Specialty food shop moves in downtown

Laguna Wine, Coffee & Specialty Foods opened July 2 in Landmark Plaza, in the space formerly occupied by Coast Sotheby's realty. The name says it all.

Wines on custom-made racks, a huge selection of olive oils and vinegars, olive oils, cheeses, crackers and chocolates cover most of the 3,163 square feet of space. Customers are invited to make requests if they can't find what they want in stock.

An aromatic coffee and beverage bar is located just to the right of the entrance on Forest Avenue. The shop is managed and staffed by members of the Huang family, who own the 18,700-square-foot leasable complex at 381 Forest Ave., which also houses Sundried Tomato restaurant, men's and women's clothing stores and a hair salon.

"We feature high end wines and we pride ourselves on the quality of our coffee beans," said Brandon Huang, son of manager Daniel Huang. "We also have a craft beer room in the back for people who really enjoy their beer."

The store sells and serves Verve coffee.

"We sell only the beans, because they are very delicate and sensitive to such things as weather," said Huang. "We recommend the beans not be ground until you are ready to make coffee."

Staff has been trained by Verve, located in Santa Cruz.

Coffee not your cup of tea? Just order your preference of hot or iced tea.

Craft beers come from breweries in Germany, England and California, notably San Diego.

Specialty foods include pastas, sauces, jams and biscuits. Many items bear the store logo and name on the packaging.

The shop restores the spot to its preferred use as retail space, said Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson.

"The Downtown Specific Plan indicates a preference for retail space on the first floors," said Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman. "However, the commission and the City Council made a policy decision that Sotheby's real estate office had features that made it beneficial to the downtown."

The features included the display of art in the windows along Forest Avenue and space allotted to the Laguna Beach Visitors and Meeting Bureau.

When Sotheby's vacated the building, bureau officials thought they might have to find new space and applied for permission to construct a temporary kiosk at the ocean end of the service alley between Forest and Ocean avenues.

The kiosk was approved but never needed. The Huangs found a place for the bureau.

"We have been very lucky to have such good landlords," said Karyn Philippsen, bureau chair. "We have just moved to the other side of the entrance on Forest."

The specialty food shop's hours are 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily. Huang said closing time might be extended to 9 p.m. in the summer months.

For more information, visit lagunawinecafe.com or call (949) 494-4697.

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