canyon Square started with The Sunrise Brew, which serves coffee, smoothies, avocado toast and vegan baked goods every day of the week. The shop opened in summer 2019 after Langen, who had just about given up on his dream, invited the owner to move her Airstream from a spot on Lincoln Boulevard over to a spot near the beach.
He said that her first day in the area was more successful than any day she had at her former location.
Langen shared that the vision for Canyon Square began with a walkable coffee shop for residents in the neighboring area.
“It did well immediately,” Langen said of the opening of The Sunrise Brew. “From the first day it was a success with the neighborhood, but the pandemic really solidified its existence because it never had to close.”
Because there is a takeout window and customers do not have to go inside, they were able to temporarily remove the seating and remain open from day one. People who used to stop by on their way to work continued to come by—even as they worked from home.
Langen added that The Sunrise Brew is firmly rooted in Canyon Square and, in some ways, is the commercial heart, feeding the other businesses within the center.
The Sunrise Brew Airstream joined Gallery g-169, which opened its doors in summer of 2008. The gallery focuses on “exhibiting artworks of established and emerging artists,” and often draws from “the rich reservoir of residents associated with the gallery’s location.”
Langen recently relocated it from an upstairs space down to the primary level, with hopes of planning and offering indoor/outdoor events
“It’s going to be very successful, I think, because while people are waiting for their coffee and avocado sandwiches and smoothies, they’re going to be able to wander in and out of the interior space and look at the art that’s going to be displayed indoors as well as outdoors,” he said.
Langen added that he is working with the late Peter Alexander’s son to create a gallery.
One tenant that did not make it through the pandemic at Canyon Square was hjom., created by Rachel Morrison off of the Danish concept of hygge—the “warm fuzzy feeling inside.”
Langen described the family as lovely and that he thought they could pull it off financially, but when the pandemic began and they found themselves homeschooling three kids, they realized their limits. They also operate a second location in Balboa.
“Something that I’ve been preaching for a long time in real estate, the question is, really for all of us, how much is enough?” Langen shared. “How big does a house have to be? How many cars do we need? How many locations? How much growth do we need? The question is just about sustainability and I think that’s the biggest lesson of COVID.”
Additional tenants Nikki York Hair and deasy penner podley complete the square, with a retail residency currently in place by Replenish.
“For [Langen], it’s very much about community first and commerce second,” Wright said of the Canyon Square tenant selection.
“She will figure out what you want and need; she will cater to your personal style and suggest her design visions,” the Nikki York Hair website reads. “And if you let her, she will become your closest ally in all questions hair and beauty.”
Though shuttered at the start of the pandemic due to county and statewide orders, Nikki York has been open when restrictions allowed her to take clients, including offering services outside.
Deasy penner podley, founded by Mike Deasy and George Penner, is a “real estate brokerage dedicated to the art of design,” with a reach from Malibu to Palm Springs.
“The real estate component was dormant for a three-month period, but has also exploded, because, again, I think primarily people are not so diffused in their views of the globe, but they’re very local, so they’re focusing on home and space,” Langen said. “Instead of spending money on traveling, they’re staying home for the summer. The residential real estate component is doing extremely well.”
Replenish, owned and operated by John Ward, offers “luxury denim, premium activewear and artisanal goods.” Langen explained that Ward signed on for a six-month retail space, but will consider staying longer, depending how things go.
Leanne Ford, an HGTV personality and co-host of “Restored by The Fords,” spends most of her time on the East Coast for now, but when she’s on the West Coast, she has a space to do business out of within the square.
Canyon Square also has hosted a series of pop-ups, including a holiday-themed selection 2019 with Stephanie Schur (owner of Botany, formerly located at Brentwood Country Mart) with Christmas trees, wreaths, garland and arrangements—which Wright described as adorable. Other pop-ups include a surf shop and vintage denim, run by Palisadian and Canyon Charter Elementary School dad Ron Balatbat.
The tenants at Canyon Square are a work in progress: Langen is currently searching for a food offering with pizza or Mexican cuisine.
“We are in the process of upgrading our seating to be more cohesive with the design-centric environment we are trying to provide,” Langen shared, with new seating set to arrive in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re evolving,” Langen continued. “The idea is a little community center, kind of like the Brentwood Country Mart or Abbott Kinney or even the center that we have up in the Palisades by Caruso. I think these types of things will survive or find their way.”
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