By Donna Furey | LB Indy
Word of longtime Laguna local Toni Leech’s passing on Monday spread quickly across the city this week.
She and her husband, Michael, owned Cafe Zoolu on Glenneyre Street for 24 years. The Zagat-rated favorite of locals was located in a 1939 house and a former studio of the late artist Leonard Kaplan. The Leechs previously owned The Quiet Woman restaurants from Corona del Mar to Dana Point.
“Those of us that got to know Toni will agree how lucky we were to be able to call her our friend. Toni was a colorful woman, to say the least. Yesterday, Laguna Beach got a little paler,” Michael Byrne posted Tuesday on Nextdoor, an app that connects neighbors.
Byrne and his wife Cindy opened Roux on the site of Café Zoolu after the Leechs closed their restaurant in May 2016. Upon the announcement of the Leech’s retirement Café Zoolu fans packed the 37-seat restaurant on May 29; their last day of operation.
The responses to Byrne’s Nexdoor posting were prolific. Nearly a dozen from the Village offered condolences and shared fond memories. Residents from North Laguna, the Wesley district and Bluebird Canyon praised Leech’s “unique spirit” and said they were “heartbroken.”
“RIP” proclamations and offers of “any help you need” came from Arch Beach and Canyon Acres.
Heidi Miller, a fellow local business owner, said, “loved Toni, so sorry to hear of her passing.”
Cathy Bosko from the Village posted, “We used to walk by [Zoolu] every day with our dog and [the Leechs] always gave him a special treat from the previous evening’s dinner.”
Christopher Kling of North Laguna shared his memory of Leech who “despised walk-ins” asking Barbara Streisand to wait for a table, outside, on Valentine’s Day.
The Indy will post information about a memorial services as it becomes available.