Made in Laguna

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Costumes,  Wines, Chocolate and More…

From frozen food and sexy animal costumes to wine and chocolate, you might be surprised by all the products created right here in town.- By Sherri Cruz | Photos by Jody Tiongco 

Laguna Beach is renowned for its plein air painters, pottery masters, jewelry makers, sculptors and other assorted artists who make countless works of art every year—they are the reason that Laguna is internationally known as a vibrant artistic hub. But you may be surprised to learn of some of the other things made right here in Laguna Beach. To name a few, Langlois Fancy Frozen Foods ( makes frozen entrees for Meals-on-Wheels and for the Trader Joe’s label; Cerno LLC makes modern lighting; Blick Industries LLC ( makes suction cups and fasteners for machines that fabricate stone or glass; and Aliso Canyon Honey extracts and bottles honey in Laguna. Expensive lease rates make it pricey to make things in Laguna, but many choose to base their business here regardless. Some say they derive inspiration from the artistic citizenry or benefit of having the Laguna Beach brand attached to their product. Though for many business owners, it’s simple: They set up shop in Laguna because they live here.

That’s true for Nick Sheridan, Bret Englander and Daniel Wacholder, who founded Cerno in 2009. They grew up in Laguna Beach and graduated from high school together, deciding to eventually form a small company. Cerno designs and makes sleek LED table lamps, swing-out reading lamps, hanging pendants and others. Nick, the director of design, focuses on both function and aesthetic when he’s sketching. Recently, Cerno teamed with Laguna artists Caleb Siemon and Carmen Salazar to launch a line of hand-blown glass pendants at the New York International Gift Fair. Cerno’s internal components light up the pendants. “There is a bit of an artisan aspect to what we do here,” Daniel says. Cerno’s goal is to be an internationally recognized lighting brand—to that end, it just may help to be in Laguna Beach. “The reputation that the community has as being a creative and artistic epicenter carries some value in the design community,” Daniel explains. “This community has a brand of its own, and being in it helps some of that rub off on your own brand.” (

Art and Wine Pairing 

Art and wine go hand in hand, which makes Laguna Canyon Winery a natural for Laguna Beach. “Wines fit well in the art community,” Marlowe Huber, co-owner of Laguna Canyon Winery, says. He and his brother, Darren Huber, have been in the winemaking business for years, as they used to own wineries in Vancouver. In 2003, they opened their 3,000-square-foot winemaking facility and tasting room near the major art festivals along busy Laguna Canyon Road. “Everything’s done here except grow the grapes,” Marlowe says. Grapes, trucked in from Napa and Sonoma Valley, are crushed and fermented. Then they’re pressed, which removes the skins from the juice. Next, the wine is aged in oak barrels, which adds to the wine’s “bouquet.” The whole process takes anywhere from several weeks to months, and then finally the wine is bottled and labeled—all here locally. Laguna Canyon sells its wines online and through distributors, and it offers two brands: Wyland Cellars, a venture with Laguna Beach whale and ocean life artist, Wyland, and its own eponymous Laguna Canyon brand. The brothers recently expanded to another tasting room in the heart of downtown, making a sip of their local creation that much easier to enjoy. (

Costumes That Make a Splash

Shereen Loth, owner of Delicate Illusions, used to make her sexy costumes, club wear and bikinis in Mission Viejo. But her rent skyrocketed there, and she moved her business—and her home—to Laguna Beach about five years ago. “We didn’t plan to move to Laguna, but I fell in love with it,” Shereen says. She has 2,800 square feet of manufacturing space downstairs with 10 sewing machines and six operators. Upstairs is a 1,200-square-foot store. Shereen sells to wholesalers across the nation, and in recent years, she costumed the performers in the annual final Big Splash production, a benefit for the AIDS Services Foundation. The busiest time is easily Halloween. “I take any icon and make a sexy version. My Katy Perry is to die for,” she says. “We do a lot of cuddly animal costumes. We did a giraffe—a sexy giraffe. Nobody has a giraffe.” The costumes are priced starting around $250.  Shereen started sewing at 14. “A friend of mine made her cheerleading skirt, and I was impressed.” After taking her first sewing class, she declared to her mother she was going to be a fashion designer. “It’s one of those moments in your life you never forget.” (

Milliner to the Stars  

Paula Del Percio is a real life milliner. What’s that? It’s a person who specializes in making custom hats. The former math teacher makes fancy felt and straw hats with trimmings such as ribbons and feathers, and then sells them at The Hat Box, which she opened in 2002. She’s made hats for Robert De Niro and hat enthusiast Dennis Rodman, to name a few of her celebrity clients. Paula’s show-stopping hats have sold in upscale department stores and boutiques from upwards of $300 to $400. Originally from New York, Paula has been making hats for 23 years, getting her start in her home state. “My father had a hat factory when I was a child,” she explains. “I was fascinated by the process that he could take what looked like nothing and make it so beautiful.” Her father made hats for the high-end Mr. John label in the 1940s and 1950s, and her mother used to do hat trim and bead work. “If I hadn’t observed my parents doing it, I probably wouldn’t have gone in this direction with my creativity.” (

Designed in Laguna  

Troy Lee is an artist first and foremost. It’s easy to tell. Just look at the eye-popping motorcycle racing helmets designed at his design center and boutique, Troy Lee Designs. Although the company’s showroom and headquarters are based in Corona, Troy lives in Laguna and opened a shop here in 2011. Troy and his design team think up artistic and colorful designs at the Laguna studio below the shop on Glenneyre. They sketch them out and engineer them into helmets, gear and apparel to maximize speed, comfort and functionality for all kinds of motorsports, including motorcycle, IndyCar and NASCAR racing and mountain biking. Troy, 51, still races motocross. He began painting motocross helmets in his parent’s garage. Troy was brought up on racing and art, says Armando “Mondo” Marron, vice president of apparel and also a Laguna Beach resident. “His grandfather raced the Bonneville Salt Flats,” he comments. Troy’s father was also a painter who raced motorcycles. If motocross doesn’t come to mind when you think Laguna Beach, think again. Mondo says when he’s out surfing he finds plenty of wave riders who race or used to race. The first supercross race of the season—the Anaheim 1—kicks off at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, where several of the racers can be seen clad in Troy Lee Designs. (

Bee Elixir

Beekeeper Bob Cosgrove will bottle 18,000 pounds of honey this year in garages on his Laguna Beach property. “I could sell twice as much, three times as much,” he explains. “The demand is there.” But sales aren’t up to him—sales depend mostly on the bees. You may have seen Aliso Canyon Honey jars on the shelves at the South Laguna Albertsons, one of his first customers. Actually, his first customer was Alpha Beta, which became Lucky and then eventually Albertsons. Throughout the years, the grocery store managers have continued to sell the honey, which comes in varieties such as sage and buckwheat (a coastal honey and Bob’s favorite). The honey is also sold at Cafe Vienna, Mother’s Market & Kitchen stores and Jimbo’s locations in north San Diego County. Bees like Bob well enough, though his wife, on the other hand, is allergic to bee stings, part of why he doesn’t keep hives on his property. Bob hauls the honeycombs to Laguna from hives in Mission Viejo and elsewhere, and then uses a machine to extract and filter the honey. He then bottles the honey and labels the jars.

When he was 5 and living in Westmont, Ill., Bob used to watch his neighbor Mr. Johnson tend his beehives. “When he wasn’t there, I’d go look at the hives,” he says. “I’d kick a hive or shake it and run like hell. One day I was about ready to start shaking the hive and the next thing I knew, there was a hand on the back of my collar,” Bob says. “It was Mr. Johnson.” Mr. Johnson didn’t yell at the 5-year-old, but instead invited Bob to look in a hive. “That’s how my interest in bees began,” he explains. When he’s not managing his bees, Bob is a professor at Saddleback College and he gladly shares his insight gained from the experience with his students. “I tell my students there are people in our lives that have their handprints on our backs, and they pushed us in a direction.” (

Chocolates Galore

“I can’t believe I’m still here,” Leigh Sauser says one night around 8 p.m. at her chocolate-making kitchen in Laguna Canyon. Her kitchen, Dr Chocolat!, sells truffles, turtles, bread pudding, quiche and other goodies to the public, and also sells them wholesale to cafes and at three farmers markets in El Segundo, Pasadena and San Diego’s Ocean Beach. Leigh started out wholesaling but says she prefers the interaction with customers. “I’m sort of a people pleaser.” Leigh, a longtime Laguna Beach resident, spent a stint directing children’s TV and educational services for CBS in Washington, D.C. “When I returned, I wanted to do something very different,” she says. “I started making chocolates and discovered I just loved it.” (Dr. Chocolate: 949-464-9929)

But Leigh’s little kitchen isn’t the only sweet spot in town. Detra “Dee” Francis, a one-time jean shop owner, learned how to make chocolate as an apprentice at a candy making shop in Laguna. When the owner of the shop retired, Dee bought his equipment. “I made chocolate from my kitchen at home with one melter,” she remembers. Dee sold her chocolates to The Chocolate Soldier in Dana Point before buying the store herself in 1989. Five years ago, Dee moved the kitchen from the Dana Point store to The Old Pottery Place, where she opened a store and a kitchen. “It was always a dream of mine to put the kitchen in the rear of the store, so people can see the chocolate being made,” she says. “That’s what we have in Laguna.” Dee decorates her store with her watercolor paintings, which she also sells at the Artist Eye Laguna Gallery. It is expensive to make chocolates here, but Dee’s lived in Laguna since 1968. “For me, it’s simply the center of my power zone,” she says. “I believe people have places where they’re supposed to be,” she explains. “I’m there.” (

Whether it’s chocolate, wine, honey, clothing, hats, lighting or more, Laguna Beach serves as a muse for many. Working in this beautiful setting—surrounded by ocean and canyons—one can certainly see why. LBM


Living The Life: Events & Opportunities

Piet Hein Eek Scrapwood Wallpaper: Piet Hein Eek first developed an interest in aged materials after restoring a cupboard for his sister; he found the old wood more beautiful than the new. He has since saved discarded pieces of wood and worked outside of the circuit of mass production.  Eek’s eco-friendly Scrapwood Wallpaper has more than 10 square feet of unique aged wood planks and is printed on heavy-duty paper that can be cleaned with a soft cloth.   46.7 square feet, $299.  Vertigo Home, 1854 S. Coast Hwy., Bungalow 5, Laguna Beach;   949-494-7547;

Vietri’s Italian Artisans: Vietri’s Italian artisans combine rich grays and soft creams to spin sophistication into their rustic garden pottery collection. $170 – $280.  Stephen Frank, 477 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach; 949.494.2014;


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