As the owner of Carousel Cafe for the last quarter-century, Marcia Jacobs has a special place in her heart for the building on Ocean Front Walk that has housed her business.
Positioned on the boardwalk facing Santa Monica Pier, it’s an eatery from which she has served food, snacks and beverages to tourists on summer days and a depot where many locals have dropped by for casual conversations.
Jacobs has even welcomed young customers and seen them return decades later with their own children.
“It’s like my home,” she said. “And it was here long before I bought it.”
But it’s not going to be around for long. Carousel Cafe is closing for good by Oct. 15, according to Jacobs, bringing an end to a 25-year chapter of a business history that spans roughly nine decades.
The cafe is scheduled to close just days after the Landmarks Commission will consider the historical status of the building.
The commission in May received an application from a residential neighbor who is seeking landmark status for the collection of old commercial buildings on that section of Ocean Front Walk.
At the time, a report for city planning staff by Long Beach-based Otashay & Associates Consulting concluded that the properties at 1601-1615 Ocean Front Walk do not satisfy the criteria for protected status.
“These older structures collectively are the last vestiges of a bygone era of amusement piers, beach front boardwalks, and grand recreational and social beach activities in this section of Santa Monica,” the report reads. “Because of compromised historical integrity, the properties do not satisfy any of the mandates required in the City’s landmark designation criteria.”
The matter was tabled for further review, according to Scott Albright, a senior planner with the City of Santa Monica and a liaison to the landmarks panel. The commission is expected to assess the group of buildings again during its Oct. 10 meeting at City Hall.
“It’s going to be an important meeting,” Albright said.
The identity and affiliation of the applicant have no bearing on commission decisions, according to Albright. The application in question was filed by Louise Steiner, a nearby resident.
Jacobs is not involved in the pursuit of landmark status for the structures, which comes amid ongoing talks about Starbucks taking Carousel Cafe’s place. It would be the coffee chain’s 22nd location within city limits.
Jacobs said she was in India last December when her daughter called and broke the news that the landlord was working to bring a Starbucks to the building. She said she was initially supposed to leave at the end of May but lobbied to stay open during the busy summer months.
The building is owned by Martin Mink and others through Russell No. 8 Santa Monica Properties LLC, records show.
For Jacobs, a Boston native who now lives in Culver City, ownership of Carousel Cafe came on something of a whim. She previously owned a travel agency in Century City for 10 years and often dreamed of a simpler, lower-stress life selling hot dogs on the beach.
“One day I took my granddaughter to Cirque du Soleil, and down at the pier I saw this funky hamburger joint with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window,” she said. “I looked up and said, ‘God, I didn’t really mean it.’”
Jacobs didn’t have much experience in food service, but over time she developed a system. When the space next door became available a few years later, she turned it into a gift shop. She’s usually had six or eight employees at a time, including part-time staffers.
“Life is very interesting,” she said. “It takes you down paths you think you’re never going to take.”
Jacobs’ path veered sharply late last year. Around the time the landlord told her daughter about the upcoming changes, a fire broke out in the upper level of the building at 1605 Ocean Front Walk. It took Santa Monica firefighters nearly four hours to extinguish the blaze, which displaced 20 residents.
In April, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit on behalf of nine displaced residents against the landlords. The suit alleged that the landlords were using the tragedy to remove rent-controlled units from the market.
The lawsuit is on hold due to the defendants’ pending appeal, according to senior LAFLA attorney Denise McGranahan. The landlord declined to comment on the situation or future plans.
Meanwhile, over the next few weeks, Jacobs and her loyal customers will be coming to terms with the end of Carousel Cafe.
“Her small gift shop,” one regular said in an email, “is the neighborhood trading post.”
Added another in a Facebook comment about the potential arrival of Starbucks: “I keep asking myself what the change would be that will have made my city unrecognizable. This one is right up there.”