At Mission Viejo couple’s new shop, there’s bamboo you can wear or sleep on

Kevin and Lisa Long opened their first business this year, Cariloha at the Pacific City mall in Huntington Beach.
Kevin and Lisa Long opened their first business this year, Cariloha at the Pacific City mall in Huntington Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

This year presented a series of firsts for married couple Kevin and Lisa Long and the people of Orange County.

For the Longs, it marked their first time opening a business that sells Cariloha bamboo products.

For the county, it signaled the first time having a Cariloha shop.

The Longs’ 1,139 square-foot store on the first floor of the Pacific City shopping mall along Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach sells bedding, mattresses, clothing and other products made of bamboo.

In order to be made into fabric, the bamboo is taken out of the stalk, mixed into a solution and then spun into yarn, the Longs said.

The materials feel cool to the touch because of bamboo’s natural properties.

The fabric is able to wick away moisture, meaning it grabs moisture from the body and moves it to the outside of the fabric where it can easily evaporate.

Some products, such as the bed sheets, are made entirely out of bamboo. Other items like towels and various apparel are a blend of bamboo and other materials, including cotton.

Cariloha carries bamboo clothing including robes and shirts at the Pacific City mall in Huntington Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Cariloha company chain has more than 50 locations in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Besides the Longs’ Cariloha location in Huntington Beach, there are three others in California — San Francisco, San Diego and Solvang.

The Mission Viejo couple first learned of Cariloha during a trip to Las Vegas where Lisa bought a shirt from Cariloha’s Mandalay Bay location. As she checked out her item at the cash register, she saw a set of brochures on how to open a Cariloha.

At the time, Kevin had finished working in the human resources industry for 30 years after the most recent company he had worked for was sold.

He had an offer to return to the corporate world, but he said his wife told him, “You don’t seem happy to be going back.”

So the couple started researching how to open their own business in September of last year.

“We thought we probably didn’t want to open a brick and mortar location with all the online presence already out there,” Kevin said. “But this is the type of product you really have to touch and feel. If you love the product then it’s easier to run the business and we can look people in the eye and say that we love these sheets.”

Socks made from bamboo spun into yarn are part of the clothing and other fabric items at Cariloha in Huntington Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

In the process of getting their shop off the ground, the company provided different types of support, such as designing the store, picking the products and having a customer service manager train them.

The two opened the Orange County location in May.

The Longs said the shift in careers has been gratifying for them in a multitude of ways, including giving a high school student her first job and getting to know regular customers.

“We’ve seen the same customers come back three or four times,” Lisa said. “Like, they first got a mattress and now they need pillows and sheets. Then their son needs sheets. Then their daughter needs sheets.”

Shirts and other clothing made from bamboo at Cariloha in the Pacific City mall in Huntington Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Whether they face days filled with plenty of hustle or others that are slow, the Longs are prepared to take on either one.

“If we don’t sell anything, we can just look at the ocean,” Kevin said with a laugh.

But having only been open for a few months, there’s still a list of things the two are ready to face together.

“We haven’t been through a whole year of seasons and we don’t know what the holidays will bring just yet,” said Lisa, whom Kevin calls “the face” of the store. “It’s scary and thrilling at the same time, and those are the sort of things that make you feel alive.”

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10