A place in the sun

LONG before Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Garner brought their daughters here for a lazy afternoon, before Tom Hanks popped in for dessert or Michelle Pfeiffer swooped in for a Saturday morning shop, the quirky collection of nine red barns known as the Brentwood Country Mart was a fave hang among Hollywood A-listers living in the surrounding 'hood.

When it went up six decades ago as the Westside answer to the Original Farmers Market on Fairfax, the Mart immediately caught on among the bold-faced locals. Burt Lancaster came for take-away fried chicken. Gregory Peck would trot his horse right into the place. And a teenage Shirley Temple dropped into the post office, which is still operating after all these years. Then, as now, it wasn't out of the ordinary to pass by the picnic tables on the cobblestone courtyard and see the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, pictured here in 1952, digging into a cheeseburger.

Heck, if anything's changed since then, it's that you'll never see a hot starlet actually eating, and doing it in something other than jeans. "For me, growing up and coming here, it was a place where the community could truly and organically come together," recalls Jim Rosenfield, who started frequenting the place as a teen in the mid-1970s, and was "lucky enough" to take it off the original owners' hands four years ago. He has since renovated the Mart to its original glory, restored services such as the post office, the barbershop and shoe repair and actively recruited a cool mix of new spots including Janine Braden's Post 26, the City Bakery and Calypso Home. In turn, it continues to draw the kind of famous folk who wouldn't be caught dead cruising Robertson or Sunset Plaza in full view of paparazzi lenses.

This snapshot of Taylor was long stored inside a 10-inch-thick scrapbook the founders turned over to Rosenfield, who's been on a mission to preserve the city's pre-1950s architecture. "It's not just about saving the buildings," he says, "but the lifestyle."

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