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John and Tyler Stanaland: A father and son flying high in the real estate industry 

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

John Stanaland knows Laguna Beach. Not only is he one of Laguna Beach’s top residential real estate agents, he was born and raised here. His family’s tenure stretches back to his grandparents who arrived in Laguna from Long Beach back when land was plentiful. 

“They were developers who moved into the trailer park that is now Montage [Resort],” explains Stanaland. “They developed Portafina, subdivided it and sold those for an oceanfront house in Victoria.” 

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John and Tyler Stanaland

Stanaland’s son, Tyler, is now working with his father fulltime, takes in the family history. “They lived at the trailer park?” he asks with surprise as Stanaland nods. From the grandparents on down, four generations of Stanalands have been involved in real estate. 

Leaving sports behind for a “real job”

Stanaland says that “After dabbling in a sports background I went into real estate at 27. I decided to give it a shot and see if I liked it.” Selling his first home almost immediately for $500,000 undoubtedly helped him decide it was a career he wanted to pursue. The “sports background” Stanaland decided to leave behind was as a professional beach volleyball player (and a third degree black belt). “I wanted to be a sports star until I realized I needed to get a real job,” he says smiling.

Like father, like son

Tyler is following in his father’s footsteps. A former professional surfer, Tyler says, “Real estate was always going to happen after surfing. I was always around the office when I was younger, doing stuff like bringing him cups of water,” he remembers with a laugh. “I got my license at 19.” 

Now at 28, Tyler says he’s ready to give real estate his full attention. “I had a lot of fun surfing, but this is not a bad work place,” he says as we look out the window of the spectacular oceanfront home he and his dad are charged with selling. “I have some big shoes to fill, but he’s a good teacher.”

A “go for it” attitude

Stanaland has been selling homes for 22 years. During that time he says he has been ranked first or second every year for the last 17 years. “I am very disciplined,” he says. I think it’s from my sports background. Like Tyler, anything we approach we’re going to go for it.”

Breaking records in Newport Beach

This “go for it” attitude runs deep. There is a thirst for adrenaline that seems to be hereditary. Selling the most expensive home ever in Newport Beach, 1 Pelican Hill Road North, as Stanaland did for nearly $40 million in November, would certainly get the heart racing, especially when it took only four days. However, the Stanalands seem to require even more stimulation. 

Skydiving and big wave surfing take care of the adrenaline fix

“I’ve jumped out of a few hundred planes,” admits Stanaland. He says he’s “just shy” of 300 jumps. “I got into it with my younger son (who is a Santa Ana police officer). He talked me into it and now I’m a class C jumper.” There is only one class higher. 

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John Stanaland

Even Tyler, who admits he prefers getting his adrenaline rush in the ocean riding big waves, has jumped out of four planes. It’s clear, however, that Tyler is not as sold on the activity as his father and younger brother, likening the experience to “falling.”

Stanaland takes issue with that description, insisting it’s more like “flying.” Father and son then launch into a good-natured debate on the matter. Whatever it’s like, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Success born from hard work

How much this love of adrenaline-inducing activities contributes to Stanaland’s success is debatable. What is not is his work ethic and commitment to his clients. According to Stanaland, “Residential real estate is emotional, it’s not just a business transaction. I try to figure out what my clients’ needs are. You can’t do it every time, but I have a pretty good success rate.”

Learning from the master of hard work

“He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” adds Tyler. “If you text him at midnight he responds in the same time frame if you text him at one in the afternoon. This is something I want to emulate.” When I raise the question as to whether or not he discourages midnight texts from clients, he dismisses the idea. “I always have a sense of urgency. My clients know if they reach out to me and don’t hear back from me I’ve been kidnapped,” he says with a laugh. 

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Tyler Stanaland

On those rare occasions when he can’t take the call, like maybe he’s jumping out of a plane (or fishing or surfing, two other activities he will make time for) Stanaland says there is always someone who will. “And as soon as I touch ground I will respond,” he says assuredly.

Loving Laguna Beach makes it easy to sell

Work ethic aside, it always helps if you like what you do, and both Stanalands genuinely seem to love their work. “I love the business,” he explains. “I like people. I like the houses I get to sell. I sell everywhere, but I love where we live.” Tyler echoes the sentiment. “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel everywhere a surfer would want to go, beautiful places. But Laguna is always home. This stretch of coast is something I’ve always wanted to come home to.” 

As we look out at the majestic stretch of Victoria Beach with unimpeded views both north and south from this stunning home, it is very easy to understand why.


Roxanna Ward: A life of music and song. And laughter.

By MAGGI HENRIKSON

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Roxanna Ward is the consummate performer. She manages to do it all – sing, tell jokes, teach, compose, arrange and conduct – and she even takes it on the road.

This past summer, she brought her own brand of irreverent, hilarious, often raunchy, self-parody-set-to-music to the cabaret stage in such far away places as Provincetown, Boston, and Rhode Island. We are lucky enough here in Laguna to catch her live act this month, at the No Square Theatre, from Jan 26 – 28.

Actually, Roxanna’s shows are coveted as private and corporate gigs all over the world.

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Roxanna Ward

She started out from her hometown in California, “I wanted to get to the east coast. I didn’t appreciate the Central Valley at the time,” she says.

Roxanna landed in Chicago, working for Williams/Gerard, a business and event production company. They sent her out to venues, writing music and conducting shows. 

“That was the first 15 years of my career.”

She worked with Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the group Brothers & Sisters. She did event shows for Shaklee Corporation. Then, a women specialty travel company was started, and for one of their cruises, Roxanna was asked to perform aboard on the trip tailored for 1,200 women. It was life changing, as Roxanna made close friends with the other performers from all over the world. 

“Musicians, performers, artists I didn’t know were working there too,” she remembers. “Now, 26 years later, I’m doing gigs all around the world, two to three times a year.”

Two of the friends she made on that ship, Lisa Koch and Vickie Shaw, will be performing with her at the No Square Theatre gig, a continuance of her “tour de force” show. 

During the summer and on holidays, her traveling show is featured on riverboat cruises all over Europe, on safaris in Africa, even in Antarctica, “Everything I could imagine!” she says with a smile.

A place to call home

Roxanna had been the full-time traveling entertainer for long enough, when a producer friend introduced her to Laguna Beach. She was residing in Manhattan Beach at the time, and she thought, what am I doing up there?

“I was doing studio work in LA, but this felt like the small town I love. One thing led to another.”

She made Laguna her home, and The Little Shrimp her home away from home.

A friend asked her to brunch at The Little Shrimp, and then said, “Get up on the piano and play something.” The owners followed up with a phone call asking her to start working there. 

“I didn’t have enough material, so I could stall with jokes, making parodies,” she says. “Three weeks turned into 13 years.” 

So, every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the comedy came out to stretch the musical material, like self-preservation. “So much comedy comes out of fear!” Roxanna explains. 

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Roxanna says her students know her by her car

Roxanna and Bree Burgess Rosen, another Laguna musical icon, became friends at The Little Shrimp. It was a mutual admiration society. “I died when I saw her show,” Roxanna says of Bree’s Lagunatics. “I’m just amazed at what she’s done.”

The two continue to come up with ideas for shows together. Planning some No Square events, the two were talking. “She was picking my brain,” says Roxanna, “and she said, ‘Why don’t you do a show?’

“I made her promise – as it got closer, I’m going to try to pull out (there’s too much going on) – don’t let me!”

The show centers around the interesting and crazy life and times of Roxanna Ward. “It’s stream of consciousness. I just tell a story of how I got here, as a kid, what led me to this, what led to that… I have funny bits, and fly by the seat of the pants. I read the audience.” 

So, get in the audience and give her your feedback – but it’s not a show for the kiddos. Roxanna calls it R-rated.

Sharing her gifts with the next generation

As delightful as her shows are, this Laguna Beach tour de force is a dedicated teacher as well. She is the much-loved choral director and vocal coach at Thurston Middle and Laguna Beach High School. “Teaching is like doing five comedy shows,” she laughs.

The aspect of music plus teaching comes from a family legacy. Roxanna’s mom worked for the local school district in Modesto, and her dad was a professional musician, playing country music every night. 

“At age four, I begged for lessons. At age five, my mom said okay,” she says.

 As her music prowess progressed, the performer in her awakened. When neighbors started saying hi to Roxanna by name, her mother wondered how she knew so many people. Little did mom know, her daughter was doing private concerts. “I’d go around the neighborhood and ask people if they had a piano – and I’d play!”

In college at University of the Pacific, vocal coach William Dehning turned her on to vocals. Now, she’s put it all together. 

“I love musical theater,” she says. “It kind of combines it all.”

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Bree Burgess Rosen was the one who contacted Roxanna back 16 years ago, when there was an opening at the high school for a choral director. At the time, Roxanna’s son, Jake, was four years old and it was a good time to settle in and stay put for a bit. Since then, Roxanna’s made her mark on countless exceptional school plays, including “Nunsense” (in which she also performed as Mother Superior), “Gypsy”, and “Annie”. Her busy schedule includes rehearsals just started for “All Shook Up” coming up next.

When there’s free time

Roxanna likes the idea of driving around the country, sometime in the future, with her dog – that is, if she ever has free time. “I could probably ask people if they have a piano, and get a meal out of it. And something for the dog!”

Music has a deep-rooted significance in the life of Roxanna Ward, and she truly believes it brings out the best in the world. It can be a great unifier. “What would happen if everyone came out, at the same time, and sang the same note – like the common A?” 

She is thinking about the way a common point can bring humanity together, an especially important thing in these discordant times. Music and the arts have healing and teaching potential. 

“The arts bring people together,” she says. “We come together collectively and we can all have different feelings about it. It helps us access emotions. It transforms us.

“And, God, we need comedy! We need to laugh, especially now.”

We do. Laughter is the best medicine, and can be found right here at home thanks to Roxanna Ward sharing her gifts.


Jason Watson: Now part-owner, he sees Laguna Surf and Sport as a “second home” for local surfers

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Certain businesses become part of the fabric of the community they service. It helps if they’ve been around for a while, but it takes more than longevity to achieve this kind of status. These businesses are somehow able to reflect at least some portion of their community’s culture. 

One local business that has achieved such status is Laguna Surf and Sport (LS&S). Since 1982 it has operated as the quintessential local surf shop.  The store, like all businesses, has gone through some different iterations through the years. One person who has seen – and contributed to -- a lot of these changes in a very intimate way is Jason Watson. 

A true Laguna local

A Lagunan since the age of two, Watson is a true local. He went through Laguna schools, surfed Laguna waves and, since the age of 17, has worked at LS&S, first as a clerk and then as manager.  “I stayed in Laguna the whole way through,” he says.

However, while Laguna is definitely home, Watson has definitely seen much of the world. “I had a small time, casual career as a professional surfer,” he says. This allowed him to travel, but when he came home, he would pick up where he left off at Laguna Surf and Sport. And he stayed, no matter how many times it changed hands. 

2016 was the last time LS&S changed hands. And, as usual, Watson stayed on.  This time, however, his title changed from manager to owner. 

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Jason Watson, longtime manager, now part-owner of Laguna Surf and Sport

A former boss becomes a partner

His commitment to the store and his longevity were not part of some grand master plan. “When you’re 19-20 it’s a pretty confusing time,” admits Watson. But what helped clarify things was his former boss, now partner, Eric John, the founder of Laguna Surf and Sport. “I met him when I was 17,” explains Watson. “I showed him I was a good worker. I was able to manage surfing and the job…When I think about all that he has done for me I can only hope to do that for someone else.” 

As for what John “did” for Watson, he acted as a mentor. “He gave me a platform. He brought me to meetings that I probably shouldn’t have been brought to. And he helped me figure it out from the ground up,” says Watson. This allowed Watson to become an invaluable part of the business – no matter who owned it. 

It’s hard to let LS&S go 

John has sold and bought back LS&S several times. He first sold it to Swell, only to buy it back. Then in 2008 he sold it again, this time to Volcom, only to again buy it back in 2016 with partners Jason Steris, former CEO of Volcom and Watson. For Watson, the leap from manager to owner was more dramatic than he imagined it would be.

Going from manager to owner is a surprisingly big change

 “It took me a solid year to wrap my head around that change,” says Watson. “The way you run things as an owner is different (than as an employee). Even though I was as committed as a manager as I thought it possible to be…this place is a home to me. It’s so much a second family. But no matter what, when you’re an owner that feeling of having the power to make changes is something I’ve been really feeling these last four to six months. I’m really excited about it.”

The Shop is the first for the family

Laguna Surf and Sport is not the only retail establishment Watson has a stake in. The other one is just a few doors down. Watson’s wife, Jessica, opened The Shop in 2013. She, too, worked under the tutelage of Eric John and, although the stores are different (The Shop is a woman’s boutique), there are, not surprisingly, similarities in business philosophy. The most evident is each store’s knack for capturing a local vibe.

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Inside The Shop, the first store owned by Watson and his wife, Jessica, who opened the store in 2013

 “I leveraged who I was and so did she and so did Eric,” Watson says about getting The Shop off to a good start. Location was also critical. “I thought I have to be able to see it,’” remembers Watson. “These are some of the best blocks in Laguna. To be able to walk a customer out of LS&S and say ‘There (The Shop) is.’ That is definitely one of the biggest things (aiding the The Shop’s growth).”

Making LS&S part of the community beyond the store’s walls

Both retail establishments are bona fide successes. But Watson isn’t sitting back with his feet up on his desk. For him it is critical that LS&S offers more than just “stuff.”

So they are out in the community putting on surf contests, offering surf lessons, sponsoring both the Thurston and Laguna Beach High School surf teams, as well as their own LS&S surf team. Watson feels just as strongly about these things as he does about what is offered inside the store. “I want the guys and girls who are passionate about surfing to feel like this is a second home, like I did,” says Watson.

A real pride in the staff at LS&S

Another way LS&S does this is by hiring really good people, something Watson admits that has not always been the case. Now, however, he gushes like a proud parent about his employees. “I get compliments on my staff all the time. They’re all talented surfers or skaters who leave whatever ego they have at the door when they come to work. They’re just kids learning the ropes, learning customer service. But they learn. They learn how to talk and sell and that’s a big deal to a lot of the companies we work with. They love surf shop employees. They take notes,” says Watson.

 These notes can lead to future employment beyond LS&S, something that clearly pleases Watson and his quest to pay it forward.

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Jason Watson, his wife Jessica and their two children, ages three and one

Hard work, more hard work and dad mode

It also mirrors his own path. “I just hoped through hard work it would work out,” he says when he thinks back to his younger days. “There are a lot of distractions.”  Now, with things pretty well settled, there are still things that shift his focus. These things are a force more powerful than anything: his children, ages one and three. The no sleep, all hands on deck phase of very young children is a life changing event.  With two bustling businesses, in addition to young children to take care of, things like surfing have definitely taken a back seat. “I’m in full dad mode. It’s pretty painful right now,” he says grinning. “I’m enjoying the kids.” 

Surfing hasn’t been entirely abandoned, however.  Offering profuse praise for his wife, Watson says he still gets in a few surf trips a year, although he has become much more discerning about those trips. “I don’t go anywhere when it’s flat,” he says with a laugh. 

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Watson in a place he knows intimately, behind the counter at Laguna Surf and Sport

Bringing LS&S “back on”

“Flat” is a dirty word in surfing and in retail. For the former, only Mother Nature can rectify a no waves day. In retail, however, there is a bit more control. Still, it’s not an easy business. But Watson is philosophical about his chosen field. “Everything is hard,” he says. “I talk to my friends. Everyone is doing different things and we all complain,” he says with a laugh. But whatever complaints Watson may have, he is now in a position to deal with them head on, at least as they relate to Laguna Surf and Sport. 

“It’s good. We have this great surf community. The kids are feeling it. LS&S is back on. It feels a lot better and a lot different that it’s ours again.”


Diana Neff: She loves to live, work, and play to the fullest at her Glennwood House home

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

“I wanted to be independent like my sister,” says Diana Neff, as we talk on the patio of Glennwood House, a 42 room independent living facility in Laguna serving special needs adults 18 through 59 years of age.

Behind Diana, the wind ruffles the ocean into peaks in the distance. Almost four years ago, when Diana was barely into her thirties, that wish to be independent was the catalyst that sent her parents in search of a place to satisfy her desire for autonomy. She says, “We looked at other places, but I liked this place.” 

And, not surprisingly, it appears to be a perfect fit. Glennwood’s vision for its residents is an atmosphere in which they can “live, work, play,” and Diana is certainly the embodiment of that vision. Evidently, it’s the right soil in which the seeds of independence bud and flourish. Her days are filled to the brim with friends, work, volunteering, sports, art, exercising, walking, and yoga. With an emphasis on friends.

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Diana enjoys the sun on the Glennwood patio 

As for the “living” part of Glennwood’s mission, the facility provides beautiful and peaceful surroundings, yet it has a community feeling, welcoming and friendly. Diana’s self-reliance also extends to her living conditions, as she has her own room (and an ocean view), and she keeps her own hours. And the location is ideal for walking to the beach or the coffee shop down the street. 

But her schedule doesn’t leave much time for strolling. Not only does she work at Ralph’s Grocery four days a week, she volunteers at the Woman’s Club, for which she received an award for Volunteer of the Year. 

A packed schedule of work, volunteering, and fun

Sherry Neff, her mother, says, “She attended an eight-week serving course at Glennwood put on by the Woman’s Club, and was then invited to serve at events. She’s been doing that on and off for three years.” 

Sometimes these two worlds collide, but in a good way.

Members of the Woman’s Club come to visit Diana at work, and her mother says that when the two of them go walking together, people on the street frequently greet them. One of the reasons Diana loves working at Ralphs is the interaction with customers, where she says, “Almost everyone knows me.”

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Guest Services…Diana happily bagging and talking with local Cindy Fletcher

Aside from being autonomous, having friends appears to be of utmost importance to Diana. “I didn’t have very many friends before, but since living here, I have a lot of friends.”

Her best friend, Tina Cassani, passes us briefly in the hallway.

Sherry explains further, “When Diana was young, it was hard on children with disabilities. They were sent to a school that had a class appropriate for the children, and it was never her home school. She didn’t have friends. The children in her class didn’t live in the neighborhood.”

Diana gains a large network of friends

But now, Sherry says, “She has a few close friends, and the other residents are like an extended family. They all watch out for each other.”

Glennwood also has a bevy of people who assist residents in various endeavors. Since working is encouraged, they facilitate the process by providing a job coach. Diana’s job coach takes her to work, picks her up, and oversees any new assignments or necessary paperwork.

Although Diana is transported to work and back, she does have the opportunity to use the ACCESS bus available through OC Transit Authority. This comes in handy when she goes to Aliso Viejo to do one of her favorite things; help her sister with her nephews (six-month old twins and a two-year old). And three boys under two years of age seems like a situation in which a helping hand is needed. She’s very much looking forward to spending the holidays with them. 

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Dave and Sherry Neff with Diana’s nephews, Thomas, Bryan and Scott

Her mother says that Diana always loved exercise, but aside from skiing with her parents in Mammoth and (encouraged by her sister) running 5ks, she didn’t participate in team sports until she arrived at Glennwood.  And here’s where more friends come in. She’s now a member of the baseball team and plays every Saturday. And she does yoga once a week and spends a half-hour a day on the treadmill in the gym. 

However, there is an artistic side to her as well. Every two weeks, artists from LOCA visit the facility, and now Diana’s parents are the proud recipients of many of her drawings and paintings. And she uses this talent to make cards for her friends and family. Assistant Director Rachel Landers, who has been at Glennwood since its opening, says, “I have three of them on my desk right now.”

Sherry attests to the changes in Diana since she arrived at Glennwood. “She’s grown as an individual. When she was living at home, she didn’t think for herself. She’d ask, ‘Mom, should I do this?’ Now when she’s faced with a decision, she says, ‘Let me think about it.’”

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Gorgeous blossom in the patio garden

Even the neighbors on her parents’ street have noticed a change. “We’ve lived in the same house for 32 years, and the neighbors see how she’s matured,” Sherry says. “And when we’re together or out to dinner, she has so much to talk about now.”

Although it seems as if there is much to like of her new life here, Diana answers the next question without a moment’s hesitation. When asked about what she likes best at Glennwood, she says, “Being independent and having friends. Glennwood has been a good place for me to live. I’ve grown so much. And my parents know I’m safe.” 

Sherry claims that Diana’s time at Glennwood has been a life changer, and allowed Diana to live to the fullest. “I really appreciate the support Laguna Beach has for Glennwood, and how they address those with special needs.”

Living a full life has been hard-won for Diana. But she’s packing about as much as anyone could fit into a day, and it obviously agrees with her. Glennwood has provided an atmosphere in which she canthrive and blossom, and now she’s not wasting any time in that “live, work, play” scenario. Our lovely conversation must wind to an end, as Diana has places to go and people to see.


Meldie Moore: Making a difference for families

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Meldie Moore always wanted to work with children. When she was in college she thought her future would be in child psychology or in teaching. However, her parents had other ideas. “My mom and dad pushed me to thinking about becoming a lawyer,” she says. Not opposed to the idea, but not completely convinced either, Moore says she decided to take both the LSAT and the GRE. As luck would have it, the LSAT test date was first. Moore says she scored very well on the test, “So, I just applied to law school, even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer.”

County Counsel provides a great start to Moore’s career

Moore chose Pepperdine for law school. This meant leaving her east coast roots (she grew up in Ireland and New York) for the unfamiliar land of California. Eventually, Moore merged her interest in helping children and the law when she interned with the County Counsel in Los Angeles. “It was a big test. I wondered if it would be too hard emotionally,” she says. That’s because attorneys in that division work on child abuse, domestic violence and other traumatic incidents. It was a great training ground. Moore was in court every day and this gave her a first hand look at what that kind of advocacy for children looked like.  

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Meldie Moore of Moore Law for Children at her office in Laguna Beach

A “dream job” with the OC District Attorney

Once she graduated law school and it came time to get a “real job,” Moore decided she didn’t want to make a career at County Counsel. “There was this one family who was on their 12th drug baby, or something like that. I was so…I just wanted to put the parents in jail,” she says. So when she got an offer to work for the Orange County District Attorney’s office she jumped at the chance. “It was hard to get a job with the DA’s office,” she says. “And people said Orange County was nice so I snapped it up. It was my dream job.” 

A feeling of fellowship over a 16-year career

For 16 years Moore worked as an Orange County District Attorney. “I felt like I was making a difference. I’m very much about justice and doing what’s right,” she says. “I was only working on cases I believed in.” Not to mention, Moore says she finds being in a trial “very exciting.” There was a bond among all involved in the trial process: the police department, the public defenders and the district attorneys. “There is a feeling of fellowship. You really get to know people, and they were all a really great group of legal professionals.”

Having children changes puts a new perspective on things

About eight years into her career with the DA, Moore says she started trying to have a child. Eventually, Moore and her husband adopted a child and, later, had another child with the help of infertility treatments. With two children at home, Moore decided to take a year off work. When her year hiatus was up, she returned to the job she loved only to find that either it had changed, or she had. “I saw it through different eyes,” she explains. “I now found it a little depressing.” Additionally, working such a rigid job with children at home was proving to be highly stressful. “I wanted more time,” she says.

Making a change that felt right for her family

So when a friend proposed the two team up and start their own firm, Moore says it gave her a lot to consider. “It took me about three months of hard soul searching,” she remembers. “I really loved being a DA, but I had waited so long to have children that I thought this was the best thing for my family.” 

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Moore lives and works in Laguna which makes her life a lot easier

Focusing on children

When she made her decision to leave the DA’s office and go out on her own, Moore says it was tough going at first. She and her partner decided to focus on working with families with special needs children. “I asked if we could do adoptions. She (Moore’s partner) didn’t want to, but said it was OK if I did it.” So Moore did pro bono adoption cases, as well. “I had to learn (a new area of) law and I didn’t really know anyone. It was a very difficult first couple of years.” 

Helping families of special needs children

A cornerstone of their new practice was students with a 504 plan. A 504 plan is part of the civil rights law that serves to prohibit discrimination based on a disability. According to Moore, some of these kids have behavioral problems. This can lead to them eventually getting expelled from school.  Helping the families navigate this is “a good 25 percent of my practice,” says Moore. 

Going solo presents an opportunity to focus on “happy law”

About five and a half years ago Moore’s partner decided to retire. Moore promptly moved her office from Irvine to Laguna where she currently hangs her shingle. 

Location was not the only change that took place.

 “I really started focusing on building up the fertility and adoption side of my practice.” Additionally, the education side of her practice has continued to grow as well, prompting her to hire two more lawyers. She calls this side of her practice “happy law.” “We are helping make people’s dreams come true, expanding their families.” The “schools” side of her practice is not quite as happy, although she finds it equally meaningful. “People only hire attorneys in these situations when things have gotten bad. But it’s still very rewarding. I help families with the most important issue in their lives: their child.”

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Meldie Moore with two associates. She hopes to hire one more in the near future

The ever-elusive work-life balance

Another important issue Moore says she finds personally very challenging is attaining balance. Like most working parents, Moore has a lot on her plate. “I’m trying to be a lawyer, market my business, run my business and be there for my family. I’m certainly not balanced, but I know it’s important, and I try!” 

Living and working in Laguna helps – a lot

Having other attorneys has helped. “They give me more flexibility,” she says. However, her days have her running from one thing to another. The day we met she was heading off to her son’s performance and then running into a meeting immediately after. “Living and working in Laguna allows me to do that,” she says.

And why Laguna? “When I first came to Orange County people said Newport Beach is nice. I lived there, and I liked it. Then I moved to CdM (Corona del Mar) and I liked it. But then my friend and I came to Laguna and we said, ‘We’re going to live here one day.’ I just fell in love with it.” She says her friend never made it, but clearly Meldie Moore has.


Jessica Byrne: From Paintbox to pastries to PedalBox, a new high-concept gym, it’s all about hospitality – which is in her DNA

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut and Drew Fuerstman

Welcome to the season of calories, cocktails and holiday stress. It’s the month when even the strongest among us can lose her resolve. Fortunately, there’s an amazing new way to pay for December’s indulgences. And it’s delivered by a woman who has hospitality—and all the hallmarks of exceptional service—written into her DNA. 

PedalBox Gym, now open in Dana Point, is owned and operated by Jessica Fuerstman Byrne and her husband, Duncan Byrne. It’s the first gym in Orange County to combine the Schwinn Airdyne bike with boxing and other HIIT exercises to create a high intensity, low impact workout that will blast both stress and calories without taking a toll on the joints. It’s tailored to accommodate every age and workout level, and it will kick your bootie while leaving you begging for more (I say this from personal experience).

A history of hospitality

Hospitality has been handed down through the generations in the Fuerstman family. Jessica is the daughter of Alan Fuerstman, founder and CEO of Montage Hotel group. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Hospitality is in their DNA, whether at a hotel or boxing gym

Alan began in the hospitality business when he was in high school. His father was a dentist, a profession that requires the utmost care and client support. “My parents were strong role models,” says Alan. “I grew up watching how they dealt with people. They were very nurturing and gracious, and provided a great example of how to treat those who worked for them.” 

Alan has spent his life in the luxury hotel industry, starting as a doorman in the Marriott when he was a senior in high school. Through the years, he worked as the president and managing director of The Phoenician resort in Arizona, and was recruited by Steve Wynn to open the Bellagio. 

Montage Resort first opened in Laguna in 2002. The concept was to create a gracious and humble approach to luxury. “Many of these hotels are too pretentious and stuffy,” says Alan. “I wanted our clients to feel as comfortable wearing jeans as wearing suits.”

Alan passed along that humble mentality to his own children, instilling a sense of casual elegance and grace, coupled with the ability to be highly attuned to people’s needs. The result is a daughter who’s driven to succeed, and completely comfortable in her own skin. 

Jessica works hard. She isn’t afraid to take risks. And she’s well-positioned to bring her father’s style and level of service into her gym. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Jessica works hard and isn’t afraid to take risks

“No one wants to feel out of place or look stupid,” says Jessica. “If you can get someone to shrug that off, it’s amazing.”

“That’s similar to fine dining,” adds Alan. “Everyone wants to feel like they belong.” Worrying about which fork to use isn’t conducive to a good experience. Removing that intimidation factor is something father and daughter do best.

From Paintbox to Pedalbox—growing up Montage

Jessica started working at Montage Resort when she was only 17. She began as a counselor at Paintbox, the children’s program offered by the resort. She also worked at the pool as a hostess before heading to college at the University of Arizona. 

Ultimately, Jessica found her passion in pastries. She studied at both the Loft and the Studio restaurants at the Montage before getting her culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu in London. “I wanted to learn the science behind the pastries,” she says. That desire to achieve mastery over every detail and chemical combination in cooking carries through to her approach at the gym. She’s a perfectionist about form and technique.

A match made in . . . the gym

Jessica met Duncan in London. In a gym, of course. “I’d always been active,” she says. “Fitness had been an important part of my life.” So, during the course of her culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu, Jessica joined a gym.

Husband Duncan has worked as a strength and conditioning coach for over a decade. He has extensive experience in boxing, CrossFit, weightlifting, personal training, and strength and conditioning training. 

Once they decided to get married, Jessica turned her full attention toward getting in shape for the wedding. Duncan wooed her away from desserts and now she dedicates her days to PedalBox.

The PedalBox difference

It’s difficult for gyms to distinguish themselves. Especially in southern Orange County, where it seems there are as many trainers as there are clients. So when I first heard the concept, I was skeptical. What could be so different?

The unique (and grueling) combination of the bike and boxing is the first thing to note. The Schwinn Airdyne bike, different from spin bikes and other cycling training, is designed to increase its resistance in direct proportion to how hard you’re working. The harder you work, the harder it gets. It also incorporates your arms, giving you a fuller body workout. The best part? The bike generates a powerful fan that cools you off as you go. After 40 seconds going all out, you’ll appreciate the breeze. And you’ll get an intense cardio workout in record-fast time. 

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Photo by Drew Fuerstman

The combination of bikes and boxing sets PedalBox apart

From the bike, you’ll begin to box. Boxing had me worried. I’d never boxed, and coordination isn’t my strong suit. This is where Jessica and Duncan bring their unique skillset to the PedalBox experience with flawless technique, endless patience, and serious motivation. Even after a few minutes spent with them, I began picking up the basic techniques. (At least they said I did, so let’s go with that.)

Coming off the CrossFit craze, Jessica and Duncan found they loved the high intensity workouts, but didn’t love how hard it was on the body. It’s easy to get hurt. CrossFit workouts are hard on the joints, and the risk of injury from combining strength with speed is high. So Jessica and Duncan found a new way to maintain that intensity while removing the risks.

The proof is in the pedaling … and boxing

Even for the most seasoned gym rat, a new workout is intimidating. Boxing, to me, sounded synonymous with feeling foolish. “Think of it like dancing,” Duncan told me. That definitely didn’t help this uncoordinated client. But one thing Duncan and Jessica have down is quality instruction, service and training. They’re motivating. They’re encouraging. And at no point did I feel self-conscious. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Father and daughter hold impromptu business meeting following the photoshoot

Jessica and Duncan meet you where you are. Every workout is scaled for every skill-level and ability. Class sizes are small to maximize personal attention and ensure proper form.

More important, the workout is intense. And fun! The mental energy required in boxing takes your mind off how hard you’re working. Time passes exponentially faster when all your concentration is on a series of steps, instead of the clock. The music is motivating—always something with a strong beat because boxing is a rhythmic sport.

“Boxing is empowering,” says Jessica. “It’s something I don’t get from weightlifting or cardio. It makes me feel like a badass.”

Indeed, it does.

A gift to yourself this season

We’re entering into the season of resolutions. After all the indulgences, it’s time to do something good for yourself. Jessica and Duncan make that as easy in the gym as Alan makes it in his resorts. The key is creating an experience that makes clients want to come back by being attuned to every customer’s needs. Jessica has been cultivating that skill for a lifetime. It makes PedalBox an inspiring place to discover how much you have in you. You’ll be surprised . . . it’s more than you think.

PedalBox is located at 24470 Del Prado Ave, Dana Point, CA 92629, inside Rado’s Fitness. In addition to 60-minute circuit training classes, they offer personal training sessions and a lunchtime bootcamp. Visit their website, www.pedalboxgym.com, for more information.


Laura Linsenmayer: Back to her ROOTS, and driven by the moon to find her “magical vortex”

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by: Mary Hurlbut

Laura Linsenmayer, owner of ROOTS the Beauty Underground, says she finds it “hilarious” that Laguna is where she ended up. After moving here in sixth grade she says when she graduated from Laguna Beach High School, “I was the classic case of ‘I’m leaving my hometown and I’m never coming back!’” So she set out to “find herself” by living in Florida, Park City, Los Angeles and Connecticut. The plan was to move every two years because, as she explains it, “that gave me ample time to build roots there. I just kept doing that.”

A surprise homecoming

“That” stopped when she decided she had learned enough from running other people’s businesses and was ready to open her own. “I never even considered coming back home,” she says. Rather, it was her family’s suggestion. They must have been persuasive because Linsenmayer opened her shop in the Lumberyard Plaza on August 1, 2012. 

A good omen helps launch ROOTS the Beauty Underground

“From the date of conception until I opened my doors it was nine months,” she says, completely grasping the symbolism. “When I fully committed in my soul it was a divine lead. Everything presented itself really smoothly; everything unfolded so flawlessly I knew it was the right thing to do.” The fact that August 1 happened to be a full moon was one more good omen. “I’m driven by the moon,” she says.

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Laura Linsenmayer, owner of ROOTS the Beauty Underground in Laguna Beach

13 binders full of research provide the blueprint

Linsenmayer is also driven by a desire to help people. Her enthusiasm for her business is sincere and infectious. However, it was not necessarily part of a grand master plan. “I always knew I’d be in the beauty industry,” she says. She went to beauty school at 18 and has worked in some facet of the industry ever since. Every job she took she considered “research” for her future business, whatever that might be. She was so committed she wrote down things she thought worked and, more importantly, things she didn’t, eventually filling 13 binders. These binders became the blueprint for ROOTS the Beauty Underground.

Enlightenment leads to a business idea

While she was methodical with her experiences, the actual idea for her business was more happenstance. She had moved to LA and was walking her neighborhood looking for work. She walked into an organic hair salon. “I was just drawn to these girls,” she says. She listened and learned. “Once you’ve been enlightened you can never go back. I just got deeper into it.” The idea of natural, non-toxic beauty products took hold. “It was important for me to find a niche that required depth. This was it,” she explains. So she dove in, learned all she could and launched ROOTS the Beauty Underground.

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The “magical vortex” where ROOTS has been for six years

SIx years ago the idea of all natural beauty products, while not new, was not nearly as ubiquitous as it is now. There was enough of a market, however, that customers sought her out in her tucked away location, a “magical vortex,” she calls it. She made sure the products she carried had a store locator list on their website. “That was the root of how people started to find me,” she says. (Sidenote, Linsenmayer uses the word “root” a lot in her conversation. Just one more example of how connected she is to her business.)

Providing customer service that is unparalleled

Now, with her customers being split an even 50/50 locals and out of towners, Linsenmayer says her concern isn’t so much raising awareness about the store, it’s battling the Amazon effect. “We need to provide an experience they can’t,” she says. “The depth we go to is unparalleled. We won’t stop until we get you your perfect program.”

It’s all about the education

Linsenmayer and her team do that with education. “We’re educators first and foremost,” she says emphatically. “I want people to know they can come in here and just learn. There’s no pressure to buy anything. Come in for the education and leave feeling better about yourself.”

An area where education is making huge inroads is with her hair salon. People used to think organic hair color didn’t work effectively. “Now,” she says, “the word is out that it does work and it’s fabulous. It’s so fun to watch the graph go up in that area of the business.” 

The importance of what we wear is comparable to what we eat

Like all businesses, Linsenmayer has had to make adjustments to her inventory. One that has been a surprise is her now minimal kids section. “When I opened I had a really extensive kids section,” she says. “I have been surprised over the years that parents weren’t more enthusiastic about buying these (non-toxic) products for their kids,” she says. As more information comes out about what is in much of that we put on our body, this may change. “These products,” explains Linsenmayer, “hold just as much power (over our health) as food does.”

Non-toxic beauty products will eventually become “the norm”

That’s why she believes the idea of natural, non-toxic beauty products is going to become the norm in the future. “The toxic products industry won’t last much longer,” she says confidently. Her goal is to spread the word about non-toxic products across the country. And she’d love to help others do the same.

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Laura Linsenmayer works her magic with her non-toxic products on a client

Hoping to help others by providing them with her plan

It took Linsenmayer 20 years of research to learn what she needed to learn to open her business and keep it thriving. “I couldn’t have done it if I had a kid or a husband,” she says. A future goal is to put everything she has learned, from products to procedures, into a business plan so that others can do what she has done, albeit under their own name. “I would love for people from all over to say ‘I want to open a store like yours’ and I could provide the business plans and systems operations and they can put their name on it.” That speaks to her passion for what has clearly become a mission.

Striving to help Mom feel good

And passion is something Linsenmayer has a lot of. Not just for her business, but for the natural products industry as a whole. She also really, really, really wants to help people look and feel their best. “My favorite thing is making people feel good about themselves. That’s where it’s at. When Mom feels good everybody wins. That is so cool!” she says excitedly.

Six years in and feeling like she’s just getting started

So if you’re in the market for a cleanser or a lip gloss or need a new hair stylist, Linsenmayer and her staff are here to help. For someone who never intended to return home, Linsenmayer chuckles at the fact that she now attends city council meetings. She has also now has a new appreciation for her hometown. “I didn’t understand how special it was being from a small town.” And even though she is back in that small town for awhile now, there are still people who haven’t found her shop yet. “People come in and say, ‘How did I not know you were here?’ I love that! I feel like I’m just getting started.”


Jim Beres: Dedicated to staying connected to community concerns

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

What do Laguna Beach residents and visitors complain most about? Not a tough question. Parking. And Jim Beres, Civilian Services Administrator for the Laguna Beach Police Department, and one of three Division Commanders, is the man who fields all the complaints, questions, and concerns regarding this touchy and sometimes volatile topic. 

But that’s only one of the many hats he wears. In addition to managing Parking Services, he is also in charge of the Chaplain Program, Beach Patrol, Police Aides, Citizens on Patrol, and Animal Services. 

That’s a lot of hats.

And he’s been wearing them for quite a while. Jim has been with the LBPD for eight years this January, after positions in civilian law enforcement beginning in Orange (where he started as a police cadet), Stanton, Costa Mesa, and most recently before joining LBPD, El Monte, where he worked for sixteen years.

“On my days off in El Monte, for two and a half years, I worked part time in Costa Mesa. El Monte was very different from Laguna,” Jim says. “It’s a much larger city with 121,000 residents.”

It may have been larger, but few cities have the influx of people each year that Laguna does, a number that he says averages 6.3 million a year. With the overwhelming goal of accommodating both residents and visitors, the services that he manages ensure the city runs efficiently. That’s a gargantuan job, not one that many would want to tackle.

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Jim manages six different divisions

However, Jim appears to approach it with firm resolve (and a jar of pistachios on his desk though I would think it might be aspirin instead). It’s just business as usual.

A major factor in this “business as usual,” is outreach, based on the community policing efforts Chief Laura Farinella instituted in 2015.

Jim explains, “We go out to talk to our customers – our residents, visitors and employees of the city – to find out if we’re meeting their needs. You need to go out periodically into the community and ask, rather than waiting for them to come to you. Otherwise, sometimes the problem metastasizes. Part of contemporary community policing is going proactively out into the field.” 

They accomplish this in a variety of ways. Some of the meetings address specific issues with residents (such as coyotes), others are free form in which the audience brings up concerns, and then there are the traditional meet and greets. Several Coffee with Cops have taken place, the most recent at Moulin Bistro, a few at private homes. As with other members of the LBPD, Jim has a high visibility factor in town.

New member of Parking Services

On this beautiful day before Thanksgiving, we start on a light note and another highly visible representative of the LBPD. Jim is particularly proud and happy to show us (our photographer Mary and me) the new Hyundai Ioniq car, the first to replace one of the parking services older Prius models. He did quite a bit of research before settling on this make and model as the best replacement option. 

 “It has better performance,” Jim says. “And the amenities were all included.”

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Jim during a brief respite  

Parking Services employs four full-time parking officers and one full-time senior parking service officer, who provide service seven days a week. Next Jim will go to the City Council to get the second car approved, and eventually hopes to replace all the older vehicles.

Discussing parking vehicles migrates into the issue of parking. Because he’s the man in charge, he receives 30-40 emails a day, a high number of them addressing parking; from complaints about parking citations (which he must investigate), to a neighborhood dispute about someone bringing home a work truck or multiple cars parking on the street, or the receipt of a ticket in a parking structure because the permit was not in view. One can imagine the emails are mostly negative, but Jim says there are the benign inquiries from summer visitors regarding parking regulations and questions such as, “Do the meters take credit cards?”

Three common misconceptions

And this brings up a misconception that Jim quickly debunks.

“There is no quota on parking tickets,” Jim says. “It’s illegal per state law, a misdemeanor, for the city to establish a quota.”

First myth exposed. But there are more. Do residents know where the parking fine monies go? 

 “We work differently than other cities. All parking fine revenue goes into a capital improvement fund,” Jim says, “for public work projects, such as street improvements and tennis court reconstruction. No one likes to get a parking ticket, but maybe there’s a pothole out there with your name on it.”

Jim emphasizes the benefits of residents using parking permits (particularly the shopper permit, which is a bargain at $40 a year, bought every two years for $80), but cautions that even though there are five different kinds, the posted time limits still apply.

“This doesn’t have to do with Civilian Services, but we frequently ask participants at meetings if they know how many officers are on patrol at one time,” Jim continues. “Usually the answer is much higher, but on a typical day there are four to five sworn officers on duty.” Which he further explains makes it necessary to prioritize and make realistic choices regarding calls.

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New Hyundai Ioniq replacement vehicle for Parking Services

However, one of the biggest misconceptions that he demystified pertains to neighborhood street parking permits, which is a major topic of discussion among North Laguna residents living close to restaurants. Jim sets me straight on the subject. 

There is one residential parking permit district, the quiet zone, in place near Mozambique, but the City’s hands are tied granting additional ones. “The California Coastal Commission states that Laguna Beach is not allowed to establish any new permit zones,” he says. “Their mission is to maintain access to the coast for all, residents and non-residents alike. Anything that impacts non-residents’ ability to access the coast in an equal manner is problematic for them.” And this is the case with all coastal cities in CA.

Unfortunate news for residents in North Laguna, Alta Laguna, South Laguna (around 8th and 9th streets), and those who live near the high school, who have rallied for parking permit districts. 

Value of Police Aides and Citizens Patrol

However, there are issues, such as traffic, that have been addressed in ways that should please residents and visitors alike.

If you’ve ever tried to navigate the downtown area on a summer weekend, you must give kudos to the Police Aides in the bright yellow vests who direct traffic and keep the traffic flowing. These young men and women, some in the process of getting their degrees, are looking to get into law enforcement. This is a grueling job. Not only do they stand on their feet for six to seven hours a day, they must maintain complete focus, and constantly communicate with the other aides in the area to safely keep cars moving.

“It’s a really valuable program,” Jim says. “It helps the traffic flow smoother than it otherwise would. It’s tough because Laguna Beach isn’t designed for the volume of traffic that goes through. There’s not much we can do. Given the nature of the city, it’s not as if we can widen the streets or put in more turn lanes. It is what it is, and we just have to make it work the best we can.”

 Another area Jim oversees, is Citizens on Patrol, or sometimes known as Seniors on Patrol, though he emphasizes that recruits need not be seniors, but must be over 18 years of age. Volunteers complete an eight-week training program and are then qualified to apply to be a COP and participate in various support tasks (vacation home checks, meet the public, assist with traffic and parking enforcement, and fire/flood watch). COPs wear uniforms and drive city cars. They also transport various items (DNA samples, for example) to the crime lab. Currently, the COP has 12-14 volunteers.

They are indispensable to the force, but Jim says, ‘They are never in harm’s way.”

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An antidote for stress

Another of the services, Beach Patrol, that Jim oversees, was established after meetings with South Laguna residents, who were concerned about the nuisance activity caused by increased visitors to beaches (West St, Thousand Steps) whose popularity has spread via social media. 

As an outcome of these community meetings, two Beach patrol officers were hired, and, after the voters approved Measure LL, two more were added. There are also several part-time Beach Patrol Officers during the summer season. The feedback from the residents in that area is that the problems were reduced.

Most of citations they issue are for alcohol, (active consumption, open containers, minors in possession, or glass containers on the beach). In addition to beaches, they also patrol parks and the wilderness.

Counseling and emotional support

In addition, Jim manages the Chaplain Program, which currently has two volunteers. The LBPD relies on the faith based community to provide support and assist the Police Department on a volunteer basis, providing emotional support and counseling to victims of crimes and their families, as well as Department personnel and their families.

Pastor George Sabolick has been a volunteer with LBPD for over 15 years and provides counseling to officers on call.

The senior pastor for Calvary Chapel Seaside, Kurt Shonheinz, has been with the Department for 10 years. He can be seen in the police department almost weekly.

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The emails never ends

And certainly, the last two of Jim’s responsibilities are dear to my heart – the Animal Shelter and the Dog Park. Serving Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods, the shelter offers temporary care of sick, injured, and stray or abandoned animals rescued by the animal service officers.

The City employs three full-time animal service officers, who provide animal control services seven days a week. Their job is to enforce animal related laws, rules, and regulations in Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods. However, they also assist in incidents involving coyotes, marine mammals, rattlesnakes, and other animal related matters.

Partnership with the community

As stated on the LBPD website, “The mission of the Laguna Beach Police Department is to preserve human rights and enhance the quality of life through equitable law enforcement and responsive public service, in partnership with the community.”

It’s difficult to believe that all the departments mentioned above are maintained by one person, Jim Beres. He oversees a wide spectrum of services, seemingly switching hats as required. After spending only an hour with him, I realize just how big a role “partnership with the community” truly plays in his management acumen, and just how much the residents of Laguna Beach have benefited from that vision.

For further information on the LBPD, go to www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/police.


Retain Laguna’s tradition with chic new twists: That’s the goal of sisters Hasty Honarkar and Nikki Bostwick

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

There are some longtime residents who lament the loss of old Laguna. The town isn’t the same, they say, since the 1960s and 70s. Gone are the hippies and bohemians. Gone are some iconic spots—the Boom Boom Room, the Cottage, the movie theater. The battle is on between commercialism and charm, between locals and tourists, between the old and new. The nostalgists will tell you the greatest generation is fading away, and the younger population can’t afford to live here. They will tell you fewer and fewer people get the town. They long for the good ol’ days, while trying to remain optimistic about the future.

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Sisters Nikki Bostwick and Hasty Honarkar

Nikki Bostwick (27) and Hasty Honarkar (29) may represent Laguna’s strongest bridge between the generations. They’re passionate about preserving the charm of the town while injecting a chic and vibrant twist. These two sisters—with their sense of millennial style and creative design—are reimagining Laguna’s traditional roots one space at a time. 

A culture of caring, a head for hard work

Hasty and Nikki were brought up on hard work, imagination and gratitude. Their father, Mo Honarkar, moved to the United States from Iran when he was 20. He’d come to California before the Iranian revolution and then realized there was no reasonable path back. “He worked three jobs and went to UCI,” says Nikki. “A bus driver, an ice cream vendor, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do.” Their father made it possible for his whole family to immigrate—his wife, four of his five siblings, his parents, cousins, nieces and nephews all came to Orange County because of Mo. “He built everything all on his own,” says Nikki. 

The extended family stays tight. They see each other every week. Holidays are spent at the Royal Hawaiian (which Mo owns), or picnics at Heisler Park. “It always looks like a scene out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” laughs Hasty. The Honarkars have an open-door policy when it comes to celebrations. “If someone doesn’t have somewhere to go,” says Hasty, “they’re with us.” 

The strength of sisterhood

The sisters say they’re opposites, yet similar, at the same time. “We’re better sisters when we don’t work together,” they both say. But that doesn’t mean they don’t bounce ideas off each other, and come to each other for support.

Their affection for each other is clear. Hasty and Nikki sit close on the couch. One will finish a sentence the other started. They seem in sync, one often seeming to know the other better than she knows herself. 

When Nikki talks about marrying Eric, her high school sweetheart, Hasty’s face lights up. Her sister’s joy is also her own. 

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The sisters in Nikki’s store, The Fullest

They talk about raising their dogs like raising their future children. Hasty has two—a French bulldog and a puggle—who she describes as “plump and old.” Nikki has a Siberian husky named Cessna, who has all the envied energy of youth. “I keep looking for a pet psychic or therapist for Nikki’s dog,” says Hasty. She’s that invested in the canine cousins getting along.

Hasty’s head for business and passion for urban planning 

Hasty has worked with her father since she was a teen. She has a head for business and a heart that’s always belonged in Laguna. She tested out of high school when she was 15, moving briefly to Arizona to start her college career. “I cried every time I drove away. I came back after a year,” says Hasty. “Laguna is so cool. It’s fun and quirky and hippy, and yet so beautiful. It’s no wonder no one wants to leave.”

“Though you appreciate it more when you go and come back,” says Nikki, who spent some time in Oregon for college.

Hasty is fascinated by culture, geography and business. She changed her majors several times, studying environmental studies, product development, urban planning and more at UCLA. All these fields have helped in her current role as Vice President of 4G Ventures, a real estate development and hospitality business she runs with her father. Together they manage a portfolio of businesses—restaurants, hotels, residential properties, office spaces and venues that include Seven Degrees, the Royal Hawaiian, 14 West Boutique Hotel and many more. The company began after the Honarkars sold 4G Wireless, Verizon’s largest retailer on the west coast.

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Hasty Honarkar knows quality and creativity, in clothes and at work

“Laguna has a long history of being an incubator for creative minds,” says Hasty. “I want to build roots here for my family and my business. I want to raise children here, and watch my dad do what he loves in the community he loves. There’s nowhere else we want to go.”

Hasty says the danger for many local Laguna Beach businesses is their focus on revenue and making the steep rent. “It’s easy to forget the soul of the town when you’re caught up in revenue.” Her goal is to bring back these old projects that represent the heart and history of Laguna.

The Royal Hawaiian’s past, present and future

The Royal Hawaiian might be the best embodiment of the Honarkars’ vision to retain Laguna’s traditions while offering chic new twists. The island-inspired restaurant and bar has been an iconic Laguna staple since 1947, offering their famous (and dangerous) Lapu Lapus and transporting Orange County guests on a quick Hawaiian getaway. Over time, though, the place began to look tired. High rents, music restrictions, and a downturn in the economy forced the restaurant to close its doors in 2012. 

Three years later, Mo and Hasty arrived to save the day. They’ve revitalized the space, retaining all the traditions—banana leaves, pineapples, tiki torches and, of course, the beloved Lapu Lapu—while offering updated elements that allow the space to feel contemporary and relevant to new generations. The result, they say, is “tiki chic.”

For example, the old Lapu Lapu recipe called for canned juices from concentrate (which translated to a heck of a hangover). Now the local favorite is made from all freshly squeezed juices. Voila! The same . . . but better. They also showcase local artists who both represent the upcoming talent of the town while keeping with the artistic traditions of the past.

The goal is to give Laguna locals a place to feel nostalgic while also giving the next generation a chance to make new memories.

How Nikki’s obsession with wellness led to the Fullest

Nikki’s endeavors tend more toward lifestyle and wellness than business. Nikki is the founder of the Fullest, an online and bi-annual print magazine, and now a pop-up boutique shop in North Laguna. 

Nikki confesses she was a bit of a wild child at Laguna Beach High. But then she found yoga, specifically Bikram, and it helped her through a hard time. “I did a 180 degree turn in life,” she says. “Yoga changed everything for me.” It led her to culinary school to study raw food, vegan cooking, and wellness principles. Now she wants to bring that knowledge to her clients. 

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Nikki’s The Fullest magazine

Nikki’s recently launched pop-up boutique reflects the ideas of the Fullest. The space mirrors the website and the magazine—clean, light and airy—a place where clients can come to clear their minds and rejuvenate. She offers a sparse inventory of clothing, accessories, skincare, and home décor that follows this theme. Linens, teas, serums—items intended to promote a clean lifestyle.

The shop has a big comfy couch and chairs you can sink into all afternoon (I know this from personal experience). “I want a space where people feel comfortable just sitting, reading, or talking,” Nikki says. “I want this to be a place where we can build community, not just buy things.”

The Fullest offers yoga classes several times a week. Kundalini yoga focuses primarily on the breath. “It’s more spiritual,” says Nikki. “Good for the nervous system, circulation, and blood flow. I wanted to offer something that can’t otherwise be found in Orange County.”

Nikki also opens the space for a variety of other lifestyle and wellness workshops—a wreath making class, an organic bakery featuring a local artisan whom mills her own flour. She’s even starting a jogger’s club. On Saturday mornings at 9 a.m., the shop is the starting point where runners can meet up and return for a weekend inspired run.

Wellness, for Nikki, doesn’t mean deprivation or stressing over exercise. At one point in her life, she was militant about her diet and found it didn’t serve her. “Wellness isn’t just the food you eat and the way you move. It’s intention behind everything you do. Whatever makes you happy—that’s wellness. Stressing out about eating healthy is worse for you.” When Nikki discovered she could no longer eat at her grandmother’s house, enjoy her favorite meals, or share food with friends, she realized it was time for a new approach. 

“Fashion, art, music, self-expression—both the people making the art and the consumers enjoying it—that’s all part of a happy lifestyle. I’m hoping to bring that back to Laguna, because that’s what Laguna was based on. No restrictions. Just free-thinking and free expression.”

An Ohana state of mind

Ohana, in Hawaiian, means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive and intentional members). The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. Ohana is a concept this family embodies. It stretches back to their roots in Iran. It includes their extended family, all those who have immigrated to Orange County. And now it’s embracing the rich traditions of Laguna Beach and the upcoming generations who want to call Laguna home. The Honarkars are laying down a foundation for Laguna’s future. All of our town’s rich, artistic traditions…with a twist.


Lisi Harrison: A best-selling author gets “Dirty”

Story by SAMANTHA WASHER

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

When Lisi Harrison came to Laguna 10 years ago she was looking for a change. After leaving her prior life in New York City, Laguna definitely gave her that. However, making big changes was not something she was unfamiliar with. A Canadian by birth, Harrison had also lived in Boston and Philadelphia. Driven by the need to explore, Harrison says she left Canada for Boston during her college years because, “It just got me away from everything I knew. It allowed me to figure out who I was.”

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Lisi Harrison with her beloved writing companion

“The Dirty Book Club” is for adults

This decision to leave everything she knew behind her proved to be prudent, as who Lisi Harrison became while on this journey to self-discovery turned out to be a best-selling author. Her credits include the young adult series “The Clique,” “The Pretenders,” “The Alphas,” and “Monster High.” As of October 10 she had a new credit to add to her list: “The Dirty Book Club” hit bookstores on that date. This time, however, her audience is adults. 

How the real Dirty Book Club was formed

As with most creative endeavors, one never knows when inspiration will strike. Harrison says it struck her while she was talking to some women – total strangers – at the Coyote Grill. “We started talking about Judy Blume’s (novel) ‘Forever’ and how it was the first dirty book any of us had read. We started bonding over this very quickly,” remembers Harrison. 

Those women, now friends as a result of their discussion about the book, agreed to read it again and meet up later to discuss. That’s how Harrison’s real-life Dirty Book Club was formed. 

A challenge to try something new

Since art frequently imitates life, she decided that this premise of a dirty book club would make a really good novel. “I’ll do it for young adults because that’s what I do,” she remembers thinking. That is, until one of the women from her book club suggested she write it for adults. “This became very challenging for me,” says Harrison. “I had this great title but then I had to live up to it.” 

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Lisi Harrison’s books

From erotica to the power of friendship

She says when she first started writing, the novel “50 Shades of Grey” had just come out. Its popularity (combined with the title of her book) compelled to try her hand writing erotica. “I failed miserably,” she says with a laugh. “I had to figure out why I was writing this book. Finally, I realized it was about the power of female friendship.” Again, art imitating life.

A much-needed break turns into burnout

The novel took more time than she’d planned, but once finished Harrison says she planned on taking a much-deserved break. Unfortunately, life, as they say, had other plans. “It’s much different promoting a book in 2017 than it was in 2007,” she says wearily. “So you take a person, who’s not an extrovert, going out there and saying “Hey, let me sell you something!’” Additionally, during this “break” she felt compelled to “reclaim” her social media presence, also not an easy task. The result? Complete burnout. “I had not written a word since January,” she says with mild incredulity.

However, there are signs of resurgence. As of this past Monday, Harrison says she finally sat down and started writing a chapter. “It felt like I was home again. I’m done with all of this ancillary chaos. I want to get back to doing what I love doing.” 

Harrison says it’s too soon to tell if the chapter she started on Monday will become a book, but at least there’s no doubt that another book will be coming – eventually. While the next one percolates, Harrison says she’s recharged enough to come to your book club, dirty or otherwise, if you happen to be discussing her “Dirty Book Club” (her novel, not her group). “I will Skype into anybody’s book club. I would love to do that,” she says enthusiastically. 

Jumping at opportunities post-college

If you do invite her, perhaps you can ask her, as a side note, about her journey from college grad to best-selling author to Laguna Beach resident. It is a great lesson in making the most of one’s opportunities, as well as just plain old perseverance. While attending McGill University in Montreal (“The Harvard of Canada,” she explains, adding somewhat archly, “Harvard people hate it when you say that.”), she realized she wanted a more robust arts program. She found one at Emerson College in Boston. 

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Self-explanatory

She completed her studies earning a BFA in Creative Writing. She says she followed a boyfriend to Philadelphia and then, somewhat impetuously, took a job in New York. “A friend said he could get me a job at MTV so I basically just jumped on the train and went.” 

A job at MTV turns into a career

Even the job at MTV was somewhat of a lark since Harrison says she didn’t really know what it was. “They don’t have MTV in Canada, and when I was a student I could never afford cable so it was completely foreign to me,” she says. Nevertheless, she got a job in casting (and then ended up being given the job of the friend who hired her in the first place, something Harrison describes as “very awkward”). Twelve years later, she had worked her way up to Senior Director of Development. “MTV was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” she says. “We were all young, in our early 20’s, with tremendous responsibility and no guidance, being fully exploited and harassed. It was great,” she says laughing.

Still, the desire to write was there

But while she was enjoying her career at MTV there was still this thing she couldn’t give up on: the desire to write. So she would work her “day job” at MTV from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. and then come home and start writing. She says she’d wake up some mornings in tears she was so tired, but she was determined. “This is what I wanted to do. I just felt like an ass if I didn’t go for it,” she says. And her persistence paid off. She wrote her first two novels while still at MTV, “The Clique” and “Best Friends For Never.” When the latter debuted at #7 on the New York Times best-seller list she left MTV and pursued writing full time.

Leaving New York for Laguna

So how did this self-described city girl who was having the time of her life in New York finally end up in Laguna? It mostly had to do with kids. Married and with a new addition to the family, a son, and another baby on the way, Harrison says New York lost some of its luster. “When it stops being about you, when it starts being about the kids, New York is just not conducive to that. We just wanted an easier lifestyle.” Laguna was designated as that “easier lifestyle” because her now ex-husband, who is a surfer from Virginia, had visited Laguna and decided it was a pretty special place. Plus it checked one of Harrison’s boxes: a warm climate.

Becoming a true “Californian”

Being from Canada, Harrison was on a mission to live somewhere warm. With ten years under her belt, it looks as though she has acclimated to California-living quite well. So well, in fact, that when we met it was a pleasant 70 degrees (at the very least) yet Harrison decided she was chilly enough that she needed to put on her sweater. Nothing screams “Californian” more than being cold in temperatures the rest of the country finds positively balmy.

Learning to “restock the pond” at the beach

As with any change, there are trade-offs. Likening one’s imagination to a pond that needs replenishing after each artistic endeavor, Harrison says just walking out the door in New York helped “restock the pond.” In Laguna, where, she says, “It’s the same weather, same people…it’s like being in the Apple store all the time…” refilling the pond is a bit trickier. But what she lost in terms of stimulation, she gained in feeling the embrace of her new community. 

Community and the art of the potluck

“The community here blew me away. I kept thinking, ‘Why are these people so nice? Why do they keep inviting us to all of these potlucks?!’” It certainly wasn’t for her culinary skills. Not versed in the manner of potlucks or small town living, Harrison says she decided she’d pick up some garlic bread from “this little Italian place” she discovered to bring as her contribution to her first Laguna Beach potluck. She transferred the bread to one of her trays to look like she made it and voila! Instant potluck offering.

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Lisi is back at work

Unfortunately, since there are only a handful of Italian places in Laguna (quite different from New York) one of the guests took a bite of “her” garlic bread and asked, “Is this from Gina’s?” Whoops.

Now Harrison can undoubtedly potluck with the best of them. And there is no doubt as to where she belongs. Laguna is where her kids are growing up and there is probably no stronger definition of home than that. However, we can all agree that Laguna is not New York City. So to keep that part of her alive, Harrison satisfies herself with taking her kids to visit often so everyone can get a taste of what she (and they) left behind. 

There is no doubt she has embraced left coast living. However, she can’t quite shake the allure of one of the most bustling of all bustling metropolises. “Laguna is home. But my soul in in New York,” she says.

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