By Andrea Primer, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach fosters many sorts of entrepreneurs, allowing for creative and eclectic ideas to prosper into full-blown businesses. Native Jessica Watson is the latest to tackle her lifelong dream, opening a boutique, The Shop, at 1020 S. Coast Highway earlier this month.
Watson with the help of her husband Jason, who manages nearby Laguna Surf and Sport, spotted a vacant storefront in the same block and realized it was time to make the plunge and pursue her passion.
After making a payment on the property in December, Watson began reinventing the space into a beachy boutique. The Shop carries women’s surf brands including RVCA and Quiksilver, carried by many rivals in town and elsewhere, as well as trendy brands such as Chaser and For Love and Lemons. In addition, the store offers fresh flowers for sale as a single stem or small arrangement, a niche Watson hopes will benefit local shoppers.
Watson aims to entice customers in search of a new clothing boutique where they also feel the spirit of Laguna Beach culture. The Shop’s store mantra expresses her vision: “Created to bring back the essence of the beach lifestyle, the free-spirited fashionable beach girl. “
The store, she said, “is a place where the surf vibes live and a place that reminds us of what our community is about. Some home, some fashion and a little bit of salty-ness, capturing that feeling of summer all year round.”
Watson is no stranger to retail. She began working in the retail industry at the tender age of 15, at the Laguna children’s boutique Little Bohemian. The part time job sparked her love for fashion, and prompted her to go to Long Beach State University, and major in fashion merchandising. At the same time, she was promoted to the women’s buyer for Laguna Surf and Sport’s Aliso Viejo and Laguna location, which lacked any women’s inventory.
After devoting six years to developing the stores’ women’s business, Watson realized fashion was her calling and jumped to marketing with a national brand, becoming a Quiksilver brand ambassador.
Fueled by her Quiksilver experience, Watson ambitiously decided to venture off on her own. The new shop keeper’s goals go beyond fashion however. “For me, it’s all about tying the community together and bringing back the Laguna flavor. It’s about the beach culture,” Watson explains.
Enter Watson’s The Shop, which now competes for customers on the same block amongst several other boutiques including H., Blue-Eyed Girl and Isla Boutique. Watson is unperturbed by her rivals, saying none of the stores carry quite the same product lines.
“The more shops that open in the area the better. It helps bring foot traffic to South Laguna,” said Isla Boutique employee Brittany Byllard, also of Laguna.
A former high school classmate of Watson, Byllard believes that there is little overlapping of brands among nearby stores and that she is excited to see a local pursuing their own vision.
While local businesses predominate among Laguna’s merchant class, the rash of empty storefronts in recent years show the risks that can befall shop keepers unfamiliar with the town. The Shop’s two previous occupants, for example devised new concepts but unfortunately without much success. The first occupant was a family owned and operated manicure shop, Green Tea Spa, which opened in April of 2010 and closed the next year.
The vacancy did not last long. In May of 2011, George Powell opened up his flagship store for Reuse Jeans, carrying a men’s and women’s clothing line made of 80 percent recycled cotton. His shop lasted 18 months.
As for me, I watched a vacant space transform to a homey store and decided I wanted to work for Watson. I recognized her hard work and passion, and knew I wanted to be a part of the vibe that welcomes everyone to come and experience Laguna Beach.
Andrea Primer is an Indy intern enrolled in UC Irvine’s literary journalism program.