Consternation over Coco's closing

Gayle Jones sat down at the counter Friday morning and ordered what could be her last serving of the best scrambled eggs she's ever had.

"It's such a shame," the Corona del Mar resident said as she settled in to read a couple of newspapers and enjoy breakfast.

The neighborhood Coco's Bakery Restaurant, where she orders said scrambled eggs, will close its doors for the last time at 2 p.m. Sunday. The site will be reborn in a few months as a Chase Bank.

Friday, longtime residents lamented the impending loss of a community gathering place and grumbled about the prospect of yet another financial institution joining several others along East Coast Highway.

"I have to say it's a sad day for Corona del Mar," said Jim Krueger, 69. "It's a happy day for the bank and the corporate system."

The Catalina Restaurant Group, which owns the restaurant, did not respond to multiple requests for comment as of Friday afternoon.

Manager Gerry Bermudes said that all of about 30 staff members will be transferred to other restaurants.

Newport Beach Community Development Director Kim Brandt said a building permit application to remodel the spot was submitted to the city in July, and the permit itself was issued Feb. 11. Public records show the property owner as Patricia Welter of Downey. She could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the bank confirmed last week that a branch would be opening in the spring.

Coco's — a chain that Corona del Mar couple John and Audrey McIntosh started in 1948 — long provided an affordable, family-friendly alternative to some of the area's more upscale restaurants and coffee shops.

"It's just heartbreaking," said Kathy Kosoff, who said her son and his family would eat at Coco's whenever they came to town from New York. She remembered taking her family there when her children were young. "It was nice to have a variety of restaurants. Sometimes you want a fancy meal and sometimes you just want something simple."

Corona del Mar denizens will be hard-pressed to find another chocolate cream pie for $6.99. And with hearty meals at discounted prices for diners 55 and older, customers wondered what would replace a place that, in addition to being the home of decades' worth of memories, has been a practical necessity for seniors living nearby.

"For people in their 80s, it's a simple meal, if there's nobody to cook for them," Kosoff added.

While several diners said they liked nearby Rose Bakery Cafe, another favorite with locals, it simply isn't the same.

First of all, an 82-year-old diner who preferred to be identified only as LJR said, it draws a crowd that's, well, a little younger.

"This is an adult version of the yuppies," he said, adding that another nearby diner, Ruby's, lacks Coco's homey ambience.

Melissa Tackes, 77, who lives just a couple blocks from Coco's with her husband, Ralph, said they eat at Coco's "all the time."

"I don't know where we're going to go," she said.

"This is kind of a landmark," Ralph, 83, added. "It's not a fair trade-off — let's put it that way."

Kam Cirica, 63, dressed in workout gear and dining with her trainer, Zach Panhorst, said she's lived in the area for 60 years.

She had harsh words for the incoming tenant.

"I'm sick to death of Chase," she said.

Jones, 74, said that sad as it is, the change is part of an evolving Coast Highway.

"At one time it was 'Rug Row,' and then it was 'Nail Row,'" she said. "And now it's 'Bank Row.'"

But ultimately, "banks are perfectly legal," she said.

"Commerce marches on."

Twitter: @jillcowan

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