Always the perfect 'Gentlemen'

Always the perfect 'Gentlemen'
Van de la Plante sits next a line of his stylish vintage glass frames on display in the Gentlemen's Breakfast boutique in Laguna Beach. (DON LEACH, Coastline Pilot)

Thirty-four-year-old Van de la Plante looks every bit the gentleman.

Sporting a beige linen resort suit, a green Cuban Guayabera cigar shirt and Huarache Cole Haan sandals, de la Plante fits in well as owner of Gentlemen's Breakfast, a new boutique that sells antique eye glasses, sunglasses and accessories at 1968 S. Coast Hwy.


The small shop, splattered in bitter chocolate and beige tones, is decorated with manly finds and furnishings. Antique crystal decanters sit on an old desk, filled with scotch and ready for the pour.

A vintage bourbon flask is disguised as a "1909 candlestick phone." It's reserved for those who spend enough money, according to de la Plante, who declined to give an amount. A feather pen with ink jar caps off a rich, old-world look.


It's the second such boutique for the entrepreneur and optician, who opened his first one in Echo Park in February 2010.

He spent months searching for the right spot. He said Laguna Beach is the perfect mix of beach, arts and community — a place where he and his wife could put some roots, raise a family.

He opened the store in March.

"I love it here," said de la Plante. "My wife and I wanted to live in a beach town that's interesting. We just love how there are tons of artists here."


At Gentlemen's Breakfast, you'll find B&L Ray Bans that were handmade in Australia and vintage Diane von Furstenberg's that handmade in Japan.


There's a pair of vintage Christian Dior sunglasses, which were crafted by hand in Austria or Germany. They sell for about $400 to $450 apiece, depending on which pair.


There's even a $1,000 pair of handmade, cat-eye French sunglasses that are straight out of the 1950s.

And don't forget the 1960s prison-issued glasses that inmates received so they couldn't "shank each other," he said.

Yep, he's got those for about $150 plus cost of lenses.

Being an optician is a bit off the beaten path for de la Plante. He grew up in a family of artists. His father is a blues musician and painter. His mother is a painter. Even his brother and sister are artist types.

"No one is an optician, let alone in retail," he said.

Part of his love of antique glasses, he said, comes from the fact that he has sold practically every brand you can think of in the past eight years working as an optician for various stores.


There is something to be said about vintage frames, de la Plante would argue. Antique frames were handmade in limited production versus the mass production techniques employed by most eyewear makers today.

"It was cool when it wasn't everywhere," he said about designer shades. "It ruins the image and exclusivity when you see everyone wearing Dolce & Gabbana on the side of their frames."

Vintage glasses are made out of cellulose acetate, a mix of cottonseed fibers, wood pulp fibers and plasticizers.

"There actually are plant cells in the frame," he said

Then the material is poured into big sheets, cooled and hardened, and then cut out by hand, wired, sanded and polished.

The result is a better frame that can be heated and bent to the face to reduce headaches and pinching.

But durability is the main benefit.

"They've already lasted 50 years," he said. "Why not 50 more?"

Few brands use such a mixture anymore, de la Plante added.

As an optician, he can put prescription or shaded/colored lenses in them, as well as polarized lenses, something that he's finding to be a plus in Laguna.

Of course, he's always "treasure hunting," as he calls it.

And no, de la Plante said he doesn't find his products on eBay.

"Once people buy from me, experience my service and the quality lenses and frames, see how many compliments they get, they come back," he said.

As for the shop's name, it comes from weekly breakfast meetings de la Plante and his buddies used to have. They'd put on sports coats, sit around and discuss their lives, politics, social issues — a true gentlemen's breakfast.

"Man therapy," he calls it.

"I think it's very important for women and men to have their own time," he said.

Despite a name like Gentlemen's Breakfast, gals tend to gravitate to his shop.

"Women are not afraid to walk into a men's store, but men will walk by if it's too girlie," he added.

As for his personal collection, de la Plante has some pretty cool finds: white/gold 1930s American Optical Aviators; some old Monocles from the 1920s; and Civil War era spectacles that are worth a lot, he said.

"I like all that haberdashery, like cuff links, fountain pens, watches — all the stuff that gentlemen used to appreciate more."

Twitter: @CoastlinePilot

If You Go

What: Gentlemen's Breakfast

Where: 1968 S. Coast Hwy.

Call: (949) 295-2546

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday; and by appointment Monday and Tuesday

Bonus: A 20% discount will be given to people who mention this story through May, according to owner Van de la Plante.