This is a pleasant little outdoor shopping center made up of about 25 upscale shops and restaurants. If it were located anywhere but Malibu, it probably wouldn't stand out, but situated as it is just minutes from the beach and the famous Malibu Colony, it helps offer a little insight into the Malibu lifestyle.
There is an effort here at the Malibu Country Mart to keep things informal and low-key, yet at the same time, chic & trendy - somewhat like Malibu itself.
The redwood buildings, for instance, are small and unimposing, with simple green awnings; yet look closer and you'll notice that the "Malibu Laundry" is, in fact, not a laundromat (heaven forbid!) but a trendy clothing store.
The customers are dressed casually, but not inexpensively.
And there are far more yogurt shops, espresso bars, and country gift shops here than utilitarian stores. There's a popular celeb restaurant, chef Nobu Matsuhisa's "Nobu-Malibu," plus a New Age bookstore ("The Malibu Shaman"), lots of cute boutiques, and even an auto detail spot out in the parking lot.
This center offers more than first meets the eye, so take a little time to explore the place, and you'll discover a few surprises. There's a nice nursery, called Casentino, on the center's far southwest side, featuring a small brick patio and fountain. Between the two main buildings is a charming courtyard, shared by a subtle Japanese-style flower garden and a children's playground (replete with swings, slide and teeter-totter). A sidewalk café ("Tradinoi Restorante") offers tables overlooking this courtyard.
Near the playground, you'll discover John's Garden Fresh Health Store, a tiny Farmers Market of sorts - an indoor/outdoor produce mart with fresh fruits and vegetables. There's a Starbucks popular with celebs.
Walk farther north, into what at first seems to be a brick office building, and you'll find yourself in a nice Spanish-style brick courtyard, with heavy wooden staircases, tile roofs, wrought-iron lamps and a central fountain which features a dolphin sculpture. (Read the plaque on this pink stone fountain, and you'll discover that actor/singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson, among others, donated the money for the dolphin fountain, which is dedicated to a local Malibu resident killed by a drunk driver while bicycling on nearby PCH.)
Stroll the tile & brick walkways around to by Cross Creek Road, and you'll find the a Spanish-style restaurant once known as the Malibu Adobe, which was decorated by actress Ali MacGraw, and owned by celebrity partners that reportedly included Dustin Hoffman, Tony Danza, Bob Newhart, Stacy Keach, Alan Ladd Jr., and Randy Quaid. Alas, the Malibu Adobe closed its doors.
But fortunately, it has been replaced by another restaurant in the same building, named Taverna Tony. John Stamos ("Full House") and wife Rebecca Romijn-Stamos ("The X-Men") love the place. So does Tony Danza and "CSI:NY" star Melina Kanakaredes. In April of 2000, friends threw a surprise 75th birthday party for actor Rod Steiger at Taverna Tony; guests included James Garner, Jonathan Winters, Tom Berenger and Burt Reynolds. Another party at the Taverna, thrown by Stephen Dorff's drew Jude Law, Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Courteney Cox and David Arquette.
Recent spottings at the Malibu Country Mart include Britney Spears, Christian Bale, Meg Ryan, Lindsay Lohan, Seal, Cindy Crawford, Ray Romano, Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, Marcia Cross, Vince Vaughn, and others.
And in 2006, Mel Gibson was here, posing for photos. He was sober when he left Taverna Tony, but was later arrested for drunken driving after stopping at Moonshadows (down the coast on PCH).
Actor Ben Affleck has also been spotted at the Country Mart. John Larroquette was recently spotted strolling there. So was Howie Mandell.
Near the Marmalade is a Ben & Jerry's ice cream store, which has seen it's share of celebs, including Owen Wilson. Reese Witherspoon was spotted shopping at "Planet Blue" (# 3835).
A Seeing-Stars fan reports spotting David Duchovny and Minnie Driver together at Nobu and at the nearby Coffee Bean (about the time they were making "Return to Me" together.) David has also been there with wife Tea Leoni. Funnyman Jim Carrey was also spotted at Nobu recently. So was Kevin Bacon. And Steven Spielberg. And Mel Gibson...
Speaking of Mel, he filmed part of his 2004 movie "Paparazzi" at Malibu Country Mart. It was the scene where the star enters the Malibu Kitchen (cafe/market) and is asked by a young woman to autograph a tabloid newspaper (which turns out to have a nude photo of he and his wife on the cover).
According to Ultimate TV, actor Daniel Baldwin held court at the Mart one afternoon, dressed out in biker duds, and talking freely with female fans before hopping back onto his Harley Davidson. And bro Alec Baldwin has been seen here with his family.
While I certainly wouldn't make the drive to Malibu just to visit this little center, if you're in the neighborhood of the Malibu pier, it can be a pleasant place to stop for a stroll, to have a leisurely lunch, or just to watch the locals. It sophisticated and modern, yet with a somewhat old-fashioned, small-town ambiance - not unlike Malibu itself.
Update: As rents have gone up, some of the smaller, local stores have closed their doors, and been replaced by more expensive, national brand shops such as Ralph Lauren, part of what seems to be a trend in Malibu, bemoaned by many local residents, of the city shifting from a beach town to a resort/shopping destination. Dick Van Dyke complained that he has to drive into Calabasas to buy underwear or a screwdriver, because such stores selling such basic necessities no longer exist in the area.
Meanwhile, the old Malibu Lumber Yard next
door to the Country Mart is being replaced by a new upscale shopping center
that will keep the old name, but will cater to the monied celebs with stores
like Maxfield and J. Crew.
Phone: There is no phone number listed for the Malibu Country Mart itself, but individual merchants' phone numbers include Nobu at (310) 317-9140, Taverna Tony at (310) 317-9667 and Marmalade at (310) 317-4242.
Free parking lot in the back.
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