Paul Hibler Talks Superba Food + Bread And Bringing The Cool To Lincoln Blvd
Paul Hibler might have been hard to spot at Deus, camouflaged in his gray knit beanie, denim on denim and black biker boots, but even seated among the leather-clad patrons sipping Handsome lattes, his grand stature and reputation, this guy who knows everyone, was unmistakable.
What better place than Deus Ex Machina, a former Conroy's flower shop at the corner of Lincoln and Venice converted into a motorcycle boutique/ espresso bar, to discuss Hibler's latest endeavor, Superba Food + Bread, a bakery, restaurant, coffee bar, general store, and event space soon to debut a few blocks north at Lincoln and Marco. It will take over the old B&S Auto and the Marina Vacuum Repair shops.
This is the second Superba location. (But it's not the last.) The award-winning Superba Snack Bar on Rose Ave., which opened in August 2012, just happened by chance. The restaurant was titled and permitted by a previous developer, and when they backed out, it took all of "10 minutes" for Hibler to grab the opportunity – one of many he credits to his wife Tiffany Rochelle, a real estate agent at Venice's Pardee Properties. The Lincoln location, which was initially planned for a December opening and then pushed until March, had been planned all along.
"I picked Lincoln because we used to live on Walnut," says Hibler. "Tiffany has been here a lot longer, she grew up here, she's been here her whole life, and she always felt that we needed to bring something up here. The areas east of Lincoln are fantastic, and people don't really have their close-by stuff."
His timing was perfect. The demand for restaurants and retail, coupled with rent increases on Abbot Kinney, GQ's coolest block in America, created the perfect opportunity for small business owners to take advantage of commercial space along Lincoln. Deus, The General Store, Tradesmen, Fire & Creme and Centre-Piece, all the way up to Lincoln Fine Wines, Kippy's Ice Cream, Rama Yoga and Deuce Gym have been bringing the local love to dilapidated spaces along the boulevard. Last summer Santa Monica's beloved antique mall, The Mart Collective, relocated to the former Lincoln Fabrics. A block south of Hibler at Lincoln and Venezia, another building was just refurbished and leased out – it'll include Bruno's Cat & Dog Boutique, and kids' store Huzzah! Since Baby Blues BBQ opened in 2007, it has expanded twice. Wurstkuche, an exotic sausage and beer hangout across the street, now doubles as an event space, allowing for birthday parties and participation in community events including the Venice Music Crawl and Art Crawl.
With the opening of Superba Food + Bread, Hibler continues his mission to create third spaces, gathering places outside of home and work. Every detail, from the menu to the decor, was designed with this in mind. He brought on chef Jason Travi with the help of Snack Bar's Jason Neroni to create the menu and brought on high profile pastry chef Lincoln Carson with head baker Jonathan Eng to run the bakery. In the morning, patrons will enjoy fresh baked croissants and cannelles with Stumptown coffee while socializing on a multi-tier, indoor/outdoor patio lounge. In the afternoon, the coffee bar turns wine bar, and lunch includes rotisserie chicken, sandwiches and mixed greens. For dinner, the menu features family-style entrees that can be shared at one of the banquette tables.
Behind the main dining area, a private room will host everything from birthday parties to pop-up (or pop-in) restaurants from guest chefs. And where the Marina Vacuum Repair shop stands today, Hibler will open a neighborhood general store with Superba bread and pastries to go as well as locally made goods. He says he's a huge fan of Moon Juice on Rose Ave and would love to carry some cold-pressed juices and moon milk to go.
"I'm so inspired by people in Venice, it makes me want to figure out ways to get them all together," says Hibler.
He's been succeeding brilliantly at this ever since he opened his first Pitfire Pizza on the west edge of Culver City in 2010. Designed by LA architect Barbara Bestor, Hibler points to that first Pitfire as an example of how great design enhances the overall experience. Its influence carries throughout Hibler's now signature style of indoor-outdoor, sunshiny structures with clean lines, crisp color, and relaxed, communal vibe. Now working under the parent company American Gonzo Food Corp., he's gone on to create eight Pitfires, each with its own local flavor, and recently opened a second East Borough in Culver City, a modern Vietnamese eatery that started in Orange County. During that first Pitfire, he also met Catherine Johnson, a designer at Bestor Architecture who went on to establish Design, Bitches with partner Rebecca Rudolph. Johnson and Rudolph designed Snack Bar, Hibler's former residence on Walnut, Food + Bread, and they'll likely take on the next Superba coming to Malibu.
Johnson describes Food + Bread as the hand drawn cousin of Snack Bar. It's more casual and communal with open areas to gather and socialize. The design is minimalist and modern, influenced by two articles Hibler discovered in World of Interiors, one of a 140-year-old Japanese tea factory, and the other, a several-hundred-years-old cabin used to cut and dry tobacco. He loved the wood palette, which is used throughout Food + Bread's interior and patio/ "urban park." And of course, the restaurant pulls in a lot of Venice inspiration as well. In our earlier interview with Johnson and Rudolph, they said they wanted it to retain its roots as a Lincoln Blvd auto shop. The floor-length windows were established from structural openings where the garage doors used to be. And in the front lot, the actual B&S signage was saved and encased in a slick new circular sign post.
"I think you're going to see Lincoln pretty much explode over the next few years," says Hibler. "I feel like once I take the green fence down around the bakery, it's just gonna be on."
When asked if he could envision Lincoln Blvd. as a walk street, he smiles and says it already is. "What else can you do besides walk and ride your bike? There's so much traffic." But he's serious too. He's outfitted Superba Food + Bread with 10 bike locking rails, and he points to examples of recent development projects that are quickly making the impossibility of a neighborhood-friendly Lincoln Blvd. a reality.
Hibler also has his eye on Rose Ave. and hints at a major development project in the works. He says it needs activation, more retail presence and, of course, cool places to socialize.
"I think Rose is ready for the next wave to wash up where it can free up some of the space," says Hibler. "There's some buildings being built, more retail. We need places to go. We need a record shop/ bookstore."
In addition to his burgeoning empire of hyper-local hangouts, Hibler and Rochelle are overhauling their new home on Amoroso. As locals and local developers, they strive to do projects true to Venice's roots as an artists' community. Although their projects are multi-million dollar builds, he cites inspirational, iconic Venice works from Chuck Arnoldi, Dennis Hopper and Frank Gehry. He says that developers needs to push themselves to do their best work, and take the larger community into consideration.
"Let's not make it some rich bougie place."
The challenge is that not everyone agrees on which projects are reformative and artistic and which ones are bougie. And that's OK. He says that you really want to live here if you're willing to spend millions of dollars for a tiny lot knowing that you will absolutely have your bike stolen at least once.
"There's a lot of angst between people who've lived here a long time and people just getting here," says Hibler. "Everybody thinks they can decide what their Venice is going to be. But I always get back to this one very simple point: It was started by a guy who built canals, ok? It's meant to change."
And change it will. Superba Food + Bread opens in March.
Superba Food + Bread // 1906 Lincoln Blvd. Venice 90291