The Rock Store

Text: Robert Lamishaw • Photography: Robert Lamishaw

West of the San Fernando Valley, a slew of riders regularly head for a 1910 stagecoach stop that has become one of the most famous biker hangouts in the world. Nestled in the tree-lined canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, on Mulholland Highway, arguably the most famous stretch of back road in the world, the Rock Store is about 35 miles from the noise, crowds and traffic congestion of downtown Los Angeles. Its rustic setting, historic building, colorful past, and its proximity to Hollywood and the community of Malibu are but a few of the reasons why the small restaurant and grocery is featured in so many TV shows, commercials, movies, music videos, and magazine spreads.

Operating this establishment for nearly 45 years, the friendly owners, Ed and Veronica Savko, have turned their quiet little country store into the hottest biker destination in Southern California. Relocating here from Pittsburgh, PA, shortly after World War II, the Savkos were soon captivated by a building made entirely out of volcanic rock. They decided that the rural mountain area of Cornell, just outside of LA, would be a perfect place for a small-town grocery store and, in 1961, they purchased the Rock Store site. As the years passed, Mulholland Highway became a popular route for tourists, sports car enthusiasts and, of course, motorcyclists escaping the heat and congestion of LA. The picturesque two-lane, running through the Santa Monica Mountains between US 101 and Highway 1, rolls past multimillion-dollar mansions, farms, and horse ranches on its lazy way to the cool breezes of the beautiful California beaches. Touring up the highway was, and still is, a popular weekend activity, and it wasn't long before the ideal location of the little country store became a destination for automobile tourists and, later, motorcyclists from around the world.

A few miles from the Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, and homes of the Hollywood elite, the Rock Store has always attracted more than its share of celebrities, and it is not at all uncommon to spot 'Tonight Show' host Jay Leno somewhere in the parking lot, kicking tires and admiring the bikes. Leno enjoys riding up on his Y2K jet-powered bike or one of his beautifully restored classic motorcycles. Among other patrons, California's 'Governator' Arnold Schwarzenegger often comes by on his Indian Motorcycle and 'Friends' star Matt LeBlanc has also been spotted on the patio. In fact, you never know which celebs might be seen there - just chilling out and admiring the many cool rides that fill the parking lot on any given Sunday.

Different types of motorcyclists seem to adhere to different Rock Store schedules. Early mornings are dominated by BMW and European bike enthusiasts, often with classic and beautifully restored early BMWs, Ducatis, Triumphs, and others in evidence. Mid-morning to early afternoon belongs to the sportbike set who like to make a quick stop before screaming off to enjoy the miles of roads snaking through the mountain passes between the coastal and San Fernando Valley areas. Late afternoon has become the domain of the V-Twin and chopper crowd. West Coast Choppers' Jesse James rumbles in on occasion; and if your taste runs to rolling art, you can spend hours walking around and admiring the hundreds of beautiful, fully loaded, chromed baggers, radical choppers, and customs of all types. Of course, in such company, people-watching is the second most popular pastime - well, maybe the third, because the food is pretty good too. But sitting on one of the patios while other leather-clad guests are wandering around the rides and wondering how to get that latest piece of bling they've just spotted for their own mounts is always a pleasant way to pass an afternoon.

So, the next time you're in Southern California, do yourself a favor - stop by The Rock Store and hang out for awhile. Their busiest day is Sunday but Saturdays are fun too, and less crowded usually. One of the best ways to get to The Rock Store is to take Latigo Canyon from the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1), and ride up the tight, twisting road that's loaded with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and glimpses of beautiful hilltop mansions. The ride is unforgettable and the destination, with all its motorcycle eye-candy, rivals many bike shows. If you're coming out US 101, take Las Virgenes Canyon Road (Malibu Canyon), and turn right on Mulholland Highway. A cool morning ride in the mountains, followed by one of The Rock Store's hearty breakfasts, is a great way to spend some time; but for people-watching, or to ogle the cool customs, the best action takes place later in the day.

Regardless of your two-wheeled preferences and whatever time you arrive, the food will be good, the people friendly, and the bikes beautiful. You always get the feeling that Ed, Vern, and their friendly staff are glad to see you. Just be sure that you reserve enough time to hang out, appraise the beautiful motorcycles, and enjoy the interesting people who make The Rock Store a Southern California tradition.

The Rock Store
30354 Mulholland Highway
Cornell, CA 91301
(818) 889-1311.