A pop-up grocery and specialty store has opened on South Coast Highway, benefiting local Anneliese Schools and representing the “Slow Shopping Movement.”
By Sharon Stello
At the Anneliese School campus in Laguna Canyon, there has long been a little shop carrying a curated selection of educational items and gifts from heirloom-quality German toys to art supplies and books, as well as pottery, glassware, apothecary products and a grab-and-go fridge stocked with take-home dishes and produce grown on the school’s farms.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, supermarket shelves became bare and people feared going into large stores, so the little shop behind the aviary expanded to offer grocery items. In addition, the school’s kitchen staff—which normally turns out scratch-made lunches every day for the students—started making the school’s signature dressings, salsas and sides to sell.
The shop’s growing popularity (even with people not affiliated with Anneliese) signaled to school leaders that they needed a bigger space, away from the canyon traffic, to continue serving the community and raise money for the school’s operation and financial aid.
“They became ‘hooked’ on our salsa arbol, our fresh bread and our beautiful produce. … We knew we had to reach a wider audience to generate more revenue. At this point, we were breaking even,” says store founder Liesa Schimmelpfennig, whose mother is the school’s founder.
In late May, the Anneliese Schools Store Pop-Up debuted at 1816 S. Coast Highway and is open from 1-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will be there until fall or possibly longer, but a search has started for other locations in case the lease can’t be renewed. “Rents are not cheap in Laguna, so we will need our locals to truly walk their talk if they want this tiny but mighty movement to stick around,” Schimmelpfennig says.
Here, she offers a glimpse of what the shop offers—from produce grown within a 100-mile radius to small-batch honey from New York, caramels from Vermont, artisan bread and kombucha from Orange County, fish from Santa Monica Seafood and butter from an LA-based creamery—as well as what it supports.
In addition to the quality toys and books, what types of food does the store carry?
Liesa Schimmelpfennig: Our grocery offers organic milk in glass bottles, small-batch cheeses and butters … including vegan cheese and vegan butter, heirloom grains, flour, rice and pastas, GoneStraw [Farms] eggs, olives, Meiji Tofu, sardines, tuna, pickled veggies, homemade jams, honey, … baked goods from our kitchens, pies [and] quiches. Family meals to go include enchiladas, mac ’n’ cheese, taco kits, lasagna, European stews, tandoori chicken with coconut rice, pulled pork, meze, pasta kits, salad kits, cooking kits and much more. … Our culinary team prepares weekly surprises based on what is currently growing on our own farms and partner farms.
Do any of the fruits and veggies come from the campus gardens where students are involved in growing them?
LS: Most of our produce is grown on our urban farms in Claremont, where we also host WWOOFers—[Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms participants]—and other people interested in permaculture, soil regeneration and stewardship practices. Our sixth grade class did … [its] first field studies, three-day overnight at our farm this past April. They built compost bins, seeded, planted, built a fire pit, cooked paella on an open fire, … harvested and prepared veggies and herbs for the Willowbrook [campus] farmers market, learned about chicken care, farm life, food justice and the growing movement in urban farming.
For those who aren’t familiar, what makes the Anneliese Schools unique?
LS: We treat every minute a child is on campus as a teachable moment. The grounds are intentionally designed to activate a child’s natural proclivity for wonder and awe. Our staff is trained to pick up on a child’s curiosity and run with it—either through an academic exploration, through art, through poetry and through dialectic discourse.
What will the money generated by the store be used for?
LS: We like practical and common-sense fundraising and what could be more practical than buying something, already curated for you, that you actually need? … Our school programs and grounds are expensive to run. Meals are made every day from scratch. We also offer great financial aid to families in need. Revenue from the school store will eventually support low-income families who would otherwise not be able to attend, will support the urban farm movement, support fair wages and contribute to the overall well-being of children.
How has the community responded to the shop?
LS: The first thing everyone says when they walk into the pop-up is, “This is what Laguna Beach needs.” I hear that almost every day. The response has been phenomenal. People are tired of the corporate environment of most supermarkets today. … Like the Slow Food Movement, … this is what I call the “Slow Shopping Movement.”
We invite our customers to slow down, sip a cup of tea in the back lounge, marvel at the beauty of the seasonal produce, ask questions about the food and start up a conversation with their fellow shoppers. … This reciprocity is what I believe this world needs now. … Recently, our neighbors have been dropping off their backyard bounties, so we started bartering. Local artist Jim Olarte donated his time and art pieces to the space. We make sure that every time he visits, he leaves with a pie or a bag of peaches.