Catering to hearts and minds

COSTA MESA — For owners of The Latest Thing Specialty Gift and Bookstore, the latest thing is never just one thing.

Rather, it's a thousand different things representative of personal growth and spirituality — whatever your beliefs may be — as they apply to 12-step recovery programs.

The shop, owned by mother and daughter duo Mary Lou Bernstein and Kimberly Funk, is packed with items that hail from around the globe, including Native American dream catchers, crystals, essential oils, T-shirts and self-help books.

With the store now in its 21st year, the duo has managed to pull together a hodgepodge of belief systems into a harmonious and cheerfully decorated one-stop-shop for people on their way to recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction and other afflictions.

"It's been a constant evolution," said Funk, 48.

She said the store resulted from a personal quest to find an appropriate "birthday" present for a friend more than two decades ago. "Birthday" is a term used when members of a 12-step program go a year without drinking, using drugs, gambling or engaging in other addictive behaviors.

"We try to encompass all spiritual paths — we understand that there is no one path for everyone," Funk said.

The shop has changed locations five times, a sometimes-shaky journey from its debut on 32nd street to its current location at 1576 Newport Blvd.

Funk, who is celebrating her 24th recovery birthday this week, said that the shop parallels her personal journey toward success.

"I feel like I've been given a second chance at life," Funk said. "This is my way to help others in recovery have their second chance as well."

By far, the most popular items at the store are the medallions, which are used by 12-step programs to commemorate the birthdays. Funk and her mother have their own line of medallions that come in a variety of metals and colors and are adorned with various crystals and stones.

They have also designed a jewelry line of necklaces and bracelets that come with an assortment of affirmations found in 12-step principles, such as honesty, love and trust.

"The 12-step principles can appeal to anyone," Bernstein, 68, said. "They are spiritual principles for a way of living your life."

The shop also carries items for astrology, numerology and even has an on-site psychic.

"This place caters to the heart, body and mind," said Liza Robertson, a psychic who works at the shop part-time. "A lot of people don't go to church as much as people used to, but they find their spirituality elsewhere."

Whatever your route to spirituality, Funk said all change starts from within.

"It truly is a wonderful thing when a person learns to open up their character defects to the world and learns from the experience."

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