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WILLBO startup opens shop in Laguna Beach

WILLBO founder Robbie McInerny, 27, seated inside his apparel store in Laguna Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

In their youth, brothers Robbie and Will McInerny were known as the athletes in town.

The McInerny brothers, both of whom went on to play baseball for schools in the Pac-12, learned that life has a way of throwing curveballs.

Where they were once the big men on campus in the small town of Laguna Beach, new roles were in store.

“I think any great leader also knows how to follow, and that was something for me, as well,” Robbie McInerny said when asked what he learned from his time as an athlete.

“The foundational lessons that I learned on the field and in the locker room, teamwork and being accountable, doing what you say you’re going to do, showing up on time, the value of hard work — all of these foundational lessons, I learned.”

Hats, T-shirts and beanies by WILLBO in Laguna Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Second to none in that list was the ability to accept a change in role. While his playing days may be in the rear-view mirror, he has now turned his focus to the next frontier.

WILLBO, what the founders refer to as a California lifestyle company, launched its first retail location at 353 N. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach on Saturday.

After living under the roof of two entrepreneurial parents, Robbie and Will, along with business partner Wes Barnes, have teamed up to become a business presence in the community. Their brand largely focuses on their love of the outdoors.

Currently, the store is featuring a fall line spotlighting destinations within Yosemite National Park.

Founder Robbie McInerny speaks to a customer visiting from Ventura after she purchased a black hat.
Founder Robbie McInerny speaks to a customer visiting from Ventura after she purchased a black hat at WILLBO in Laguna Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“We want to kind of keep the spirit of this artistic flavor, bringing in those homegrown former Laguna Beach High School students to come back to the community, to give back to the community, and to express more of a youth movement, if you will, here in town that I think we’ve kind of lost a little bit,” Dan McInerny, the father of Robbie and Will, said.

Dan McInerny, a former professional baseball player who began his career with a 15-year run at Quiksilver, advised his children that if they were going to bring a new product to the market, it needed to be a quality one.

“My dad said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to bring product to the table, don’t bring more sand to the beach, because we don’t need more stuff,’” Robbie said. “So make sure it’s done really well, and I took that to heart.”

The founders’ vision for WILLBO is that it will establish a communal experience, one that brings people together and fosters a deeper connection to the environment.

Clothing by WILLBO in Laguna Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“Each season, we’ll draw inspiration from one of the geographical regions in the west — so the coasts, the mountains, the valleys, the deserts and the cities — as a backdrop for us to celebrate and extract inspiration from,” McInerny said.

The store will be open from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. It will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“Clothing is great, and it’s beautiful and all that, but … it’s not going to change anyone’s life,” Barnes said. “I think we’re all aware that having a meaningful connection with somebody is one of the, if not the strongest type of emotion and sensation you can feel.

“That’s why I feel really passionate about this brand and what the possibilities are because I just see the types of relationships that we’ve formed in just a short amount of time, and we really just want to have an impact on the lives of the people who consume our products.”

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