Pedaler’s Fork Experiences Glowing Success
If I can be here for the next twenty years, I will. I want to create an institution that says something.” For Robbie Schaeffer, few things matter more than the experience of being in the wilderness on a mountain bike. And with the glowing success of his first restaurant, Pedalers Fork, he gets to bring this passion to the community of Calabasas. As the heir to the nail polish brand O.P.I., opening a cycling-themed restaurant may seem like a far cry, but in fact this current endeavor of his hits even closer to home than the family business.
“I didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until I was eleven, so I was a late bloomer into it. When I got on a bike it was like a whole new world: like freedom.” Robbie’s enthusiasm for the wilderness didn’t stop there. An avid hiker, skier, and of course cyclist, Robbie Schaeffer is the epitome of an outdoors man. However, it wasn’t a love he inherited. In fact, “my family is the opposite [of me], they don’t know where I came from. Their idea of vacation is sitting by a pool, my idea is to climb a big mountain.”
After O.P.I. was sold in 2010, Schaeffer spoke about feeling at a loss after the company was sold. He became the only member of his family to become a licensed beauty technician and opened a nail salon in Studio City. “The salon business is not easy, so after three years I said, ‘Okay, now what?’” After the salon closed, Schaeffer decided it was time to return to his heart: cycling. After years of travelling through the Pacific Northwest, Schaeffer had fallen in love with the culture surrounding the outdoorsy cities and aimed to bring it to Los Angeles. “When I was choosing locations, the three major factors [were] looking for an active lifestyle community. Second, was that [Calabasas] is the gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains with endless road riding and mountain biking year round. And third, this was an area that was in desperate need of a good restaurant.” He frequented Hidden Hills, Calabasas and the West Valley, using them as access points for biking in the Santa Monica Mountains and the Ahmanson Ranch preserve. “I’ve been riding out here for twenty three years. I would drive all the way out from the Westside just to bike out here. So this is my heart. I’ve had a few good friends who grew up in Hidden Hills so I’ve always been familiar with the community.”
Schaeffer aimed to infuse Pedalers Fork with the lush, rustic energy captured by the Pacific Northwest, as well as a bit of a ski chalet look. “One thing I love about visiting [the northwest and different mountain towns] is the active lifestyle community: how everyone is so together. You all go out on a big ride together, come back, celebrate together, and I just wanted that energy. So I wanted the architecture to come from those places.” Schaeffer was very hands-on in the design of the building. He wanted to incorporate the natural greenery, as well as the softly babbling creek that so idyllically runs parallel to the restaurant. He succeeded, as the building looks and feels as though it has been there for thirty years. It has the distinction of fitting in with the quirky backdrop of Old Town Calabasas, the rustic reclaimed wood of a Utah ski chalet, and the elegant, warm glow of a beer garden.
“The concept started out as a beer garden. I’ve always said there are three hundred days of sunshine in LA and we don’t have any beer gardens. You go to New York City in the middle of winter, and people are drinking beer outside. Why doesn’t that work here? Then we said, at the end of the beer garden, there’ll be a little French country house, and we’ll make that a little bike shop. And that’s how it all came together.”
The next step was the food. Schaeffer understood the importance of knowing exactly where and in what condition your food is coming from. This is poignant in cities like Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle in particular, so Schaeffer spares no amount of expense or effort, and uses only the highest quality of produce and meat exclusively from local farmers. The question of what food to put on the menu was easily answered: cyclists love good, hearty food and lots of it. The important bullet points quickly became clean, flavorful food, the perfect, Arcadian atmosphere, and last but not least, the accompanying beverages.
A staple of most Northwestern towns is the coffee and the beer, two delicacies that have definitely made it over to Los Angeles, but perhaps the reach hasn’t extended to our little corner quite yet. Schaeffer boasts that it is the only place to serve true third wave coffee in the West Valley and the only location in the entire state to officially serve the famous 10 Speed Coffee. (He’s right, I checked.) “10 Speed Coffee originated in 2005 up in Hood River, Oregon and when I went up to Hood River, I was just blown away. Blown away by the culture, blown away by the beer. It’s a place where people really get along and really just enjoy life.” With a full range of craft beers and a fully functional bike shop, Pedalers Fork has achieved just what it set out to do: bring that vibrant spark of community to the Valley.
Schaeffer also plays a big role in the charity world. One of his remaining ties to the beauty industry is a charity he helped found called the Beauty Bus Foundation. “We provide beauty services to those who are home-bound and terminally ill, as well as their caregiver.” This foundation has created such a profound impact on the lives of terminally ill people. Continuing Schaeffer’s goodwill, bringing bicycle safety to the forefront, as well as getting more bike lanes in and around Calabasas, and generally sharing the sport more and more with people are among his to-do list. “[Cycling has] been an amazing positive outlet in [my] life. Whenever I’m down, I can get on a bike for twenty minutes and my day is way better.” As it is, Schaeffer leads weekly bicycle rides and organizes enormous group rides several times a year. In doing so, he brings both the cycling community together and creates a space for the community of Calabasas to flourish.
Though Robbie Schaeffer has only called Hidden Hills home for three years, in those three years he has created a staple for our community. He seems to understand the very heart of the West Valley, loves it for all its beauty and uniqueness, and knows just what to do to draw that out. He has invited others to engage with their appreciation for this beautiful area, and has created an institution that is a celebration of all that encompasses this little corner of the world.