Inside the refurbished roadside restaurant and local landmark that has flourished under new ownership and attracted everyone from car enthusiasts to Neil Young.
Once a lumber mill, then a post office, a dinner club and a general store, the site that is now home to the Loma Mar Store & Kitchen has served as a gathering place for Coastside residents since the 1930s.
Nestled among a redwood grove off the side of the winding Pescadero Creek Road lies a cozy cabin-like structure with wood shingles. On any given day at the Loma Mar Store & Kitchen, you might hear a local musician performing outside or witness a gathering of car fanatics bonding over coffee. Sissy, owners Jeff and Kate Haas’s dog and the business’ “most doting greeter,” welcomed customers with a wagging tail at the entrance (sadly, Sissy’s death was announced on Instagram last week.)
For travelers and locals alike, the Loma Mar Store is a hidden retreat. In a town with a population around 200 people who call themselves Loma Martians, it’s also the only store in Loma Mar and has been home to the town’s lone post office, gas station, restaurant and volunteer fire department over the years, making it an important resource for residents.
Each new owner of the Loma Mar Store has been tasked with carrying on the existing legacy of previous owners while also changing the store’s purpose to accommodate local needs. Implementing these changes is often a sizable, yearslong undertaking involving major renovations and menu changes in order to make the store a relevant culinary destination on the coast. The town of Loma Mar’s identity has been built upon the store’s presence, and residents could not envision the area without it.
“Kate and I didn’t have to do this … We wanted to do this. We wanted to do a really good job,” Jeff Haas says.
A piece of local lore
The Loma Mar Store & Kitchen site was originally a lumber mill before it served as the Harrison Post Office for a short time. In the 1930s, the town’s name changed from Harrison to Loma Mar, but the post office still remained in the original location. In the 1950s, a general store was added to the post office, growing roots for what the Loma Mar Store & Kitchen would eventually become.
During the 1970s, local postmaster and chief volunteer firefighter Roger Siebecker owned the store and started a dinner club inside called the Blue Eyed Goose run by two Loma Mar residents that was very popular for its few years of operation. The store was also home to the Dancing Dog Diner, a place to play cards and watch sports. For the 20 years that Siebecker operated the store, it served as the community’s unofficial City Hall. It has always been a local hub.
In the mid-1990s, Siebecker put the store on the market for $379,000, a price that included a cat named Leroy, SF Gate reported at the time. Beth Williford bought the store in 1997, planning to keep the store open to serve the local community while a friend of hers would run the restaurant, according to the Half Moon Bay Review. But when health inspectors told them it would cost $40,000 to bring the kitchen up to code, Williford’s friend dropped out, forcing her to turn the restaurant into a deli that closed when running both sides of the business became too difficult.
During Williford’s era, the store was a neighborhood place to buy beer and snacks, Jeff Haas recalls. Williford single-handedly ran the store for 15 years and described the experience to the Review as “being on call 24 hours a day.” Amid struggles to attract business and concerns about the store’s future, Williford contacted Loma Mar locals and farm owners Kate and Jeff Haas in late 2013, expressing her need to move out of the area. The Haas’s bought the store in 2014, bolstered by a few ideas for its future: a restaurant with great food, a store stocked with unusual things and a gathering place with a strong sense of identity.
Rebuilding from the ground up
Loma Mar is technically not a town but a census designated place with a population of around 200 people, meaning it is unincorporated and without its own municipal government. The area, located about an hour away from Silicon Valley off of Highway 84, does not have any other businesses besides the Loma Mar Store, a post office, a volunteer fire station and campgrounds. A 15-minute drive from the store spits you out in the town of Pescadero.
Twenty years ago, the Haas’s settled down in Loma Mar at Echo Valley Farm, an old sheep ranch that the couple fixed up to make it a livable property.
“The idea of living on a farm away from everything seemed very attractive but also a little intimidating,” Jeff Haas says. Still, moving to Loma Mar and adapting to a more self-sufficient lifestyle felt like a “calling” for them.
After renovating their home and farmhouse, Jeff and Kate got involved in the local farming community. In 2011, the Haas’s helped start the Pescadero Grown Community Farmer’s Market that is still held in Pescadero every Thursday afternoon. They’re no longer involved in the farmers market, but their farm supplies ingredients like eggs and other produce for their store’s kitchen.
It seems that every owner of the Loma Mar Store has been faced with the task of bringing life back into it. When the Haas’s purchased the store, they knew that major renovations had to happen to the space that had deteriorated in recent years.
With the help of community members and local craftspeople, the store’s operations paused while the structure was redesigned and rebuilt from 2014 to 2019. At the time of purchase, there was no foundation under the building, meaning that the whole structure had to be raised up in order to put in a proper foundation.
Rebuilding the structure was a painstaking process that involved obtaining permits from San Mateo County in order to replace each wall of the original building. The redesign was led by San Francisco designer Dan Lorimer, who was inspired by the work of famed architect Julia Morgan. Some of her techniques, like the ceiling boards’ alternating colors created with goat milk wood stain from Harley Farms, were incorporated into the renovation. Pieces of the store’s history still remain; the original wood flooring was repurposed as wainscoting in the dining room, and when a redwood tree was removed from the side of the old store, a neighbor milled the lumber and it was used as the new nonstructural ceiling.
They reopened in August 2019 with an upgraded commercial kitchen, a baking oven, an espresso bar and outdoor decks, among other additions.
“We’ve been really lucky that we’ve had so many people who cared about the store. A lot of people wanted this to be successful,” Kate Haas says.
The Haas’s first few months of running the Loma Mar Store & Kitchen were happy and uneventful until the pandemic and raging wildfires threatened the store’s survival. The owners quickly adapted to these challenges. During the first few months of the pandemic, the kitchen remained open for takeout-only orders for the sake of paying their employees and serving locals. The Haas’s stressed that they try to only employ people living on the Coastside as another way to give back to the community.
During the 2020 CZU fire, the town of Loma Mar was under evacuation. Hills were ablaze just north of the store, but a team of firefighters stationed in the area helped protect it. The Haas’s evacuated their farm, but returned to the store every night to prepare warm meals for firefighters. Due to the fire and shutdowns, they’ve had no other choice but to remain flexible in their vision for the store.
A home for Loma Martians, motorists and musicians
The couple’s travels to other rural areas in the U.S. inspired the appearance and concept of the store. Jeff Haas envisioned how travelers would react when seeing the store for the first time after driving or biking through the remote town.
“You come around a bend and it’s like, ‘Wow what a cool store,’” Jeff Haas says.
The store attracts people who come to the redwoods for various reasons. Campers staying at Memorial Park stop in to stock up on snacks and bug spray for their trip. Bicyclists stop for lunch on the weekend to fuel up for the ride back home and peruse pantry staples stocked in the store. Car enthusiasts gather for the $10 pastry and bottomless coffee special on the last Sunday of every month while marveling at the array of vintage cars in the parking lot, a tradition started by the Haas’s after noticing the popularity of such gatherings around the Bay Area. At the small outdoor stage adjacent to the store, local musicians perform. The store has always been a destination for performers, including renowned artists like Coastside resident Neil Young.
The owners’ involvement with the local farming community a decade ago led to the formation of many partnerships with Bay Area farmers, artists, butchers and more. Pescadero resident and chef Noah Booher has built on the original menu, which features locally sourced ingredients such as the steak in the hand pies from Pomponio Ranch, burgers from Left Coast Grassfed and the duck tacos recipe created by previous chef Trish Keough and sourced from Root Down Farm. Even the coffee served with breakfast is roasted in Oakland. Inside the store, shelves are stocked with locally made candles, honey and olive oil.
On Thursday and Friday evenings, loyal customers and newcomers flock to the store to enjoy the rotating dinner specials – typically a hearty dinner like meatloaf with mashed potatoes or linguine with clams, plus two soups from scratch including a vegan option – in the cozy dining room or sit on the patio on warmer weekends with a beer in hand.
When the Haas’s bought the Loma Mar Store nearly a decade ago, it was unclear whether the roadside general store had the potential to become the destination restaurant it is today. Jeff and Kate Haas attribute the store’s success and resilience to their employees, patrons and everyone who helped bring their vision for the store to life.
“I didn’t expect to make so many friends,” Jeff Haas says.
After publication this story was updated to reflect the contributions of the Loma Mar Store’s former chef Trish Keough.