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Sandwich shop coming soon to HIP location

By SARA HALL

A HIP new sandwich shop is slated to move into a historic location following a City Council decision this week.

On Tuesday (Nov. 16), council unanimously approved the necessary permits and a requested 50% historic parking reduction to convert an existing retail store to a sandwich shop/deli restaurant use with outdoor seating and alcohol service at 1802-1816 South Coast Highway, on the corner of Pearl Street.

The property, which also houses the historic Spigot Liquor and a Quonset storage hut, is in the HIP (Historic and Interesting Places) district, which covers South Coast Highway from Thalia Street to Bluebird Canyon Drive.

Councilmembers enthusiastically supported the project, which will help revitalize that corner, several agreed. 

Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf said she gets her hair cut nearby and has been looking at the building for more than a decade.

“Every time I’m looking at it, I think it could look a lot better,” Kempf said. 

The renderings look great and it’s good for the neighborhood, she noted.

“I think it’s super cool, I think it’s going to look great,” said Kempf, who said she’ll be a customer when it opens. 

Applicant and lifelong resident Zac Cornwell plans to launch the sandwich/deli restaurant, Wigz, with outdoor dining and the service of beer and wine in an existing retail suite with a total of 12 indoor seats and 15 outdoor seats. The outdoor seating will include railing along the sidewalk of South Coast Highway.

Cornwell’s father, Kelly, is in the process of purchasing Spigot. He’ll return at a later date with interior design changes and other improvements for the historic liquor store. He previously stated his plans to rebuild and install the actual spigot on the Spigot barrel, which has been missing for decades. 

It’s great to see a young entrepreneur opening the sandwich shop and a local taking over Spigot Liquor, Councilmember Peter Blake said. 

“I love everything about it,” Blake said. 

Sandwich shop coming soon Wigz rendering

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy City of Laguna Beach/NBC Architect Inc.

A rendering of Wigz Sandwich Shop and the remodel of the historic Spigot building

Cornwell has been working on this project for the last 17 months, he said. 

“My goal with this project is to create a place that carries affordable food for the community, local workers, a great vibe and serves great sandwiches,” Cornwell said. 

Quoting Planning Commission Chair Steve Goldman’s comments, Cornwell said they received the most community support they’ve ever seen without any opposition. 

“I’m very proud of that,” Cornwell said. 

On October 20, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the plans for Wigz sandwich shop and deli, which includes exterior modifications to the historic C-rated building. Modifications to both the South Coast Highway and Pearl Street elevations will aim to restore and enhance the building, as well as several changes proposed to restore the exterior of the building as recommended by the historian.

A new six-foot wood fence is also slated to be built along the Pearl Street elevation with eight-foot-wide double swinging gates to provide access to the rear of the building. 

The project also calls for removing a 300-square-foot attachment at the back of Spigot. A bicycle rack for eight bikes is also included in the plans. 

The proposed hours of operation are from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 

There was a little concern about parking, but overall councilmembers thought it would be adequate considering how many people will likely walk to the shop from the neighborhood and nearby businesses.

The proposed change from retail to restaurant constitutes an intensification in use because the restaurant requires more parking than the previous retail use, Senior Planner Martina Caron explained.

 To entitle the parking spaces required for the change, the applicant is proposing to construct one new parking space, a 50% historic parking reduction, and five outdoor dining credits, resulting in adequate parking for the site. 

There are four on-site parking spaces and private storage (i.e. Quonset hut) located toward the rear of the property.

In addition to the four on-site parking spaces provided, a new parking space is proposed at the rear of the property, Caron noted. To accommodate the new space, a retaining wall between three to 4.5 feet tall will be constructed.

Parking may be a bit difficult, noted Councilmember George Weiss, because in addition to the new sandwich shop, there’s need for parking for the liquor store, Mozambique restaurant and nearby shops. 

“You’re going to have a challenge; how do you see that working?” Weiss asked Cornwell. “Just hope for the best?”

Cornwell noted that the parking lot is actually fairly big and, if allowed, they could easily fit another four spots with tandem parking.

“We would love to be able to tandem park, that would be the goal,” Cornwell said. 

Ultimately, council approved up to two tandem parking spaces. 

There will likely be a lot of locals walking to the sandwich shop, as well as nearby employees, Kempf noted, so parking shouldn’t be an issue. 

The renderings look great, said Mayor Bob Whalen, but the Quonset hut is a “little funky.” Other councilmembers and planning commissioners agreed, noting that the black paint is a bit of an odd choice. 

“I don’t know if there’s a way to make that a little more in tune with the building,” Whalen said. 

Cornwell, who noted that they’ve gotten that feedback earlier in this process as well, said they are completely open to suggestions. 

“The goal with it was to try and hide it, not make it stand out as much,” Cornwell said. “It’s a cool building, but it kind of stands out like a sore thumb right now.”

It’s storage for the building owner, he noted. 

Commissioners and councilmembers recommended trying a copper or another warm and rustic hue.

Project architect Nancy Balmer-Csira said the black should help the hut disappear. It’s a current trend with garages, she noted. They favor leaving it as presented, she said.

Caron explained that the parcel is a 7,500-square-foot building that was constructed in 1930 and is occupied by two commercial suites: Spigot Liquor store and the subject suite that is currently occupied by the Annalise Pop-up retail shop. 

Spigot Liquor has been located at 1802 Coast Boulevard South since 1933. Past tenants of the 1816 storefront include Charles’ Wigs, which was the longest running tenant, from the early 1980s until closing in 2020.

The project includes displaying a historical/cultural exhibit inside the sandwich shop. A historic plaque will also be placed on the property to identify its historic status.

Kelly Cornwell said they’ve had an outpouring of support and, as locals themselves, they’re looking forward to improving the corner.

“We’re very, very excited about what we can do for this corner,” Kelly Cornwell said. “I’ve walked by this corner for 34 years and there’s been a broken window for 20, I plan to get that fixed.” 

He’s also proud of his son, who gave up a successful career in financial planning to start this new venture. 

“I think this is exactly what our city needs,” Kelly Cornwell said. 

Local resident Wyatt Colloty commented that he is in the area often and fully supports the new sandwich shop. It will benefit the entire community, Colloty said. 

“I think this is going to be a huge business in the area,” he said. “It’s going to be amazing for Laguna.”

Councilmembers agreed about the project benefits and several mentioned that they will soon be shopping at Wigz Sandwiches. 

A sandwich shop makes a lot of sense and he’ll be a customer, Weiss said. 

“I like the project, you’re revitalizing that corner,” Weiss said. 

Spigot will likely look a lot better as well, once the senior Cornwell starts his project.