Failure rates for restaurants are notoriously high. So imagine the frustration of having to close your thriving neighborhood bistro, not because of business shortcomings, but because a new building owner cancelled your lease.
In 2009, that was the situation facing Scott and Sharon Cooper, owners of Jackson’s Village Bistro on Pier Avenue in Hermosa. The intimate, 50-seat restaurant had done a hearty business for ten years; the Coopers were devastated to be closing its doors so abruptly.
“It was very unlucky,” Sharon Cooper said.
Four years later, the restaurateurs’ luck has changed. They just celebrated the one year anniversary of the second-coming of Jackson’s, as Jackson’s Food and Drink, and the re-envisioned eatery is flourishing at its new location on Rosecrans Avenue in El Segundo.
What happened in the interim four years was a magical blend of imagination and elbow grease that solved a number of challenges poised to thwart Jackson’s 2.0.
For starters, there was the question of location.
“It took us over a year to find a place,” Scott Cooper said. “We looked all over the place. We looked in PV, all over South Redondo, all over Manhattan Beach.”
The space at 2041 Rosecrans, former home to the tiny Japanese spot Taiko, was actually introduced to the Coopers by a patron before the original Jackson’s closed. Its size seemed prohibitive at the time.
“It was just so small,” Scott explained. “And we had already been in a small space for a long time. We just didn’t think it was big enough for us.”
But then Scott started thinking, quite literally, outside the box. With the help of Sharon’s longtime friend Jennifer Uner, he came up with the idea of expanding the restaurant’s patio, blurring the line between the interior and exterior and tripling the restaurant’s capacity.
“What I wanted was an indoor/outdoor space.” Scott said. “I wanted something like on the East Coast, where you have screened-in porches and feeling that you’re kind of protected from the elements but you still feel like you’re outside.”
The idea was ingenious. But it also required the convincing of prospective landlord and real estate giant Richard Lundquist of Continental Development Corporation. The proposed expansion was vast enough to require approval by the company’s president, himself.
“After we walked out of our first meeting with Richard, we got on the elevator and Sharon said, ‘I know we can get this space if we blow them away with design and with a dinner. That’s how we’re going to do this,’” Scott recalled.
“That’s when I called Jen and begged,” Sharon laughed.
Uner is a trained designer who has a host of experience in trade shows, event design, and the like, but had never before designed a restaurant. She didn’t require much wooing.
“I, of course, was like, ‘Design a restaurant? Yes!,’” Uner recalled. “Being a foodie and having the opportunity to design a restaurant? I, of course, wanted to help these guys.”
After a culinary and architectural tour with Scott of thirty some-odd restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area, Uner got to work. Once her preliminary design was complete, the Coopers hosted a dinner for Lundquist and the bigwigs of Continental to unveil it.
They were offered the space the next day.
One of the challenges Uner faced in her design was morphing the concept of theoriginal neighborhood Jackson’s to fit its new home on a commercial block.
“Imagine a 50-seat, small, dinner-focused restaurant in Hermosa Beach,” Uner explained. “Absolutely a homey, neighborhood place. So coming into a place like this, with much more modern architecture and contemporary design, how do you then translate that homey experience focused on food and comfort for people coming into a commercial development?”
Uner accomplished the transition with by blending the austere and the quaint.
“That’s where you end up with clean, modern lines mixed with tactile, rustic surfaces,” she said
Warm tones and vintage touches soften the cement floors and stucco walls. The host stand is an antique workman’s bench, the fence is from a 100 year old house in Woodland Hills, and the largest table in the restaurant is the Coopers’ old family table. The counters are wrapped in copper so that they age with time. Even the floors and walls have been given texture.
“One of the major accomplishments of our original design was the fireplace,” Sharon said. It sits in the corner of the patio, abutting the restaurant’s entrance as a literal cornerstone.
“And it’s now our landmark fireplace, open on all four sides so you can really see through and kind of get a glimpse of what’s inside,” she said.
“We wanted a certain amount of containment but you don’t want to feel too closed in,” Uner said. “So we designed all these little spots…little peeks in and out.”
And then there is the indoor/outdoor bar, with parallel seating inside and outside and the bar in the middle. It is spacious and modern yet intimate enough that you could have a conversation with the person across from you.
Each corner of the 99-seat restaurant has its own personality. There are the cozy chairs next to the fireplace, homey charm of the family table on the patio, the modern lines of the bar and indoor dining.
“Seventy-five percent of our seating seating is on the patio,” Scott said. “So not only did the patio become critical, but it was also the focus of most of our discussions in how to create classy yet casual space”
There is also a special homage to the original Jackson’s.
“We call this room the ‘JVB’ – Jackson’s Village Bistro,” Sharon said while walking through a smaller dining area tucked in the back.
The tables have white linen table cloths lined with butcher paper just like they did at the Hermosa Jackson’s. Above the candle-lined tables is the original chandelier that hung there. And in the corner is a painting done by a loyal patron: the sweet facade of the restaurant’s Pier Avenue predecessor.
But make no mistake, the new Jackson’s isn’t fixated on nostalgia for the old. As Uner noted, despite the difficult circumstances that required its change of location, the restaurant has opened up – in a culinary sense, as well as physically.
“The move allowed Scott to explore where dining is at now,” she said. “And to narrow in on what he wanted to see – in the evolution of Jackson’s.” B