For Sandra Heitzler, family has always come first. Now with the encouragement of her husband, Joe, her professional ambitions are coming to life.
- Written byAmber Klinck
- Photographed byLauren Pressey
Sitting across from Sandra and Joe Heitzler is energizing. Their optimism is contagious, with their years of rich experiences and an undeniable love and respect for one another that is truly inspiring. The pair, married for 33 years, explains the connection between them was instant.
“I was working at a financial printer as an executive assistant, and [Joe] came in brokering all the printing for the 1984 Olympics,” Sandra notes. “He saw me, and the rest is history.”
Joe smiles as he shares how he asked his future wife out for the first time. “Can we have lunch?” he asked. “Can’t you afford to take me to dinner?” she replied. Two years later they were married.
Life was busy for Sandra and Joe from the start. There were businesses to build and three boys to raise. Sandra’s primary focus was on her family. “She created a home for my sons and I,” Joe explains.
After the couple purchased a company in television production, Sandra stepped in and helped Joe with his business. “He’s had quite an interesting, fun and exciting career,” she says. “For years I supported him, and now he’s decided it’s my turn.”
Sandra was interested in “establishing a brand that truly embodies the transition of personal [home furnishings] with the passion for finding a new home with dignity in a meaningful manner,” Joe explains. With the eye of a curator and a passion for design, Sandra began staging homes more than a decade ago.
“When I pulled up I thought, ‘Uh oh.’ But when he opened the door and brought me inside, I said, ‘This is it.’”
“I saw a lot of potential for pieces of furniture that families were no longer needing because they were cleaning out their parent’s estates or downsizing,” she explains.
With the ability to distinguish between what was worth saving and what was not, she began storing what she could. “I kept saying, ‘If I could just have a place where I could bring it all together, I could offer a place for people to sell their cool pieces … I could sell the pieces I no longer needed for staging … and I could have new pieces that I could help people design with.’”
Determined to see his wife’s vision come to life, Joe began searching for a place to make it happen. “She made my dream come true, so when I got sick I said, ‘It’s time for your dream.’ Everything that I’ve ever accomplished is because of her support and her confidence in me,” he says.
Joe has been battling cancer for eight years—tongue cancer for more than five and esophagus cancer for more than two. “When I was in the ICU, they said I was going to die,” Joe shares. “[Sandra] leaned over and said to me, ‘If you die, I’ll kill you.’” Giving up was never an option, and Sandra certainly wasn’t going to give up on Joe.
After years of looking for the perfect location, Joe happened to stumble on a storefront on Catalina Avenue in Redondo Beach “on the right day and at the right time,” Sandra says. Originally built in 1922, the historic, 4,000-square-foot building is the “largest open space wooden truss building in the Beach Cities,” Joe notes. “We were very set that our location had to have a meaningful history which we could, if fortunate enough, add to the ‘lore’ of its legacy.”
As a surprise for Sandra, Joe asked her to meet him at the space. “When I pulled up I thought, ‘Uh oh,’” Sandra says. “But when he opened the door and brought me inside, I said, ‘This is it.’”
The building was in need of work; it would be more than six months before they were able to open their doors for business. But once complete the renovations managed to brighten the space without losing the historic charm of the building. “Joe made it all happen,” Sandra says. “He kept at it, found this little jewel and here we are.”
OneThirtySix Home was born. The name pays tribute to the building’s address on Catalina Avenue. “We wanted to pay homage to the building,” Sandra explains.
“We keep getting second chances with his health. God has a plan, and we are just along for the ride.”
The company’s logo is her own handwriting. “OneThirtySix Home is the umbrella, and within it is consignment, home furnishings, complete staging and Fowler & Moore Interiors,” she continues. “They’re a design firm that’s been established for 27 years.”
Working together is nothing new for Sandra and Joe … though they describe it a bit differently. “We never went to work; we went to our passion,” Joe says. As for the secret to the success of their marriage, “I learned how to say, ‘Yes, honey,’” Joe says with a grin. Sandra attributes their shared faith and that they’ve always been on the same page.
Whatever it is, the synergy between the two is wonderful to watch. And the opening of OneThirtySix appears to have brought joy equally to them both. “All of this has kept me alive,” Joe says.
“I enjoy the store,” Sandra adds. “I enjoy collecting and curating. It’s been amazing how much people have found us without us doing a lot of advertising and marketing. It’s all been word-of-mouth.”
Recovering from a recent vocal cord surgery where, thankfully, he was cleared from a third possible cancer, Joe typed a few notes for this interview with the central theme being: “Everything deserves a second chance to be loved, and the transition process has to be filled with dignity and a passion for continuing forward in a significant manner.”
“We keep getting second chances with his health,” Sandra says. “God has a plan, and we are just along for the ride.”
“Without God’s love and grace we would not have gotten this store, nor our marriage, nor our battles with cancer,” adds Joe.
And there’s no plan to retire. Vivacious and charismatic, Joe doesn’t appear to be the kind of man to slow down. But there’s something else he says that really sticks—something that encapsulates the life he and Sandra have built. “It’s a love story—it’s a total love story. We are blessed.”