Topanga Adapts to Adversity / Builds Resources

Peter Kagan, owner of Canyon Gourmet is staying open. Many farmers have lost business because so many restaurants have closed, he said. Inside the store he admonished that we should be wearing masks.

A mid-March drizzle began to settle over Pine Tree Circle’s empty parking lot. Inside the Canyon Bistro, it was also empty except for owner Larry Cohn. 

“Nice to see you,” Cohn said looking up from behind the counter. “We’re setting up delivery and takeout schedules.”

It was Thursday, March 19, and impending orders for non-essential businesses to close their doors and for people to stay home were also raining down on people’s lives. COVID-19 had arrived. 

The sign on Cohn’s door read: “Takeout Begins Thursday at 12 p.m. Six days a week. Thank you!”…and the number: (310) 455-7800. A menu was next to it, also noting takeout days and hours. 

At the other end of the mall, Peter Kagan, wearing a face mask and gloves, was unloading bags of onions out of his truck. 

“We’re staying open,” he said, as onions tumbled out of a bag and rolled away with Kagan in hot pursuit. “There are 150 ranches losing business because restaurants are closed. We’re reaping the benefit.” 

The store was fully stocked. A few customers stopped by to pickup up fresh organic produce while we talked. 

The shops between Cohn and Kagan were mostly shuttered with signs posted on their doors. “Topanga Home Grown’s sign said “We are reluctantly staying home to keep ourselves and our community safe,” and admonished everyone to take care of their family and loved ones. Others were more perfunctory: “Unfortunately all orders are to go. No dining in,” said Waterlily. Yoga Desa had a long missive taped on its door, and Brian Gibson announced he was moving the short-lived Rock Store to Jalan Jalan. Canyon Cleaners announced they will be open Monday-Friday for pick-up and drop-off from 6 to 7 p.m. only, until further notice. 

Across the nearly car-less Boulevard, Topanga Creek Market was bustling with customers chatting with Simon at the register. His wife, Helen, said it was business as usual and they had no intention of shutting down.They are definitely an essential business. 

The courtyard was quiet. Topanga Mercantile and its companion business, Topanga Candle Co., had already closed their doors, although their optimistic signs said: “Opening Soon!!! New Look, New Feel, New Stuff.” 

Across the way, Paul Doolin of Topanga Art Tile, sat behind a desk with a big tile surfboard behind him. 

“I was just going to start classes when this hit,” he said. “I think I need to get us online, have a sale. Now that people have time, maybe they want to spruce up their homes.” 

Next door at Be Love Apparel, it was business as usual, while Veterinarian Holly Scoren’s office (Topanga Animal Clinic, 310-455-1330)was open by appointment. 

Everything else was quiet except for some hammering in Rocco’s, all plastered in white and due to open with a new name once the new owners have their health permit, and when the Coronavirus crisis is over. 

On Sunday, March 22, a walk up Red Rock cleared away the brain fog and lightened the spirit. Rain was promised for that night. At 10 a.m., it was sunny and brisk but clouds were collecting over the ocean and gathering from the north.Yes, we would have rain. Other people seemed to have the same idea, “Get outside while you can.” The parking lot that was empty when I started, was now full. 

The next day, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority closed all of its parks, including Red Rock. A week later, all Los Angeles County parks and beaches were closed. 

“This is a new and life-changing challenge, and our collective and individual histories will be defined by how we rose to the occasion—by responsibly staying at home, or, if required, serving to save lives, and by every one of us doing whatever was needed to protect the health and lives of our friends, family, neighbors, and community,” wrote Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “Stay home, save lives.” 


Whether essential local businesses can survive the Coronavirus Pandemic will depend almost entirely on community support. While the Inn of the Seventh Ray decided to close its doors, Canyon Bistro, Waterlily Cafe, Topanga Living and Cafe 27 are offering  take out meals for the duration. Check the listings on this page for options.

Topanga business owners are encouraged to contact for resources like emergency loans and payroll tax extensions, or to speak to a small business counselor: (800) 593-8222 or (844) 432-4900.

Residents can find county resources for coping with being cooped up at:

Building and construction are classified as essential services and L.A. County Regional Planning services remain available at, via email to, and via phone at (213) 974-6411. Permit applications may be filed online at Planning Commission meetings will be  broadcast live on Facebook at and on YouTube. The public can comment for the record using  Zoom during the broadcast or before the meeting by sending an email to or by calling (213) 974-6411.

While the Topanga Community Center and Canyon Sages’ classes and activities remain closed for the duration, help is still available, especially for seniors in need of aid. 

On March 13, shortly after mandatory quarantine had been announced, TCC volunteers created online intake forms for seniors and vulnerable populations to be matched with volunteers looking to help with grocery delivery and prescription pickup.  Since then, more than 40 Topanga neighbors have filled out the form and been matched with someone who can help them. The TCC and Canyon Sages are coordinating an effort to connect these parties. Visit to request assistance or to volunteer.

In addition, the Canyon Sages have been working with programs such as Meals on Wheels—hoping to get meals to those unable to cook who reside in the canyon. 

Lifelong Topangan and TCC member Kristina Rocco Levy has emerged as a hero for many in the canyon. Kristina, whose family name is a canyon favorite, recognized the need for home cooked meals. Rocco’s in Topanga has changed hands, but Rocco’s Cucina in Pacific Palisades is cranking out meals to go every day. While TCC waits for the Meals on Wheels program to begin in the canyon, Levy and her team have coordinated with the Canyon Sages to identify those who need it most, and are preparing meals three times a week for more than 50 seniors in need. 

“Kristina and her family do this out of the kindness of their hearts, but if you can,  please consider ordering a meal from Rocco’s Cucina (they do group deliveries Monday-Saturday in the canyon from 5-6:30 at Pine Tree Circle), donating for the cause to the Topanga Community Center and denote “meals” when making your donation, or sending funds to Kristina Levy directly via venmo @Kristina-Levy.”

Since Safer at Home has gone into effect, Rocco’s Cucina Palisades will deliver dinners to Topanga, meeting in front of Topanga Home Grown, Monday through Saturday at 6 p.m., where there is plenty of space to respect the social distancing guidelines. Text Kristina at (310) 995-1895 to place your order and she will meet you with your order. The service will continue through April and, if needed, into May.


The county has created a list of virtual field trips and activities for families:

Follow LA Zoo’s social media for fun facts, virtual tours, and stunning wildlife: 

See the stars in your own backyard with the Griffith Observatory’s Weekly Sky Report:

Raise the curtain on your home stage with LA Opera’s Family Opera Time: 

Join LA County Library for Story Time live at 11 am and 3 pm on Facebook: 

Watch short films, exhibition walkthroughs, and documentaries with LACMA@Home:

Learn with the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Aquarium Online Academy:

The Topanga Library remains closed, but the county’s digital holdings are available, including free access to thousands of ebooks, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, magazines and newspapers.. It’s easy to sign up for a library card online:


Flavia Potenza

Flavia Potenza is executive editor of the Messenger Mountain News. She is also a founding member of the 40-year old Topanga Messenger that closed its doors in 2016. She can be reached at

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