Up Front Around Town

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Time to Grow Up

Are you ready to grow your own food in a whole new way? Erik Cutter is the founder of EnviroIngenuity, a Laguna Beach-based environmental company that showcases and provides Verti-Gro, a hydroponic vertical gardening system that could change how the food we eat is grown in our own backyards.

“It uses 85 percent less water, 70 percent less land and about 90 percent less fuel,” Erik explains. “This is such a very efficient system and even a child could use it—it grows all the vegetables I need with hydroponics.”

Hydroponics is not a new art, but with gardens sprouting up around town, the time was right to bring the concept to Laguna. Verti-Gro will place the systems within reach of those who want to take their hands out of the soil and into the future of gardening up instead of out. The principle is simple: By stacking the growing plants instead of planting them in the soil, space is conserved and less water is used, as the vertical systems take advantage of their greatest efficiency ally, which gravity.

“We really want to get people back into the habit of growing their own natural foods—after all, we should be growing and eating locally produced food, which also is medicine,” Erik says. “The food is so good, and when you’re ready to harvest some lettuce for your salad, it’s right there!”

Top Reads

“The Barbarian Nurseries”

In Héctor Tobar’s latest fiction novel, “The Barbarian Nurseries” (2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the Southern California-based author explores the issue of immigration and where both legal and illegal immigrants fit into society, attempting to shatter wrongful stereotypes while scratching the social fabric of LA and further examining the idiosyncrasies of its many inhabitants.

“The Next Right Thing” 

Author Dan Barden uses a crime plot in his recent novel, “The Next Right Thing” (2012, Random House Inc.), to touch on the world of alcohol addiction, recovery and male grief. The story tells the tale of a recovering alcoholic who is determined to unravel the mystery behind the death of his friend and former AA sponsor, who appears to have died of a heroin overdose and is discovered in a seedy motel in Laguna Beach. Harrowing and humorous, the book imparts both suspense and wisdom.

“Orange Sunshine”

In this Los Angeles Times bestseller, “Orange Sunshine” (2010, Thomas Dunn Books), author Nicholas Schou dives deep into the story of a group of California surfers-turned-worldwide drug cartel in the 1960s and ’70s who came to be known as the “Hippie Mafia.” Through years of research and intimate interviews, Schou takes the reader on a trip through sex, acid (“orange sunshine”) and rock ‘n’ roll that stretches from Laguna Beach to the Middle East.

All books can be purchased at Laguna Beach Books (1200 S. Coast Hwy.;
949-494-4779; lagunabeachbooks.com).


Building Hope

Five years ago, Mary Ellen Carter, a Laguna resident and the wife of federal judge David Carter, accompanied her husband on a business trip to Malawi, Africa. Overwhelmed by the extreme poverty she observed—Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world—she was impelled to lend a helping hand. “I was amazed to learn that simple supplies that we take for granted are such an enormous gift for these children,” Mary Ellen says. What began as a drive for medical and school supplies soon grew into a nonprofit called Direct Connections to Africa (dctafrica.net), whose mission is to also provide villages in Africa with scholarships, recreational and job development programs, and to build medical clinics and educational facilities. Through sponsorships, fundraising and grants, the organization has raised enough money to build two educational centers—the first last year in a remote area of the Mangochi district (sometimes called the Elephant Village because wild elephants roam the area) and the second this month in a more central and easily accessible part of the district. Designed by fellow Laguna Beach resident, Ronnie Rogers, the facility includes an educational room, computer center, library, indoor-outdoor stage, three recreational fields and a first-aid room, and will serve students from pre-school through adulthood. “We were able to buy the land (thanks to a $70,000 grant from the Griswold Foundation), provide irrigation and build the first center,” Mary Ellen says. “I know a lot of people protest this kind of foreign aid when we have so many problems right here in our own country, but my view is that when a government can’t support it’s own people, it’s our job to step in. Without hope, they have nothing.” Stay tuned for a chocolate fundraiser at Mozambique May 16 with all proceeds benefiting Direct Connections to Africa.

Eco-Chic Boutique

Green has been the new black for a while now, but surprisingly, eco-friendly products are still hard to come by, even in a town like Laguna. “[Marketing gimmicks] make it really confusing to determine what products are truly ‘green’ and it’s a real challenge to find the ones that are,” says local Elizabeth Dick, who decided to open a boutique with boyfriend and business partner Mike Ferrari, that would make earth- and human-friendly products not only more easily accessible to her but to her friends and fellow community members. Green Tree Boutique will open in late April in the old Stems location (998 S. Coast Hwy.), a chic green shop committed to sustainable lifestyle practices and products—from baby toys to organic tees to decorative décor—that all meet high standards of certification. All are USDA-certified organic, eco-certified, cruelty-free or vegan, the couple promises. “Our mission is to take the [guesswork] out of shopping and make these choices easier for everyone,” Liz says. Everything in the shop, from the VOC-free paint to refurbished wood furniture, is 100 percent eco-friendly and products will include items like Baby Bear baby care, Kate Quinn Organics duds for little dudes, Bambu kitchen essentials, Go Green lunchboxes and travel cups, Tata Harper skincare, Mar Y Sol bags, hats and other beach accessories, Gary Linden Agave Surfboard wall décor and Harry Barker beds, leashes and recyclable poop bags for your pooch.

An Eye for Style 

Two years after opening his first Gentlemen’s Breakfast Vintage Eyewear location in LA’s Echo Park in 2010, owner Van de la Plante decided to bring his classic collection to the artistic, “left-of-center” creative town of Laguna. Since the newest location opened in February, Van has offered a limited yet impressive selection of handmade frames for men and women from the 1700s through the 1980s. “Whether you go to a corporate optical shop or a privately owned mom-and-pop optical shop, you’ll notice that the inventory is the same,” says Van, who brings more than 10 years of knowledge as an optician to his customers. “I grew tired of selling the same brands that every other optical shop was selling.” As a self-described treasure hunter, Van finds unique merchandise with rich histories from all over the world, bringing back frames to the warm, inviting space of his small storefront—which he affectionately refers to as his “clubhouse.” Relying on the design and quality, Gentlemen’s Breakfast focuses almost exclusively on vintage eyewear, eschewing contemporary brands in favor of the beautiful and one-of-a-kind styles of the past. (1968 S. Coast Hwy; 949-295-2546; gentsbreakfast.blogspot.com) LBM

At the Salon

A restored Spanish bungalow is home to the newest salon to open in north Laguna: Morrison Hair, a different type of “un-salon,” according to owner Rachel Morrison. Along with husband and creative director James, who is also the former co-creator and co-owner of TONI&GUY USA and TIGI/Bed Head, Rachel has created a guest experience that fuses 21st century technology—the salon uses iPads for appointment check-ins and product purchases—with the look and feel of an inviting living room. “We tried to make the salon chic and sophisticated without feeling stuffy—much like the community,” Rachel says. Using products from Kérastase, L’Oreal Professional and Philip Kingsley, James says the salon specializes in natural, healthy hair to fit your lifestyle. One of his favorite looks of the moment is a beach-inspired style with loose waves—perfect for lounging in Laguna. (1140 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-3616; morrisonhair.com)

But Morrison isn’t the only new salon in town. For former nail-biter-turned-manicure aficionado Samira Asemanfar, opening Bellacures Salon was an opportunity to change the culture of nail salons. With the newest of seven locations recently opened in Laguna Beach in February 2012, Samira brings locals an extensive menu of options for their hands and feet in a clean and comfortable environment. Services range from a basic manicure or pedicure to the signature Bella Hands Manicure, which features a choice of a sea salt or walnut scrub, plus a clay mask and moisturizing hot towel wrap with rich butter cream and grape seed or almond oil. Oversized suede chairs transport guests to a place of pure relaxation as their hands and feet are pampered and polished to perfection. Derived from the Italian word “bella,” meaning beautiful, and “cure,” which means restoration, Bellacures will leave you refreshed and relieved, according to Samira. (226 Ocean Ave.; 949-281-7331; bellacures.com)

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