People who stumble across Tina Hoffman’s closet-size storefront on the Balboa Fun Zone sometimes mistake her for the palm reader a few doors down.
Like Hoffman, the walls of Menagerie Castle, 705 Edgewater Ave., are draped in yards of colored lace, bits of vintage costume jewelry and ribbons.
“It’s kind of like a meeting place for people to talk about the community and the arts,” Hoffman said.
She has dubbed Menagerie Castle an “inspirational waterfront creative arts community hospitality studio office play space gallery,” but it’s hard to fit all of that on a business card, she said.
Hoffman hosts what she calls “Art Express,” a Thursday offering where people can create $5 art projects from the odds and ends she has amassed: fake flowers, wrapping paper, glitter and more.
“People come in here and have deep spiritual conversations,” Hoffman said.
For several years, Hoffman has organized a New Year’s Day talent show for locals to strum guitars and sing at the gazebo near the Balboa Pier. Most of the money to put on the event comes out of her own pocket.
Over the years, Hoffman has created events to bring merchants from the Fun Zone shopping district together. She started a monthly raffle in 2007 to draw more foot traffic to the area.
“What can I say about Tina?” said Andrea “Pinki” Matyas, manager of the Fun Zone boutique Beach Bums. “She cares for people, and she’s always smiling.”
If there is a cash register at Menagerie Castle, it’s buried under the craft supplies and bottles of shampoo, reading glasses, post cards and packets of fast food condiments that Hoffman is collecting for the homeless, poor people in Africa and U.S. troops, respectively.
“I’ve never been in the mentality of trying to make a living from what I do,” Hoffman said. “People come in and if they pick something up, I usually just tell them they can have it for free.”
After 4 1/2 years in business, Hoffman is struggling to keep Menagerie Castle open; she just asked her landlord for an extension on the rent.
She’s also behind on her business license fees and business improvement district dues.
Hoffman is hosting “Save the Castle,” a fundraising sale, to keep Menagerie Castle open. The online sale includes a series of paintings of Native American chiefs by local artist Paul G. Bryan Jr., as well as other pieces of art, and jewelry and clothing.
“For years now, Tina has been a very effective, viable, positive influence on our community with people from all walks of life, age groups and socioeconomic status,” said Bill Turner, Tina’s friend and Menagerie Castle supporter. “She truly is one of my favorite people of all time.”
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