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Barbara Diamond McCalla’s Pharmacy will celebrate its...

Barbara Diamond

McCalla’s Pharmacy will celebrate its 45th anniversary in October

at 292 Forest Ave.

It will be the last at that location.

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The pharmacy and Generations, the gift and home accessory store

next door, have been given notice to move out by the partnership that

owns the building. At least one other venerable store will either be

sold or closed by the summer of 2003.

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There have been changes before, but in the past Forest Avenue has

managed to retain a unique character that sets the city apart from

other South County communities.

“I miss the resident-serving businesses we have lost in the past

and I will miss McCalla’s because it provided such wonderful service

to the community,” said City Clerk Verna Rollinger, a long-time

resident. “I hope it will find a new location so the doors are never

closed.”

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Charles “Mac” McCalla was the first pharmacist to stock AIDS drugs

in Laguna Beach and in 1993, his daughter, Susie McCalla Ornellas,

hand-delivered emergency rations of prescription drugs to residents

caught outside the city without their medications and unable to get

back home because of the fire.

AIDS had never been heard of when “Mac” opened his pharmacy in

1958. But the Christian Science Reading Room had already been on

Forest Avenue for more than a decade, bought when the price was

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right, according to thankful volunteer Mary Qeough.

“I’m glad we bought it when we did,” she said.

The lumberyard, owned by the Jahraus family until recently, was

still on Forest Avenue in 1958 and was kingpin of the block closest

to City Hall. The office later became the Ivy House, home-away-from

home to the city’s coterie of cartoonists, and then Cedar Creek Inn.

Nearby, 326 Forest Ave. is the oldest commercial building on the

street. It was built in 1916 and originally housed Whistler & Sons

Grocery. The building was remodeled in 1939 and served as the Red

Cross Relief Headquarters in World War II. A second story was added

in 1981. Jeweler Ken Lauher has owned the building since 1977. He

purchased it from a local attorney.

Family-owned Marriners Stationery was at the other end of the

avenue when Lauher opened for business and had been there even before

McCalla’s opened.

Trotters Bakery was down the street from the pharmacy in 1958.

“Everybody went to Trotter’s,” said Ornellas, who took over the

family business from her father in 1983 and hopes to continue it at a

new location.

Sheila Bushard’s father and uncle bought a vacant lot on Forest

Avenue and built their pharmacy in 1960.

“Dad knew Forest Avenue was the place to be,” Bushard said. “I

really believe that in today’s market you either have to own your own

building on Forest Avenue or open a restaurant.”

Forty years ago, Markham Insurance Agency, Westbrook’s Fabrics,

Axeline’s Shoes and a furniture store were among the shops that lined

the avenue. People still tell firefighter Carl Klass how much they

miss Klass Electric, run by his father.

The Shields family-owned a hardware store on one side of the

avenue and Boyd’s Hardware occupied the space where Hobie’s is now.

At that time two newspapers were published on the avenue.

“The Laguna edition of the Daily Pilot started in my house on Park

Avenue, but later moved to Forest Avenue,” said Teresa Nall, wife of

the first editor Richard Nall.

Grover and Harriet Hayes had just opened their jewelry store,

which is still owned by the family.

Ornellas and Nall could remember no art galleries on the avenue

and only one restaurant, The Cellar.

Today, trendy and well-patronized restaurants with bars have

replaced Renaissance Bakery, which replaced Trotters; the

open-fronted Forest Market, where locals and tourists bought

sandwiches, snacks and drinks; and The Cellar.

“The late 1980s brought big changes to Forest Avenue,” said

Ornellas. “Neil Purcell, who was then police chief, came to us and

said night life will change the town. He wanted to be sure we would

continue to close at 6 p.m. because of the drugs we stock. We agreed

and so did Bushards.”

Nightlife was not happening on Forest Avenue when “Mac” McCalla

opened for business six months after he graduated with a degree in

pharmacy.

McCalla rented the location from Fred Shettler and his father, who

built the building in 1931 that is now occupied by Hobie’s, McCalla’s

and Generations.

Shettler donated the building to South Coast Medical Center, which

later sold it.

For the past 16 years, McCalla’s has paid rent to the partnership

that owns the heritage-rated building.

Ornellas said the partnership had been the finest landlord any one

could ask for, for 15 1/2 years, until June when she said she was

given six months to move, after 44 1/2 years in the same location.

“Susie McCalla gave me avocados when I was a kid,” said the

property’s co-owner Mark Christy, who also owns Hobie Sports. “I love

the McCalla family and I’m hopeful the feeling is mutual.

“We have been more than fair with them. When times were bad, we

didn’t bump the rent even though the lease called for it. But we have

seen the writing on the wall and we have to stay ahead of the curve.”

Christy will submit plans to the city for two new stores to

replace McCallas and Generations.

“You hate to see anybody leave who has been around for almost 50

years, but Mark has the right to do what he wants with his property,”

said George Nelson, owner with his wife, Donna, of Fawn Memories.

“However, I have to agree with Sheila (Bushard). All the mom and pops

stores are at risk. It’s a struggle competing with the chains.

“The city tries to keep the mom and pops, but with the rents, they

get squeezed out,” he said.

Nelson is a relative newcomer to Forest Avenue, 13 years, but not

to the business community in town.

He opened Fawn Memories at the Village Faire on South Coast

Highway when it opened in 1974. Jeweler Rock Martin and Leah Leary,

owner of Laguna Gander, also opened for business there.

“I was the first one to move to Forest Avenue, but Rocky wasn’t

far behind,” Leary said. “There were more resident-serving businesses

here then and it was easier to start a business. Two friends and I

started Laguna Gander on $15,000.”

Scandia Bakery was across the street when Leary opened her store

and is still thriving. But a couple of banks have come and gone.

For a while, galleries dominated the avenue, so ubiquitous that

former City Councilman Wayne Peterson appealed the approval of one,

leading to a lawsuit.

Nowadays, clothing stores dominate. There are a dozen fronting on

the avenue, not including those tucked away in multi-story complexes.

They range from the perky Fresh Produce to preppy Banana Republic to

pricey Novecento, which will be leaving in the next year, relocating

in the new shopping center on Newport Coast. The men’s store, Stuart

Avis, is long gone.

The newest store on the street is Kokopelli, which the city

restricted to jewelry and goods made by native Americans. The city

insisted on the restriction to protect the diversity of the avenue,

which already had four jewelry stores.

“Diversity is essential to the small town shopping experience

rather than cookie-cutter mall shops,” said Rosalie Gelston, owner of

Thee Foxes Trot for 25 years, as well as the building at 264 Forest

Ave.

Gelston, whose shop could not be more different from Generations,

has seen Thee Foxes Trot wannabes spring up and then disappear.

She also leases another shop nearby, stocked with very different

goods from the original store. Gelston doesn’t believe that high

rents will destroy the avenue.

“If owners charge more than tenants can pay, they won’t have

tenants,” she said.

Or they can become their own tenants.

Christy said the new shops next to Hobie Sports will be a

cutting-edge kids shop and a home environment store, owned by his

partnership.

* BARBARA DIAMOND is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.


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