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Something for everyone at Twig

UC IrvineMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyJules Verne

Susan Elliott only asks for one thing from her Twig patrons.

"I want people to walk in the store and smile," she said.

Elliott and her husband, David Richardson, both former computer programmers, opened the store Thursday at 1175 South Coast Hwy.

An eccentric gift boutique, Twig offers everything from one-of-a-kind vintage books and homewares to Jules Verne-esque lamps made from old MIT lab equipment, and trendy tees featuring retro nautical tattoos.

"There's a lot of stores in town that are classy and elegant," she said. "That's not us. We're fun."

Elliott, a resident of Laguna Beach since 1993, said she spent hours sweating over the tagline and she decided on simplicity: fun and interesting.

"I want people to go 'this is really cool.' This isn't about candles and serving trays," she said.

Twig has an item for every member of the family, such as handmade jewelry for mom, an interesting book for dad or old-time games for the kids.

Elliott said it's all in the plan. She wants every member of the family excited to shop at Twig — man, woman and child, young and old.

Elliott and Richardson met at UC Irvine while studying computer science, and they went on to have successful careers as programmers. Although her day job wasn't exactly creative, the couple spent much of their downtime treasure-hunting for cool items and crafting things from scratch.

Elliott is known around town for being the go-to gal for costumes, dressing everyone from the cast of "Lagunatics" to students in Laguna Beach High School performances. Her husband is known for his expert prop- and set-making.

However, Elliott joked, she doesn't know much about what she's getting herself into — she's prepared mostly from a lifetime of shopping and reading "Retail for Dummies."

"I read it cover to cover, and that's what I know about retail," she said with a laugh.

Her sister, Johanna Ellis, is helping her set up shop and Ellis credited her sister as a lifelong businesswoman.

"When I was little, she would sew troll doll clothes and sell it to us," Ellis said. "It was her first business."

Elliott admitted she's been talking about opening a store for years, ever since she got hooked on collecting antique lamps. She also makes her own jewelry, which she sells at Twig.

She watched the space, which is adjacent to the Sandpiper, for years and then finally made an offer.

She recently found out the space has some historic charm for more reasons than one. In the 1950s, she said, it was the meeting place for a local chapter of the United Lodge of Theosophists, a mystical religious movement.

She's been writing to them, trying to find out the history of the building, which has a unique dome-shaped skylight in the center.

"It's more than a building," she said. "It's history."

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

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