Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Downtown Laguna Beach is microcosmic coastal Orange County, combining the territorial surfers and the tourists, the affluent and the bohemian. It's also home to one of the least douchey beach cultures in OC, despite what the MTV show would have you believe. Artsy boutiques are manned by friendly, welcoming owners. World-class dining mixes with more laid-back fare, such as tiny coffee-and-sandwich enclave the Koffee Klatch and hippie standards Taco Loco. There's an art gallery every few steps, plus an entire art museum overlooking the beach. The best part: In addition to Main Beach, small beaches with cavernous ledges and rock jetties dot downtown Laguna's stretch of PCH, reminding you that OC is home to some ridiculously beautiful views. And then, the way in: Do you want to drive in via PCH or epic Laguna Canyon Road?
Gabrielle Dion is not only one of the best bartenders in Orange County, but she also runs the best bar store in the land. Need some non-Angostura bitters? Head to the Mixing Glass in the South Coast Collection's OC Mix. Need some quality barware? Head to the Mixing Glass. Need a goddamn absinthe spoon? Yeah, you can probably find it there. And then while you're shopping, go ahead and take advantage of Dion's knowledge and sign up for one of her classes. There's really nowhere else you'll need to visit to outfit the hardware side of your bar. Now, if only there were a cocktail bar at the Mix. . . .
Forget Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, as purty as they are for your kitchenware needs: Go to H-Mart. You might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it's a breeze. Pots and pans? Cheap, normal-looking and functional. Chopsticks? So many chopsticks. And the knives? Who needs Shun or Henckels when you have a Kiwi cleaver that can lop off your hand? Best yet, it costs $8 and comes wrapped in plastic in a cardboard box full of other Kiwi cleavers. Nice kitchen stuff is a nice luxury, sure, but seriously, next time you're buying sashimi, take a walk down the kitchen aisle. Dare you to leave without a cleaver.
This fall, Japanese fashion giant Uniqlo opened in South Coast Plaza and finally gave young twentysomething men in Orange County a place to buy basics that isn't H&M, American Apparel or, well, Target. The premise is exciting: Affordable, high-quality basics. Timeless, but well-fit cuts. Flexible styles. It's something that should've happened years ago. But then, years ago, Uniqlo didn't even have any U.S. locations. It didn't operate in the country until 2005, when the company quietly opened three small stores on the East Coast. The first West Coast location didn't open until 2012, and that one is in San Francisco. The buzz quickly outgrew the brick-and-mortars, and soon people were buying through proxy services, visiting stores while on vacation, and biting the bullet and buying blind online. The South Coast store is the first in Southern California, after 16 other Uniqlos have opened in distinctly less Asian areas of the United States. But hey, that'll be forgiven—just give us some cheap oxfords.
Usually when one hears of a high-school gym teacher's heroism, it involves a winning strategy to remove the itch from jock straps. (God bless you, Mr. Reusch.) But that's not why the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, honored 57-year-old Richard Irvin "Rick" Moore of Laguna Niguel. On Aug. 14, 2013, the teacher from Creekside High School in Irvine was vacationing in Maui; he heard a scream and saw a young woman in bloodied water about 150 feet off a beach. Without regard for his own safety, Moore darted across the sand, jumped into the surf and rescued the 20-year-old, who'd been bitten by a tiger shark. Sadly, the German national died about a week later in a hospital. Moore was among 22 people honored in July with medals and cash awards from the organization named for Pittsburgh industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
The Fullerton-based nonprofit Orange County Veterans Employment Committee (OCVEC) helps connect returning (or long-returned) U.S. veterans with the resources available for them. The goal is to match vets who need jobs and services with those who can provide those things, especially if the providers are veterans themselves. The state Employment Development Department has co-sponsored job fairs with OCVEC, and the nonprofit has sent vets to job centers in Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Buena Park and Westminster. To help get vets where they need to be, OCVEC has provided gas cards, bus passes, career-development training, OSHA certification fees, security-guard card fees, state licensing fees, work clothing, tools, computers and networking assistance. Considering the wars this country is getting out of—as well as, alas, getting into—OCVEC's work is only going to grow more critical in the years ahead.