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Landmark Big Sur business reopens — with new name, new owner and new concept

Check out landmark Big Sur business that has re-opened after renovation project

COAST Big Sur has re-opened under new ownership after a renovation project and 18-month closure of Highway 1 because of landslides. Los Angeles, California, businessman Peter Mullin bought the iconic building.
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COAST Big Sur has re-opened under new ownership after a renovation project and 18-month closure of Highway 1 because of landslides. Los Angeles, California, businessman Peter Mullin bought the iconic building.

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.

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

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.”

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The rooftop terrace at Coast Big Sur has expansive ocean views. Coast BIg Sur Courtesy photo

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.

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