Rancho Santa Margarita

City of the Big Boxes

Photo by Keith MayRancho Santa Margarita is nothing if not a town that embraces diversity. Well, that and a town that really embraces the name Rancho Santa Margarita. This is nowhere more apparent than in the shopping centers along the city's main drag, Santa Margarita Parkway. There, in the Rancho Santa Margarita Town Center, one can find the likes of Target, Radio Shack and La Salsa, while just on the next block, in the Rancho Santa Margarita Market Place, one will see Lowes, Staples and Rubio's.

Of course, embracing difference is never easy, and Rancho Santa Margarita has grappled with change since its first years of cityhood. When it was settled 15 years ago, all homes were painted the same shade of salmon, as decreed by the Rancho Santa Margarita Landscape and Recreation Corp.—SAMLARC to its close friends. But residents, perhaps buoyed by the knowledge that Rancho Santa Margarita is open-minded enough to make a place not only for an AMPM but also a Texaco Star Mart, decided they wanted more diversity.

They got it when SAMLARC relaxed its guidelines, and now visitors to Rancho Santa Margarita are dazzled by homes spanning the spectrum from tan to light tan to somewhat darker tan to beige to what can only be described as gray.

The city's residents have embraced the hues wholeheartedly. You'll notice this at any of Rancho Santa Margarita's shopping centers, where SUVs form a rainbow of choices and interiors, a veritable We Are the World of gas-guzzling, marginally safe spewmobiles. So, welcome to Rancho Santa Margarita, where Rancho Santa Margarita residents will tell you it's Rancho Santa Margariffic!

SHOPPING RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA

AMPM. Without fear of hyperbole, I can honestly say that this is the greatest AMPM anywhere in the universe. What makes it great isn't so much the contents—the usual assortment of discounted soda, processed meats and car deodorizers—it's what's outside: Spanish tiles and a fountain, and not the kind that dispenses the latest incarnation of Mountain Dew. This is a Mediterranean-style fountain, dripping water. And there's the bell tower, beckoning all to partake of Slim Jims and bulk candy. It is a place of business, and yet a quiet place. Yes, a quiet place in the parking lot of a gas station, and yes, a quiet place connected to a Quizno's sub shop. But it is quiet in its way, allowing the thoughtful patron to consider the big questions in peace: Regular or diet? Plain or menthol? New Hickory BBQ or Original Flavor? 29880 Santa Margarita Pkwy., (949) 388-6361.
 
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