Embattled Retailer Mizrahi Dead at 63
LARCHMONT BOULEVARD—Albert Mizrahi, a real estate developer and major figure in the business landscape of Larchmont Boulevard, died August 12 after a long battle with myelofibrosis. He was 63.
His son, Michael Mizrahi, who owns Library, a clothing boutique on the boulevard, said his father was an “amazing” man.
“He helped a lot of people,” said Michael. “He was very fearless in his approach, but he had an extremely altruistic nature. He was a strategist. He was a philosopher, a teacher and a student.”
Mizhari had been in a protracted legal battle with the city since 2010 regarding Larchmont Bungalow, an eatery on Larchmont Boulevard, and its legitimacy as a sit-down restaurant. The issue angered other Larchmont leaders, who said Mizhari put his interests first and Larchmont’s second through his disregard for city ordinances.
Michael said he regrets that the Larchmont community did not see the positive aspects of his father that he did. He said the misconceptions began as soon as his father bought several properties in 2007 on the boulevard.
“At that time he bought the property,” Michael said, “a lot of bad public relations went out based on what were his [perceived] intentions.”
Michael said that rumors floated that his father was looking for national chain stores as lessees, but he said that was never his father’s intention.
“He was never ever able to really defend himself because that was not his style,” said Michael.
The battle over the Larchmont Bungalow did not improve the situation. Michael said his father’s original intention was to lease out the space, but that he couldn’t find a tenant.
According to Michael, his father considered a restaurant for the space, but was constrained by the “Q” conditions, which did not allow another restaurant on Larchmont.
When the elder Mizrahi shared this problem with then Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, Michael said LaBonge told his father to apply for a “To-Go” license, get the approval and then put in tables and chairs on the premises later.
“Peet’s Coffee has done it, Starbucks has done it, all these restaurants have done it,” Michael said LaBonge told his father.
According to Michael, his father took LaBonge’s advice and did so.
“My father is a smart business man, he’s not going to go ahead and invest a $1 million in a restaurant without that type of assurance,” said Michael. “He’s a rule breaker to some extent, but he’s not an idiot.”
According to Michael, on opening day, LaBonge “flipped” his position and abandoned his support of the project when a local uproar began against the restaurant.
LaBonge did not respond to a request for confirmation of this version of events.
As to the future, Michael said his family will continue to lease to tenants or build their own businesses—Michael’s mother, Renee, owns the store Hardware—that contribute to and create a community feeling on the street.
As evidence, Michael said when he recently leased a restaurant space on the boulevard, he turned down six to eight offers from national food chains.
“I said no to all of these national tenants that were offering me market or above market rent,” said Michael, “because I believe that merchandising the block is a very important element for the community and for the future success of the block itself.”
Michael said unlike his father, he will be “completely open to talk about the issues” that may come up in the future.
“[My father] was very direct and unfiltered,” said Michael. “He was a great man…but because he didn’t explain himself through a newspaper or public relations, he was very misconstrued. That’s the really disappointing element of it because the community of Larchmont only has been privy to one side of the situation.”