Paul Say greets customers at his coffee shop with a smile and a question: “The usual?”
Malibu Brew Coffee — the downtown Atascadero business Say and his family have operated for more than a decade — has won fans throughout the community for its friendly service and homey atmosphere.
The El Camino Real gas station-turned-coffee shop is close to Atascadero Junior High and High schools, making it a popular lunchtime and after-school hangout.
Now, the Says are preparing to move their business to a bigger space — a relocation that’s bittersweet for the family.
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“It’s not big, but it’s home to us and many people,” Say said of his original El Camino Real spot.
Malibu Brew will be closed for at least two months while contractors renovate the new spot on East Mall, just behind the Century 21 office.
The incoming La Plaza mixed-use development prompted the move, as the the shop will be demolished as part of construction. The project will bring retail, office and residential spaces to 1.83 acres on El Camino Real between Entrada Avenue and West Mall.
It would have been too expensive for Malibu Brew to move out of its current home and later rent space in La Plaza upon the development’s completion, Say said.
So he and his family are preparing to temporarily close their business on Jan. 28 and reopen it in the new location toward the end of March.
The new Malibu Brew will have double the space, plus a new treat — 16 flavors of ice cream from Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab.
“We’re going to come back stronger from this,” Say said.
A second home for customers
Ahead of Malibu Brew’s temporary closure, customers have been writing supportive messages on pieces of poster board taped to one of the coffee shop’s walls.
In the messages, one customer called Malibu Brew her “second home” and another thanked the Says for “all the morning greetings and perfectly toasted bagels.”
Wrote another, “Malibu Brew will always have a special place in my heart.”
Paul Say and his wife, Lakhena, moved to Atascadero in 2007 with their two children, David and Alicia. They bought Malibu Brew around the same time.
The Say family is from Cambodia. Say originally came to the United States in the 1980s as a refugee following the genocide and humanitarian crisis that affected his homeland.
“To me, it’s my home country,” Say said of the United States.
Say went to school, served in the U.S. Marines and met Lakhena when he returned to Cambodia and volunteered at an orphanage her mother operated.
Throughout their years in Atascadero, Say and his wife have watched kids grow up over frozen hot chocolates and chai drinks.
“That is the blessing we enjoy,” he said.
Their own children also work in the coffee shop sometimes, although they’re both in college now. Alicia is attending Cal Poly and David is at Cal State Northridge.
Running Malibu Brew has allowed the Says to get to know lots of people around Atascadero. They’ve received lots of support regarding their move; some customers have even offered to help them pack up and move.
“To me, a coffee shop is the best small business to get to know the community,” Say said.
For updates on Malibu Brew Coffee, visit the shop’s Facebook page at facebook.com/malibubrewcoffee.