A Big Sur fix­ture re­opens after land­slide and ren­o­va­tion

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY KATHE TAN­NER ktan­[email protected]­bune­news.com

Tak­ing a Big Sur tour soon? A long­time fix­ture on High­way 1 has re­opened with a new name, new owner and up­dated con­cept to go with its art­work.

There’s also a rooftop ter­race with an el­e­vated ca­sual café that has a pic­nic-in­spired menu and a stun­ning view of the Pa­cific Ocean coast­line. The iconic ex­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture of COAST Big Sur (which has been the land­mark Big Sur Coast Gallery since 1958) still fea­tures three enor­mous wa­ter tanks, each 34 feet in di­am­e­ter, fash­ioned from 2,000- year-old red­wood slabs.

Vis­i­tors who ven­ture in­side the gallery now will find a bou­tique se­lec­tion of table­top gifts and ar­ti­sanal crafts along with fine arts, in­clud­ing the works of for­mer Big Sur res­i­dent Henry Miller, sculp­tures by the late Dutch/big Sur artist Loet Van­derveen and cre­ative ex­pres­sions from other artists from Big Sur, the re­gion and be­yond.

The gallery also has an upper-level-ter­race café, which offers fresh-baked breads and pas­tries, sa­vory soups, snacks, dips, lo­cal beers and wines and freshly brewed Verve Cof­fee. Head chef Nick Balla pre­vi­ously worked at sev­eral award-win­ning San Fran­cisco restau­rants in­clud­ing Bar Tartine, Duna and Smoke­bread.

Los An­ge­les busi­ness­man Peter Mullin bought the gallery in 2016 from long­time owner Gary Koep­pel, just in time to be­gin some mod­i­fi­ca­tions be­fore mas­sive land­slides and a bridge fail­ure trig­gered an 18-month clo­sure of High­way 1. Most of the changes to the gallery were in­te­rior/ dec­o­ra­tive rather than struc­tural out­side, Mullin said in a phone in­ter­view, but for a time, Alonso Gomez’s crew mem­bers still had to hike the trails to haul in sup­plies, tools and equip­ment.

“COAST is such an im­por­tant part of Big Sur’s his­tory,” Mullin said in a press re­lease, “and it was of ut­most im­por­tance to us to pre­serve that his­tory, while giv­ing the space a fresh new look.”

In the in­ter­view, Mullin spoke of his 25-year-plus love af­fair with the area. “It’s the most in­cred­i­ble stretch of coast­line in the world, full of the ex­tra­or­di­nary beauty of the moun­tains, the ocean, the rocks and out­crop­ping,” he said. “You can’t pick a more gor­geous drive along the ocean, prob­a­bly in the U.S. and maybe the world.”

He said Big Sur is com­pli­cated, “a re­sort com­mu­nity for some peo­ple, and a lot of peo­ple live right here while other peo­ple live in the moun­tains.”

They range from “peo­ple with sec­ond homes to peo­ple who live in tents and ev­ery­body in be­tween. … It’s an eclec­tic group with the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors of love of the out­doors, the ocean, the smell of the salt air and love of the fact that it’s not over­built.”

He speaks from the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing owned for about 27 years a Big Sur home (be­tween Esalen and Ju­lia Pfeif­fer Burns State Park). He spends about three months a year there, he said, fre­quently in the win­ter, which is his fa­vorite time to be on the coast.

Be­sides the gallery, also un­der Mullin own­er­ship are two other Big Sur res­i­dences, plus homes in Brent­wood (Los An­ge­les), Scot­land and Um­bria, Italy. Buy­ing the gallery was “a very spe­cial op­por­tu­nity,” he said, in part be­cause it is one of “nine com­mer­cial prop­er­ties within 100 miles of Big Sur.”

Do the Mullins plan to buy more in Big Sur?

“That’s enough,” he said.

COAST BIG SUR Cour­tesy photo

The iconic Coast Big Sur gallery and cafe has re-opened un­der a new owner.

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