Two new venues from South Bay natives put local soul in the community
Hello to Homie and Studio Curate.
- Written byTanya Monaghan
- Photographed byLauren Pressey
Kelley Haley’s Manhattan Beach roots run deep. She grew up here in the ‘60s and ‘70s at a time when she and her sister could roam freely as young children. The beach was their playground, and Downtown Manhattan Beach was their zone. They knew all the merchants and even enjoyed accounts at the local grocery store where they could buy anything they needed—from food to shoes.
It is the fond memories of that “second home” in Downtown Manhattan Beach that inspired homie, a favorite hangout for locals. Homie is comfy and approachable with well-made yet affordable food. Kelley has even created kid accounts at homie, where young customers can come hang out and eat (with their parents’ consent, of course)—just like she did when she was younger.
Kelley’s mother was a flight attendant, and her father was a pilot. They met, fell in love, got married and had their first daughter. But soon after Kelley (their second child) was conceived, her father left and she never would meet him.
When Kelley was a toddler, her mother bought a home on 13th and Manhattan Avenue. It wasn’t so much a home as it was a commune. On the outside it looked like a quintessential Cape Cod cottage, which appealed to her East Coast mother. On the inside the rooms were painted black—something her mother quickly got to work changing.
The two girls lived in this house with their mother and a couple of other flight attendants who would rotate caring for the girls when their mom was working. Kelley laughs because everyone wanted to live in the Hill Section or Tree Section, as most of the area by the beach was sand-blocked.
Kelley attended Grandview Elementary—coincidentally also the school of her husband and later her son. She completed the Manhattan Beach school experience, attending the local middle school and Mira Costa High.
Kelley’s first job was as a sandwich delivery girl for the iconic Talia’s Restaurant in Manhattan Beach—originally an Italian deli. She made deliveries on her bicycle, with sandwiches stacked in the front basket.
Kelley was also the first female bartender at Ercoles, a local staple in Manhattan Beach since 1972. Kelley says of her experience there, “I didn’t realize what it was like to be surrounded by so many men. I didn’t grow up with a man in my family. I was raised by women. Everyone was very friendly, and there were all sorts of people in there. Mangiamo’s was fancy, fun and really well run, and Ercoles was super-casual and grassroots. Working at both places, I felt like I got the best experiences of the full spectrum of the industry.”
Talia’s was owned and run by the Guidone family, and when Ron Guidone took over Talia’s from his first-generation Italian father, Kelley worked closely with him for years as a waitress, bookkeeper and manager. Ron still owns Mangiamo and has been a great supporter of and inspiration to Kelley—maintaining a huge presence in her life to this day.
She describes the restaurant business in Manhattan Beach as very intimate, with all of the restaurants surprisingly supportive of one other. Kelley found this to still be true when she opened the doors of homie … Simmzy’s, The Kettle and Shark’s Cove carried her through the first few weeks when she was constantly running out of supplies. For that she is forever grateful.
After working many years in the restaurant world, Kelley felt she needed a change and decided to put herself through nursing school. Kelley worked as a nurse for an impressive 29 years, and the work was very rewarding for her.
For 19 of those years, she worked for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles where she was a clinical nurse specialist in pediatric brain tumors. She worked for a world-renowned physician, whose sole purpose was finding a cure. He conducted intense research for 50 years, and Kelley feels very lucky to have been able to work so closely with him for as long as she did.
Once he transferred she continued to work for him remotely for many years, but it just wasn’t the same. After 29 years she decided to call time on her nursing career.
But retirement lasted all of six weeks, as Kelley quickly got bored. She’d thought about it before, but it took a friend to convince her to open a restaurant. Her friend knew she had all the connections she needed to find the right people to do it, so why not try?
He introduced her to Jason, who is now her chef. Jason had worked at Mangiamo, but their time there had never overlapped. He checked all the boxes for Kelley … not only is he a fantastic cook, but he knows the front and back of the restaurant. His parents were restaurant owners, and he had worked in the business his whole life. And so homie was born.
Kelley’s aim with homie was to make things good but simple. Her menu offers burgers, salads, burritos, beer, wine and really good coffee. She wanted people to come in for the food that they and their kids just love to eat. Together Kelley and Jason selected craft beers and sourced great wine from small vineyards.
For coffee, Kelley wanted to find something different since she was around the corner from Peet’s, The Coffee Bean and Starbucks. She found a coffee company with a cultish following up north in Santa Cruz called Verve. There are two dedicated Verve Cafe’s in L.A.; they came to take a look at homie and decided it would be a good fit.
The key to success, of course, is location, and the space they found was perfect. Previously home to another South Bay favorite, Nikau Kai, the building used to be an auto garage. This inspired Kelley to keep the original auto floors, industrial lighting and roll-up doors.
Kelley’s vision for homie to be a comfy, local favorite was coming together nicely. The space was also zoned for retail, and it was important to Kelley that the goods she offered and the vendors she sourced from were not in any other Manhattan Beach store.
She also wanted to appeal to a group that she felt was not truly catered to in town: the tween, 20s and even 30s market. She explains, “They gift each other a lot, and their price range is between $5 and $20. You should be able to come in to homie and find something for that price. And it’s working!”
The next step was signage for the store, and Kelley really wanted something hand-painted. She researched hundreds of graffiti artists and finally found a kid from Long Beach who was in the Cal Arts program, had his own sign painting company and also specialized in antique painting. Kelley knew he was the artist she was looking for. Putting up the signage meant it was finally done, and homie opened for business in May.
Kelley has created a space that isn’t a chain and isn’t too fancy. It’s a place where her customers feel comfortable hanging out with their families or just sitting and relaxing by themselves. With free WiFi and good, affordable food, she loves the fact that many local merchants come in to eat (she gets about 15 to-go orders a day from them). The back of her space can comfortably fit about 25 people, so it has also become a place where larger groups of people can commune and meet up, such as book clubs and private parties.
Kelley attributes her success to surrounding herself with good people. Another example of all that support was how many people stepped up to help her with the business when she sustained a terrible foot injury the month after she opened. She has a loyal tribe of women who have her back, and she feels so lucky to be a part of a community where people genuinely want to help one another. And Kelley wants to be everyone’s homie.
1140 Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach, 310-546-4663, homiemb.com
Opening their Studio Curate retail space is a dream come true for Christa and her daughter Lauren (they affectionately call it their “lady cave”). Both born and bred in the South Bay, Christa is in fact a third-generation South Bay resident. She has always been an artist at heart and has worked in the interior design space for many years.
With a fine art degree, she started her own painting company when her two girls were little, offering custom faux finishes and murals. Both of Christa’s parents were also extremely artistic; she describes her mother as a DIY type who also had a great love for nature and the beach.
Christa grew up in a tropical, mid-century modern beach home surrounded by a lot of artistic influences. Her parents had an interior design store named Mira Costa Home Store, located on Sepulveda in Manhattan Beach, so the family tradition burns brightly.
Christa’s daughter Lauren started working retail at a very young age. She worked for The Beehive and Wright’s, on and off, for about 15 years. Both stores are owned by Nancy and Dana McFarland, and Lauren reflects on that time with great nostalgia.
Nancy afforded her a lot of responsibilities and ownership, inviting her along on exciting buying trips to Las Vegas and New York. Now with L’Oréal, Lauren is focused in the area of beauty influencer relations.
With their combined experience and creativity, Christa and Lauren put their talents together to create Studio Curate in Hermosa Beach—operating as both an office space and boutique. Christa and Lauren offer their clients a number of different services and packages—from attending to all of their home design needs to making customized cocktails for a party. They call what they do “lifestyling.” They help with any design need, tailored to anyone’s lifestyle and budget.
A popular service they offer is consultation on creating an organized and curated home. Clients may choose to start fresh or transform their home into an entirely new look with the pieces they already own through the power of feng shui. They also offer a seasonal swap where they transform the feel of your home from summer to fall or vice versa.
With their event planning services, they seek to throw you the perfect party. The Curated Cocktails party package includes their presence as bartender duo, as well as the bar, a curated cocktail menu in a theme of your choosing, vintage glassware, decor and even furniture if needed. The goal is to take care of everything so you can be the life of your own party. They have also partnered with an amazing caterer so your food needs can be met.
Many of these services were born from the realization that, outside work, they were always entertaining at their own homes. They had the epiphany that they may as well capitalize on doing what they love. They kept on talking about it until, one day in May of this year, fate stepped in and they heard about an available space in Hermosa Beach.
They both took it as a sign and decided to go for it. They freshened up the space and decorated it with eclectic vintage and new pieces from antique fairs, flea markets and tiki festivals. In an age of mass production, it was refreshing to see all the unique pieces with stories to tell.
They feel so lucky to be a part of such a supportive community, and their aim is to focus on working with local designers who embody a fresh, different and organic aesthetic. Best of luck, ladies!
1326 Monterey Boulevard in Hermosa Beach, 310-988-9211, studio-curate.com
More than a pipe dream.