MY PARENTS SOMETIMES TOLD ME, WHEN I WAS A KID, THAT I WAS LAZY. Well, sometimes lazy, they said. I respectfully, and sometimes disrespectfully, disagreed. This column might prove their point.
But I didn’t get someone else to write it because I’m lazy. I asked Kathie Gibboney to write this because she’s a gifted writer. And who knows the source material better than she? I edited, of course, and there’s more to their story than what’s here, but this gives you the flavor, and isn’t that important for a piece about a restaurant?
When I first approached them, I didn’t know Gibboney has had a column (“My Corner of the Canyon”) in the Topanga Messenger for 17 years. When I went on line and read a dozen of them, I was delighted, and impressed with her very personal, almost poetic style.
So I said to her, Kathie, you’re familiar with my column — if you were me, what would you write? This is what she gave me, and I approve of this message.
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There is certain time of year, late winter, when the Santa Monica sunset sky glows an astonishing color purple. It can take your breath away; it can stop you in your tracks.
Such a sight can be a distraction when viewed outside the kitchen door of our little Ocean Park restaurant, Shaka Shack Burgers. “Is this the one with cheese?” I ask, having momentarily looked away from the baskets of food in my hands, lifted and lost in a reverie of something far more grand than burgers and buns.
There is now a brilliant orange streak zigzagging through the sky, as if painted there by a giant brush, and one can not help but wonder, “If God can do that, can’t he cover the check to the state Board of Equalization?”
Michael Anapol and Kathie Gibboney run an Ocean Park burger lounge, abounding with the fun atmosphere of tiki-surf-Hawaiian flavor, evocative of someone’s rec room from the ’60s, in tribute to the time when the owners were young and carefree. They even serve Twinkies.
Shaka Shack Burgers has been open almost three and a half years. Most every morning of those years my husband, the Old Surfer, asks himself, “What was I thinking?”
Michael Anapol grew up locally, going to school in Santa Monica and the Palisades. He played volleyball on the beach and surfed the waters. To spend as much time as possible at the beach he began working in restaurants so his days would be free. Soon he was working in upscale places and beginning to develop an appreciation of good food. He met Lisa Stalvey, a young chef with talent and ambition. For a while they were married.
Kathie Gibboney, the Whimsical Wife, met Michael Anapol when they both worked at Bruce Marder’s West Beach Caf√©. They live in Topanga and have two children. She never envisioned working in a restaurant again, ever. Sometimes life surprises you. Coming from a theatrical background, Gibboney equates working the counter at Shaka Shack with appearing in the same play over and over, but with an ever changing cast. “I never know who is coming in the door or how the scene is going to play, so I just commit to the role of the Helpful Hamburger Hostess. It’s just too bad I have to supply my own wardrobe.”
It took forever to open this place. The site was an existing 30-year-old restaurant. It fell upon us to bring it up to exacting current code. It was exasperating for just two people to try to accomplish. The different departments of the city didn’t seem to be in contact with each other so we were never sure what was required. Just when one thing was completed, a different department needed something else. At times they were in conflict with each other. It is not a system designed to support small business. Over a year went by and the money went away.
Stalvey, who trained with Wolfgang Puck, appeared with Anapol on NBC’s reality cooking show “Chopping Block,” where they were finalists. She created the Shaka Shack menu as the consulting chef.
The owners have no budget for professional advertising or marketing. “We are so appreciative of people spreading the word about us,” reports Gibboney. “I used to walk around handing out flyers and discount coupons to get people in the door, but half the time they just thought I was a crazy lady, which of course I am.”
You get to see life from the counter of the Shack. Sometimes the people I serve stay with me and I think about them now and then. I can tell when someone needs encouragement, or if they just want to be left alone. Sometimes people tell me that their dog has died, or that their son “made the team.” One family is so nice and the parents are so loving and good with their daughter that the little girl is way ahead of the game. Though the parents may not know it, they have already succeeded in raising their daughter. No matter what happens she will be all right. That is a wonderful thing to see.
Yes, Gibboney and Anapol admit to bickering a bit as they work together, and do not really advise others to open a stressful business with their spouse. But for the most part they have a place filled with happy customers, a chef singing R&B in the kitchen, talented and loyal co-workers, and someone everyday who says, “This is the best burger I’ve ever had!”
“I thought I would be able to take off on my bike every afternoon and ride down to the beach and surf. It hasn’t turned out that way.”
“I don’t think I can work with my wife anymore.”
“Why doesn’t anyone tell me when we’re out of something?”
“Maybe it’s time for a margarita.”
“What was I thinking?”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also in the faces of the people passing by…. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” —as sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at email@example.com.