By Rebecca Ford
In the shadow of the Hollywood sign and just a few minutes from the bustling streets of Hollywood, Beachwood Canyon is a quiet oasis with quaint homes, secret staircases and one restaurant—the Village Coffee Shop.
The Village Coffee Shop has charmed residents since 1975 with its feel of a grandmother’s home, cozy and welcoming.
The eatery, which serves breakfast all day and lunch, is within the area that was initially known as Hollywoodland; developers coined the name to attract residents in 1923.
The charming restaurant embodies the history of old Hollywood, and like any grandmother, has watched its residents grow from young starlets to superstars.
Alex Papalexis runs both the Village Coffee Shop and the adjacent Beachwood Market. The family-run businesses were created by Alex’s parents, Bill and Vergie Papalexis, who still frequent the shops.
“I was my father’s inspiration to establish a coffee shop restaurant for people to come and gather, for the local community,” said Alex Papalexis.
The location was once a pharmacy and soda fountain. In the 1970’s the Beachwood Marketexpanded, incorporating sundries inventory into its store, leaving the former space open. At the time Bill Papalexis saw the need for a place to meet and eat in town. He opened the coffee shop, with his wife doing all the decorating, and Alex and his friends helping to build the eatery’s signature tall wooden booths that still line the windows of the restaurant.
The coffee shop opened in July 1975 and expanded in 1981. Chef Milton Pinkney has been a fixture in the kitchen since opening day and many of the waitresses have also worked at the shop for years.
“Most of the people who work here tend to stay, some twelve to twenty years or more,” Alex said. “So they get to know the community and the customers on a first name basis.”
The shop is a popular escape for celebrities who live in the area because it lacks any of the celebrity pandering that they get in Hollywood. Gustavo Dudamel recently mentioned the Village Coffee Shop as one of his favorite restaurants in an article in the Los Angeles Times.
“A lot of people of note or of fame can come here and feel comfortable without getting too much attention,” Alex said.
Vergie calls the shop a “springboard” because actors and writers who have just moved to Los Angeles often move into the Beachwood area. She gets to know them before they become famous. After they reach a certain level of fame, they will often move to Beverly Hills or another area of town.
She remembers when a not-yet-famous Julia Roberts would drop into the coffee shop with four friends.
“I can still close my eyes and hear her,” Vergie said. “You could hear her laughter all over this coffee shop.”
Alex remembers one time when two patrons were arguing at the counter. One customer had gone to the restroom, and when he returned, someone had taken his seat. Who stepped in to break up the argument between these strangers? Kevin Costner.
Screenwriter Nancy Dowd, whose favorite booth was next to the window by the cash register, would spend hours sitting at the café, working on the screenplay for Coming Home.
“Certainly there are people who you know by name or are notable, but more important is the community,” Alex said. “Having a place for them to come for a local meal.”
While the menu has been consistent for the life of the coffee shop, Alex said some slight adjustments to cater to the more health-conscious views of the present are in the works.
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