Ed From The Rock Store | Megaphone

By Jonathan Handler, Photography by Jonathan Handler, Kevin Wing

Motorcycling has lost another icon. The worldwide riding community is mourning the passing of Ed Savko. Which, considering that he didn’t ride, is quite a statement. Ed and his wife Veronica (friends call her Vern) have owned the Rock Store in Cornell, California, since 1961. The history of the former stagecoach stop just north of Malibu might be likened to that of a generation. Ed left the Navy after serving in the Pacific during World War II, married Vern, and relocated from Pittsburgh to Southern California. The couple built a small-town grocery store in what was then the middle of nowhere and watched their kids grow.

Traffic on Mulholland Highway and the surrounding area grew, too. New roads were built to connect the beaches to the San Fernando Valley, people began to explore the area and often they stopped at the Rock Store for fuel and refreshments. It’s no surprise that motorcyclists found this area to be the perfect amalgamation of weather, sun, sights and—of greatest importance—amazing, twisty canyon roads. Mulholland Highway was made popular by many famous and infamous riders and drivers who thought this little strip of paradise was their own personal racetrack. The 3-mile stretch of asphalt just west of the Rock Store is known as “The Snake” and many have been bitten there.

The clientele is as varied as the ethnic groups that inhabit Los Angeles—among them movie stars, politicians and other celebrities. Names like McQueen, Reagan, Marvin, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Ford, Leno and countless others were—and are—regular visitors. Ed made them feel welcome, but no more so than plain folk.

Ed was brash and spoke his mind, yet was loving to his family, friends and (most) customers. He was often seen sitting at the front table on the patio, watching the comings and goings and holding court for the throngs of bikers who visited. One could always count on Ed to tell it like it was, even if it made the person he was talking to uncomfortable. Many patrons are proud to say that Ed kicked them out of the Rock Store one or more times.

Over the years, Ed and Vern had to fight to keep the peace and safeguard what was theirs. Ed was a rugged guy who stood up to many, including the biker gangs who tried to have their way at his place. There have been many stories told in that cozy restaurant of the man who stood between two biker gangs with a baseball bat in one hand and a .44 Magnum in the other...

Then there was the time when Richfield wanted Ed to buy more oil and change more filters if it was going to continue to supply him with gasoline. This meant hiring another mechanic, which wasn’t in the budget. So Ed and his son Richard bought a tanker truck and started making runs to Bakersfield to buy gas. That worked out pretty well until the tanker lost its brakes on the old Ridge Route coming home. The two rusty pumps out front have been dry ever since.

Long ago, representatives of the U.S. Postal Service wanted Ed to be postmaster of Cornell. This didn’t sound so bad, but when they told him that he had to be open six days a week, Ed started to sour. And when they told him he had to keep $50 worth of stamps on hand (in the days when $50 was like $500 today) he erupted, refused the offer and kicked them out.

Ed passed quietly on April 2nd at the ripe old age of 86. The tide of condolences on the Rock Store’s Facebook page was overwhelming, with posts from all over the globe. Yes, a small-town shopkeeper can achieve fame and a long list of friends. All it takes is the right venue. The Rock Store was the perfect gem in rough surroundings—and Ed Savko was the perfect proprietor.  MC

By Jonathan Handler
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