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Coffee Shop's Death Is a Blow to Dwindling Counter Culture

February 04, 1985|DAVE LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

They are finally putting it out of our misery.

I'm referring to the venerable coffee shop, Pick's, which held forth in West Los Angeles for 27 years, before closing forever in December.

As if that weren't traumatic enough for those of us who were regulars at the counter, on its vinyl resting places, it has sat there empty for weeks, painfully reminding everyone of the good old times.

The big neon sign that beckoned to all 24 hours a day had long since been extinguished, but a passer-by could still see through the blinds, the coffee pots and the dishes inside all frozen in time.

At least when Ship's closed in Westwood, it was quickly and mercifully leveled into a parking lot. Pick's died a slow death.

Finally, a few Sundays ago, an auction was held to dispose of everything inside. As a loyal habitue for many of those 27 years, I stopped by thinking I might leave with some memento. But the place was crowded with strangers I had never seen while it was still alive, an auctioneer listening to their shouted bids for the fixtures, and I wandered out feeling depressed.

Besides, one night during its final week of existence, a waitress I had known there a long time slipped me a menu to take home as a souvenir.

And now the wrecking crew is at work, preparing the grounds for the birth of still another mini-shopping center. To include, I guess, a convenience store, a chicken-to-go, a doughnut shop; just what we need.

Not that this sort of transition means the end of the world, but the fact is that there is an endangered species in the Los Angeles area: The privately run coffee shop.

Pick's, Ship's, the old Friar's in Santa Monica--the waitresses all had been there for years (one of those at Pick's had been there the entire 27 years). Same for much of the clientele, faces you saw week after week, belonging to people whose names you never knew.

Now, because of the increasing value of real estate, the choice for a person not choosing to eat at home is from among the highly promoted chains with their plastic atmosphere, unimaginative food and the help that changes seemingly every month.

And of the few private coffee shops left, the customer increasingly finds a warning on the menu that the minimum bill must be $1.50.

Which pretty much eliminates just stopping in for a cup of coffee.

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