Anyone familiar with Orange County's 1960s folklore knows that Laguna Beach was the center of Southern California's underground hippie scene.
In fact, that center had a street address: 670 S. Coast Hwy., where, just after the 1967 Summer of Love, a head shop, art gallery, book store and exotic-goods retailer opened its doors. Mystic Arts World, as the place was known, was also essentially a front for the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the legendary group of surfers and smugglers who for a time operated the nation's largest hashish and LSD network.
Mystic Arts World burned down under mysterious circumstances (some, including artist and Brotherhood cohort Dion Wright, claim it was the work of members of the John Birch Society) some 43 years ago this month. But now, just next door, at 664 S. Coast Hwy., a new Mystic Arts has opened its doors, and the art gallery and exotic-goods store appears to have the Brotherhood's blessing.
The shop's artistic director, Diane Valentino, couldn't be immediately reached for comment for this story, but you can check out and "like" the store's Facebook page here.
The shop is described as a co-op of local Laguna Beach artisans, including several who go back to the early days of the Sawdust Festival, which was founded in 1968 by artists including Wright, whose masterpiece, the Taxonomic Mandala, was on display in the original Mystic Arts World and miraculously survived the fire.
Among the artists who are said to be members of the co-op are Donna and Lance Jost, the latter of whose artwork used to decorate Rainbow Surfboards, which was started in 1969 by the Brotherhood's John Gale.
News of Mystic Art's opening is spreading fast among folks who were around in Laguna back in the Brotherhood era and via Facebook, and so far, the chatter appears to be positive, despite the fact that Wright, who also wasn't available for immediate comment today, is not apparently involved with the shop.
Stay tuned for more details on the store; meanwhile, anyone who stops by the shop should feel free to post feedback here.