The Stand is so old-school, it was around when Laguna Beach still had actual hippies. It's so old-school, it was around when vegetarianism would still get you accused of being a commie, let alone veganism. It's so old school, that Timothy Leary supposedly would hide out in the silo area back before the Stand even existed. It's so old-school, that employees remember all their regulars by name, and if you’re persistent enough, you might even get your own custom order button on the register like some of their most dedicated patrons.
It's one of the last true survivors of laidback Laguna Beach, from the era before the billionaires ran out the millionaires and you could still live in paradise for next-to-nothing. Sun-kissed women work calmly in the back, chopping, blending and filling order after order for the numerous locals that line up along the street to get their daily fix. An old ficus grows out of the eatery’s main table in glorious hippie fashion and welcomes guests, while hand painted signs and menus adorn the walls; one reads, “We don’t have Wi-Fi… Pretend it’s 1975, talk to each other.” Strewn across the tables are issues of vintage Life magazines from the ‘60s and ‘70s mixed in with a couple of New Age astrological and numerological books that focus on birthdays. Tunes from the likes of Carole King, Bob Marley and Michael Franks hum along in the background on the old speaker system.
“That’s the goal, to keep it like it is time warped,” says Alizabeth Arciniaga, The Stand's new owner. “I don’t want to ever change it. I want it to stay in the ‘70s. It’s all love.”
The Stand was created in 1975 by Edward Brancard, a staunch vegan who also ran a health foods co-op in Laguna Canyon and is credited by Arciniaga as one of the city’s pioneers of pure natural foods. Brancard purchased the location from the Dunn family, who invented the extremely addicting Have’A Corn Chips brand here, when it was originally called Have’A Stand. Brancard sold the chip company back to the Dunns at their request, who went on to turn Have'A Chips into the mysterious cult item they are today. The Weekly reached out to Brancard, who declined comment.
Arciniaga used to work at The Stand in 1979 as a teenager, spurred by her desire to buy a Sadie Hawkins Dance ticket at Laguna Beach High School when her dad refused to pony up the cash. Decades later, in the summer of 2012, after having kids and moving to Los Angeles, Arciniaga took her daughter to visit The Stand. While they were eating, she overheard a local father reminiscing to his son about his first experience there before he was born. “I looked at my daughter and was touched because we were doing the same thing,” Arciniaga says.
“I then saw Edward and realized that he had never married and had no children,” she adds. “So I approached him and told him that if he wanted to retire, I would be interested in buying The Stand. In fall of 2014, he put it on the market. By February of 2015, he sold it to me.”
The Stand continues to offer its vast menu of vegan options, updating only to include newer trends like açaí bowls, tamales, and gluten-free baked desserts. “It’s just so healthy,” says Mark Cowain, a local who has been coming to The Stand since 1981. “You know you’re going to get good, clean food here.”
And the avocado sandwich on their toasted rosemary-garlic sourdough bread, is still here, a thing of perfection featuring avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole and alfalfa sprouts tossed in a vibrant lemon herb dressing whose recipe supposedly hails from Caesar Cardini, the man who invented the Caesar salad. According to longtime employee, Sunseray Raj Fratantaro, the avocado was the only sandwich they offered back in the ‘70s when she started working there.
“Laguna has changed a lot, but thank god this place hasn’t changed,” Fratantaro says.
“Everyone here is a little hippie in their own way, you won’t see any corporate types behind that glass,” Arciniaga concludes as her eyes begin to water. “It almost makes me cry that it’s been here so long and gets to continue. I think the people’s love of the place is so rewarding. It’s like a second family. I hope that it’s here for generations and generations.”
The Stand Natural Foods, 238 Thalia St., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8101; thestandnaturalfoods.com