Over the weekend the Third Street Promenade said farewell to one of its oldest family-run businesses. After thirty years, the Greek Cuisine: Stop’n Cafe served one last shot of espresso, took the pictures of Santa Monica locals and celebrities off the walls and closed its doors for the very last time Monday.
“I’m very sad,” said owner Michael Yermian who opened the restaurant as a yogurt shop in April of 1988. His very first customer was a homeless man who still frequents the Promenade and the cafe, one of the dozens of familiar faces who loved the local kebabs and sandwiches and the family who served them.
“I’ve been here seven days a week. It’s hard to leave,” Yermian said.
The restaurateur had completely lost his voice after saying so many goodbyes Saturday and Sunday, as a crowd of longtime customers stopped to pay their respects to the local establishment. Diane Miller, a member of Santa Monica’s Commission on the Status of Women, was one of the final friends of the cafe to drop in after her photo graced a restaurant wall for over a decade.
“It’s just part of the history and the families we’re losing in Santa Monica,” Miller said, who at one point picked out the pink color for the walls. Miller wasn’t the only local to influence the restaurant. As a little girl, a longtime customer named Debbie taught the kitchen staff how to make her favorite breakfast. Even as she grew up, “Debbie’s Breakfast” remained on the menu.
“Our customers were our family and a lot of them came by yesterday, so upset because their family is leaving,” said Michael’s son, Andrew, who waited tables in the restaurant during summer vacations from school. “It’s where a lot of them came to get a home-cooked meal.”
Despite rumors of escalating rent, the Yermians said they had a good landlord who worked with them to keep the restaurant open for so many years. However, the thin margins of running a family business on the Promenade meant Michael himself managed the operations nearly 365 days a year.
After several difficult discussions, the family decided the thirtieth anniversary would be the right time to close the family business. They will commemorate 73-year-old Michael’s retirement with an upcoming three month trip around the world. When they return, Michael will help Andrew with his real estate financing business, Lotus Mortgage, and Realty.
“It’s always disappointing when downtown loses a long-standing business like the Stop’n Cafe,” said Downtown Santa Monica, Inc’s director of marketing and communications, Mackenzie Carter. “We wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.”
While the restaurant appealed to locals and nearby office employees, Andrew says the restaurant was also a favorite stop for celebrities like French actress Corinne Calvet, Sean Penn, Brooke Shields and Paris Hilton.
“It attracted everybody. It was a safe haven for a lot of celebrities who came here,” Andrew said. “They knew when they came here they wouldn’t be bothered because we protected them.”
As Michael, Andrew, his brother, Azad, and mother, Jaleh, posed for one last photo in front of the red and white umbrellas, they noticed a familiar face nearby. The homeless man who had been the shop’s very first patron in 1988 stood in the background.
The Yermian family knew their story had come full circle.