The owner of Tight Assets and World Newsstand reflects on the journey that brought her to Laguna and what she loves about life in this town.
By Sharon Stello
A Laguna resident for more than 40 years, Heidi Miller wears many hats in town, from running the Tight Assets boutique and World Newsstand downtown to serving on local boards—for the Laguna Beach Historical Society and Laguna Playhouse—and helping anyone who needs it. And she blazed a unique path to get where she is today, following her varied passions from one successful venture to the next.
Miller grew up in New Orleans and Texas before her family moved to Northern California. She studied nursing at California State University, Sacramento and Chico, choosing those colleges for their successful gymnastics programs. Miller competed as a gymnast for more than 10 years and then competed for another decade as a professional bodybuilder. During this time, she was featured in 50-plus fitness magazines—sometimes on the cover.
She eventually moved to Laguna Beach in 1980. “Every day, I give thanks that I live in this magical city,” she says. “It has everything you could possibly wish for: the arts, creative people, natural beauty, amazing opportunities and entrepreneurial spirit everywhere you turn.”
Here, Miller started a business, Heidi’s Frozen Yogurt, as a healthy alternative to ice cream. Miller used her bodybuilding photos to promote the healthy concept and her nursing education to develop nutritious yet flavorful froyo formulas. After growing the brand to more than 110 shops, then selling the chain in 1990, Miller started a women’s clothing boutique, Tight Assets, which offers casual activewear along with dresses and cocktail attire. “I like to tell people that Tight Assets is where fashion and function merge,” she says.
In 2006, she added another business to her resume by reopening the shuttered World Newsstand on Ocean Avenue. “Since COVID, we no longer carry newspapers, but we do have the largest selection of magazines in the region—down from 500 to around 300 today [as] … many magazines have ceased operation or have gone online only,” she says. “… [And] so many newsstands have gone out of business, so I take pride that we are still open and viable in this digital age.”
Why did you want to reopen World Newsstand after it had been closed for a year?
Heidi Miller: I absolutely loved the newsstand and was brokenhearted when it closed. It’s such an iconic piece of Laguna history that I didn’t want to lose. In my travels, I saw many fabulous newsstands throughout the world, so I took notes and reopened the World Newsstand with a wider selection of magazines and a new, fresh look. I come from a literary family, so I take pride in being “The Newsstand Lady.”
As a longtime local, do you have a favorite Laguna restaurant?
My go-to restaurants are 230 Forest Avenue, Broadway by Amar Santana, Lumberyard, Roux Creole Cuisine, Reunion Kitchen & Drink and Nirvana Grille. I have favorite salmon dishes at each one of them, but I always enjoy trying their specials. I also love the weekend brunch and cauliflower appetizer at Harley Laguna Beach. And a new favorite is The Wharf—absolutely delicious Cajun seafood.
Is there anything you would change about Laguna?
The adversity to change that has crippled our town is the main thing I’d like to change. You must have change to grow, and right now our town is in a stalemate. We need to attract the youth to stay relevant and prosper. To attract youth, we need creative vision and we need to support those who have that vision.
You’ve been helping the community in many ways during the pandemic. What made you want to get involved?
My parents taught me to always be of service to others, … so making and donating masks came naturally. … I’ve sold over 2,600 masks and donated hundreds. I [also] had about 100 thermometers left over from a charity event I did, so I posted on social media [that] they were free—just to stop by Tight Assets and pick one up. … [Early in the] pandemic, you couldn’t find a thermometer anywhere, so it was a small way I could help.
Anything else you want to add?
I was honored to be chosen to be on the Donate Life float at the 2020 Rose Parade in Pasadena. As a live kidney donor [to Newport Beach resident Bruce Cook], I have found a new calling, bringing kidney donor awareness to the public. To date, I have mentored over 100, helped match 20 and 15 [of those] have already had transplants. The greatest gift you can give is the gift of life. My motto is ‘share your spare.’ I did.