The Apple Pan Has Been Sold — Hold On To Your Buns

The exterior of the Apple Pan in West L.A., January 2019. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

Beloved hamburger hut the Apple Pan, which opened in April of 1947, has new owners. Previous owner Sunny Sherman has confirmed to LAist that the West L.A. restaurant, which has been owned by members of her family for three generations, quietly changed hands.

"It's hard to hand that over," says Sherman, granddaughter of founders Ellen and Alan Baker. "You've been doing that for so many years. You have your ways of doing things and you have a real interest in something like that and maintaining something that your grandparents started."

But hand it over she did. Sherman says she is looking forward to spending more time with her nearly 90-year-old mother, Martha Gamble, who helped run the Apple Pan for many years.

"We liked our little business but family comes first," Sherman says.

The new owners are entertainment mogul Irving Azoff and his wife, Shelli — and they plan to keep the restaurant as is. That was a crucial selling point for Sherman.

A burger and fries at the Apple Pan in West L.A., January 2019. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

Over the years, many potential buyers had expressed interest in the Apple Pan as homes, stores and a shopping mall sprung up around the white shack on Pico Blvd. (With Google moving into the zombie Westside Pavillion, you can expect a wave of gentrification along the Pico/Westwood corridor.) But up until recently, neither Sherman nor her parents had any interest in selling it.

What made the Azoffs different? They were longtime customers. That was the first thing.

Sherman says Shelli Azoff grew up coming to the Apple Pan and introduced Irving to it, after he moved to Los Angeles from Illinois.

"I have certain criteria," Sherman says. "I wanted people that hopefully were longtime customers, which I found. People that knew how to run a business and were successful at doing that, I found. People that wanted to keep our employees. That I found. People that didn't have to make this a big business to survive, to get their money back right away. And people who don't want to change it. And I got all that. All those points I was able to find in one group of people."

When it comes to preserving aging culinary landmarks, this isn't Azoff's first rodeo. He's part of the team working to save Nate 'n Al, an old school Jewish deli occupying prime Beverly Hills real estate.

American entertainment executive and personal manager Irving Azoff, and his wife, Shelli, arrive for the formal Artist's Dinner honoring the recipients of the 39th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on December 3, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool /Getty Images)

Whatever happens, Sherman confirms that the Apple Pan will remain the small, neighborhood diner it has been for more than seven decades. The longtime cooks and waiters, many of whom have been working there for decades, are staying. You'll still have to hover awkwardly to grab a seat. Once you do, one waiter will work one side of the U-shaped counter while another covers the other side. The hickory sauce recipe will taste the same. The custard in the banana cream pie will still jiggle when one of the waiters sets it down in front of you.

Although Sherman will be be dialing back her oversight of the Apple Pan's day-to-day operations, she plans to stay involved and advise the new owners.

According to Sherman, the Azoffs have vowed not to change the Apple Pan. Even if they wanted to, Sherman still owns the land it sits on. She only sold the contents of the restaurants and its recipes.

Will the Apple Pan expand? Possibly. But if it does, the growth will be slow and contained. As for keeping it in the family, both of Sherman's two adult sons have their own careers and she's fine with that.

"It takes a lot out of your life," Sherman says, "and quite honestly, I don't want that for them."

A banana cream pie at the Apple Pan in West L.A., January 2019. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

Editor's Note: This story has been edited from its original published version to clarify details and add information about Irving Azoff's role in trying to preserve Nate 'n Al.