Another gallery has shuttered its doors – Swenson – and in its place, an upscale concept store promises simplicity with style. Joining the ranks of swank shops like Trove, Riga and Anastasia, what you might call not-so-shabby chic, this new addition, Simple, is another doorway to downtown renewal.
According to proprietors Hesham and Jenni Elmished, shopping at Simple is all about the experience. Billed as a lifestyle shop for men and women, the store will offer a heavier dose of menswear [a dictate from the city] as well as women’s wear and a plethora of personal and home accessories [towels, jewelry, bags, etc.] that are sure to make browsing central to the experience, and the couple plans to also include local art as décor.
Despite a location on touristy Coast Highway, Simple is meant for locals. The owners pride themselves on tailoring their merchandise to suit local tastes. Hesham [aka Sammy] said he carefully edits the merchandise. “I buy for my customers,” he told me proudly.
This couple knows something about the shopping experience. Their east coast concept stores, branded as “AndCompany,” have been successful in three towns in suburban New York and Connecticut, from where they relocated last year, and they have also operated retail and commercial businesses in Egypt.
What brought them to Laguna Beach? Hesham, as a young migrant to the U.S., took a road trip across country in search of the perfect beach town. At Dana Point he stopped to be banquet manager for the Ritz Carlton when it opened. Hospitality is only one of his credentials: he has a degree in mathematics and he was the driving force behind Egypt.com, among other things. He met Jenni, who hails from Northern England, when she was 19 and spending a year in the U.S. with cousins. They knew at once they would make a life together, including three children, the youngest of which is a senior at Laguna Beach High School.
“We wanted them to know where they came from, which is why we lived for 12 years in Egypt,” Jenni told me. However they continued to spend summers and Christmas holidays in Connecticut, where they migrated in 2008. Now they have put winter behind them, like many of us, and are already proud members of the Laguna Beach community.
Jenni holds a degree in special education, but she shares her husband’s passion for retail, and has been spearheading a full renovation of the 2,100 square foot shop in a minimalist design, allowing elegant merchandise to stand out. “We want the shop to feel more like home than a store,” Jenni said.
“Comfortable and stylish, not trendy,” Hesham added. “Fashion is not Wall Street anymore – professional but casual is the new work uniform. Less is definitely more.”
Simple is located at 460 S. Coast Highway. www.shopatsimple.com is still under construction and, in the interest of full disclosure, I discovered during the interview that Allan Simon, chairman of Firebrand Media, the Indy’s parent company, is Simple’s landlord.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com. This column features Laguna businesses and business people.