Mo Krant

What must have been a million meals and three million beers ago — before Mo’s Place became the unofficial civic center of Playa del Rey, before Mo dressed in outrageous costumes to hand out ridiculous prizes during Monday Night Football parties — Mo Krant was down on his luck, betrayed by friends and business partners, and so one night he just started driving. He ended up on Culver Boulevard two blocks from the beach, at a strip mall Chinese restaurant called the Sand Pan, which was kind of a dump, but it had potential.

“I came in, sat at the bar, and I just had a really good feeling. I don’t know what it was, just a gut feeling that something felt right about this place,” Krant recalls 25 years later, in between greeting week-night regulars he knows by name.

And he’s quite the affectionate greeter. “I’ll hug you. I’ll kiss you. … I don’t care. I’m European,” he says, though you’d probably never guess that Krant’s parents immigrated from Holland when he was three, that he ran a toy, perfume and jewelry business in Amsterdam from age 17 to 32, or that in his early 20s he was a black belt kickboxer (Mo promised twice that he wasn’t pulling my leg with that one).

At 67 — “I know I don’t look it. I have a great doctor,” he reflexively quips — Krant is eating healthy, not drinking much, at the gym for at least an hour a day and generally feeling pretty darn good about where he is and where he’s been.

Not that success was easy. Krant is quick to acknowledge he had help — most of all from Steve Matilla and his late father Luke, the real estate brokers and property managers who gave Krant a chance even though taking over the business stretched him beyond his financial limitations. And perhaps that has something to do with the abiding belief in treating people right that guides Krant both personally and professionally.

“There’s nothing better in life than to feel good about helping people or making sure people have a great time, making sure that every person who comes in here feels good about themselves. It’s about loving everybody around you, and also respecting people. If you don’t give respect, you don’t get respect. I try to make sure everyone feels at home. This is my living room. I’m here every night,” he says.

“When a friend of mine comes in here and he’s maybe had a little too much to drink, I’ll say ‘I’m not kicking you out; I’m kicking you out tonight. Tomorrow is another day.’ … You’ve got to watch out for people. That’s not a pat on my back; that’s the way you do business. Playa del Rey is a very special community. A very close-knit community. It’s very un-L.A. You’ve got to be a good neighbor.”

— Joe Piasecki