Before South of Mission in San Francisco there was SoHo in New York, and now NoHo and The Bowery, and every city seems to have an evolving cutting edge part of town. In Laguna, the southern end of the so-called Hip District, at the corner of Pearl Street and Coast Highway, is home to a new in-crowd, a mix of old and young, artists, advocates and entrepreneurs.
The revitalization is based in part on the collaboration between the Wine Gallery and Laguna’s radio station, KX93.5, both founded by youthful impresarios, where alternative music pairs with boutique wines on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays.
At a recent Pearl Street Session, broadcast live by DJ Marc “Mookie” Kaczor from the Wine Gallery, an aerospace engineer from Santa Fe, who goes by the pseudonym Daniel Isle Sky and who looks like a modern-day minstrel, strummed his guitar and sang songs from his first CD, while patrons gathered at the large U-shaped bar or at hi-tops and sipped happy hour wines with small plate or pizza specials from a wood-fired oven.
The bartender, Michael, is a genial fellow who happily offers samples of wine and craft beers. I favor dry whites as a rule and he offered me a gruner veltliner that was pitch perfect to my taste. Wine selections include vintages from the family vineyard of co-owner Jeff Schroeder who, with Chris Olsen, opened their first shop in 1999 in Corona del Mar and recently expanded to include a tasting bar. These youthful aficionados promote small-production wines with flights, tastings and winemaker events.
At another recent Pearl Street Session, Olsen arrived with his baby in his arms, his wife and toddler on hand, greeting patrons as if they were guests at his family’s kitchen.
As the Wine Gallery was opening last fall, the twenty-something Tyler Russell launched Laguna’s only FM radio with a line-up of 30 music and talk show hosts. Russell proudly reports that all the founding voices are still in action. Most recently local favorite Jason Feddy moves up to a daytime slot. The station broadcasts live morning through midnight, and fills the wee hours with music programmed by Kaczor, the station’s music director.
Russell, who managed the Chapman University radio station while a student and graduated to gigs at stations in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, hopes to build a foundation for popular music beyond the airwaves. He is close to finalizing plans to mount a multiple band concert in November at Irvine Bowl, a venue rarely permitted for use beyond the summer Pageant of the Masters.
The radio station’s line-up is as eclectic as the Wine Gallery’s offerings of wine and beer, with multiple music spots as well as talk radio about film, sports, fashion, spirituality, and locals, and although their radio frequency is limited, you can stream or podcast, or enjoy live music at the Pearl Street Sessions. Check the website for dates: kx935.com.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com. Minding our Business focuses on locally owned businesses and business people.