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News & Events

May 2022

June 10 Installation Dinner and Anniversary Celebration

Reserve your seat at our Friday, June 10 dinner, 5 to 7 p.m. and help us celebrate the 75th anniversary of Tony Jacal’s Restaurant in Solana Beach.

During the evening, you will meet our 2022 scholarship winners and confirm the installation of our 2022-23 Executive Board of Directors.

Advance reservations and payment are requested. The dinner offers a selection of two items from Tony’s “A Su Gusto” combination menu at a fixed price of $30, including tax, tip and a soft drink or iced tea. Menu options include tacos, taquitos, flautas, enchiladas, tamales, chile relleno or a bean tosdada. All are served with rice or beans or a split of each.

Use this form to RSVP today. Reservation deadline is June 6.

Reserve my place at the Friday, June 10 Society Installation and Anniversary Dinner from 5 to 7 p.m.

$30 fixed price. Select the number in your party:
April 2022

Part of our ‘Zoom at noon’ program

Learn about the amazing diversity and importance of our native bees

[ click here to replay the program ]

Photo by Dillon Travis

Did you know that there are more than 600 native bee species in San Diego County?  And that most nest underground? Can you guess what might be the biggest threat to their health and existence?

The answer might surprise you! Pollination Ecologist Dillon Travis took a break from his field studies to share his expertise on the diversity and importance of native bees to our ecosystem — and our food! Also learn how you can support healthy habitat for our native bees and a healthy attitude toward “bee-washing” public relations schemes.

Dillon is a Ph.D. candidate with the Kohn Lab, Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. This spring, Dillon has been studying bees in remote SoCal areas (where MAS*H and Planet of the Apes once were filmed). “I am conducting field research in the Santa Monica Mountains, where honey bees are present, and on Santa Cruz Island, where honey bees were eradicated 20 years ago. This allows us to study how the presence or absence of honey bees impacts native bee diversity and abundance.”

 March 2022

Part of our ‘Zoom at noon’ program

The Pre-history of Our Community, with Historian Richard Carrico

[ click here to replay the program ]

Historian Richard Carrico

The Kumeyaay people of San Diego County are often portrayed as relying on acorns, deer, and rabbits as their primary food sources. These foods were important, but the Kumeyaay were also masters of the bays and oceans —they were maritime peoples thousands of years before arrival of the Spaniards.
Click here to learn more about the Kumeyaay and the pre-history of our area from historian, writer and educator Richard L. Carrico. Prof. Carrico peeled back more than 5,000 years of history to give us a picture of the Kumeyaay that has been largely ignored. Did you know, for example, that the Spaniards rarely ventured more than a few miles from our coasts, while the Kumkeyaay had established communities well into what is now East County San Diego and our mountain regions.
Prof. Carrico talked about the techniques used by the Kumeyaay to procure a large variety of fish, shellfish and other maritime food sources, as well as the boats and canoes they used to explore and harvest fish and other resources from the deep ocean, offshore islands, and in our local lagoons. The presentation also also places Kumeyaay fishing and maritime activities within the context of their overall cosmology, including the many native maritime place names and constellations that help guide the Kumeyaay.
Mr. Carrico is a lecturer in the Department of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University and has made significant contributions to our understanding of the local indigenous cultures and early Spanish colonization. He has conducted or supervised more than 200 archaeological excavations and has received several awards for academic excellence, including the Norman Neurburg Award for outstanding research presented by the California Missions Foundation in 2019.

February 2022

Part of our ‘Zoom at noon’ program

Current affairs in Solana Beach, with City Manager Greg Wade

[ click here to replay the program ]

Thanks to all who attended this informative meeting to learn about the many, many initiatives our City Council and staff are undertaking.

College scholarship applications now being accepted for the 2022-23 school year

The Society will once again award three college scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each to graduating high school students who reside in Solana Beach. Click here to download the application, due May 31, 2022.

January 2022

Part of our ‘Zoom at noon’ program

A virtual tour of Artist Jim and Anne Hubbell’s Magical Home and Studio

[ click here to replay the program ]

Marianne Gerdes, Executive Director of the Ilan-Lael Foundation, which sustains the property, took us on a tour through the remarkable history and magical presence of the Hubbell’s home and studio — the Jewel near Julian. The Hubbells established the Ilan-Lael Foundation in 1982 to help sponsor public art projects, lectures, seminars and exhibitions in San Diego and Tijuana. Among the programs the foundation has inspired Some include ArtWalk San Diego, KidzArt and an award-winning newsletter about San Diego’s downtown development called Hidden Leaves.

Ilan-Lael translates from Hebrew to “a tree that unites the physical and the spiritual,” integrating art, nature and community in a dynamic setting. The name was given by the artists to the structures they designed and built, largely by hand, over the past 60 years on 10 acres near Santa Ysabel. The property received historic designation in 2008.

Today Ilan-Lael serves as the home of the Ilan-Lael Foundation: an art education and nature center, a retreat space, and a place for all those seeking inspiration in beauty, art and natural surroundings. During the past year, the foundation sponsored “Healing the Healers,” providing Covid workers a day of rest, reflection and renewal, as well as a Harvest Moon dinner at the home/studio.

December 2021

Hybrid online/outdoor Boutique beat 2019 revenue

Holiday Boutique and Poinsettia Sales Success!

Our incredible Crafts Group and the SeaWeeders have done it again! The 2021 Holiday Boutique and Poinsettia sales netted a record $10,000 for our scholarship, education and beautification programs in November.

Thanks to all of you shoppers! You flocked to the online Boutique shortly after it opened, buying more than $3,500 in handmade goods, plants and books on the first day of business. Online sales continued for four more days and crescendoed at the outdoor shop set up in the patio area of La Colonia Community Center on Saturday, November 13. Poinsettia sales continued through November 24 and during “pick-up day” on November 27.

Thanks to all who sewed, knitted, wove, carved, and cleverly created our handmade craft-sale treasures, including this Americana quilt. Thanks, too, to the many volunteers who made our 2021 Boutique and Poinsettia sales such a success.

2021 Holiday Luncheon and General Meeting

It was a delight to reconnect during our 2021 Holiday Luncheon. More than 50 members attended the event on December 10 at Lomas Santa Fe Country Club. In addition to enjoying hearty meals and music of the season, members passed several changes to our bylaws:

  • Addition of a calendar/fiscal-year provision
  • Addition of “paid lifetime” membership category
  • Authorizing the board to determine dues payment schedules
  • Provision for in-person or electronic meetings/voting
Fran and Richard Moore

During the event, Society president Michele Stribling and guests paid tribute to long-time members Fran and Richard Moore, noting their many contributions to our community. Fran and Richard were instrumental in preventing widespread development of additional apartment complexes on the southern section of the city.

Rena Monge held the winning ticket for the Americana quilt, pictured above, which was created by several members of our industrious Crafts Group.

September 2021

Centennial Celebration exceeds expectations

[ click here to view photos and coverage ]

Close to 160 guests joined our September 10th celebration of the 100th “birthday” of Solana Beach’s first neighborhood. The outdoor festivities included entertainment by the colorful dancers of Eden Garden’s own Folklorico Jalisience Academy to music provided by the Mariachi Estado de Oro.

Scouts and leaders from troop #782, founded in the 1970s, served a buffet of authentic Mexican enchiladas and turkey tacos provided by Tony’s Jacal Restaurant.

The Scouts, along with volunteers from Teen Volunteers in Action, also assisted in set-up and clean-up for the event. Many thanks to them and our many other hardworking volunteers.  

Completion of Lake Hodges Dam in 1919 allowed — for the first time — for fresh water to be piped to about 10 acres along what is now Ida Avenue.  Some of the earliest residents not only built their own homes there, but also worked on the irrigation that brought water to the neighborhood.

“The roots of the La Colonia settlement lie in some prefab cabins and a small number of rental houses . . . clustered around a shower/laundry facility,” wrote author and historian Jim Nelson in his 2010 book La Colonia & Solana Beach.

During the evening, local historians and long-time residents of La Colonia shared insights on Eden Gardens’ history and the founding families who shaped and preserve its culture. View a 20-minute slideshow created from family photos that lock families shared with our organizers. It played throughout the evening on a large-screen television.

Proceeds from the event will support ongoing historical research and education about our first neighborhood and the broader Solana Beach community.

July 2021

Meet our 2021 Scholarship winners

Three Torrey Pines High School students from Solana Beach were selected by the Board of Directors of the Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society to receive college scholarships for the 2021-22 school year.

Josselyn Calixto Alavez, Juancarlos (JC) Cigarrero and Maribel Hernandez Condes all demonstrated the determination and resilience to log three-point-plus grade point averages (GPAs) during senior years warped by Covid-19 restrictions.  Each applicant was supported by hearty letters of recommendation from school counselors, teachers and others. “The Historical Society is pleased and proud to support these students as they embark on their college educations,” noted SBC&HS Education Committee Chairperson Pat Coad.  “Our selection committee was particularly impressed by the gratitude each awardee indicated for their parents’ hard work and their teachers’ encouragement during the past, very trying, year.

Josselyn Calixto Alavez

Josselyn Calixto Alavez plans to attend Mira Costa Community College as the first step toward her plan to become an English teacher. “Learning English as a second language was tough. My English teachers never gave up on me,” she wrote in her application essay.  Josselyn participated in the Study Buddies program, where high school students help elementary school students with assignments. One family, recently arrived from South Korea, sought asker her to help their student adjust to English.  “Although I don’t speak Korean, I tried my best to work with my student and her younger brother up until the pandemic hit and this student will always have a place in my heart,” she said.

Joselyn will be the first in her family to attend college.

Juancarlos (JC) Cigarrero

Juancarlos (JC) Cigarrero plans to attend San Diego State University to study sociology and business.  He played both club and varsity soccer at Torrey Pines, while also holding down a restaurant job, participating in numerous community volunteer events, and coaching the Earl Warren Middle School soccer team. “The coaching experience is a particular favorite of mine because I was able to give back to a team that I was once part of and guide the next generation of players,” he wrote in his application.  Juancarlos attributed his drive to “make something meaningful out of myself” to the “selflessness and tenacity my parents exude every day” tackling their service-sector jobs —particularly during the pandemic. 

“My life has been impacted by the assistance of many generous individuals and I find a sense of pride in being able to pay it forward as well, especially in the community that raised me,” he said.

Maribel Hernandez Conde

Maribel Hernandez Conde plans to study political science at California State University San Marcos, on her way to becoming an immigration lawyer. Born in Santa Ana Chiautempan Tlaxcala, Mexico, she understands first-hand the challenges of leaving one country to embrace another. Her parents made the “life changing” decisions to move to Solana Beach in 2006.  “We have lived here for fifteen years and have made amazing memories together as a family,” she reported in her application essay. While in high school, Maribel stayed involved with the youth group at Saint James/St. Leo’s church, volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club — where she once was tutored, and worked as a restaurant hostess. All while maintaining close to a 4.0 GPA.

“I am glad to have grown up in a community that respects others and values helping each other out in times of need,” she said. She, too, will be the first in her family to attend college.

May 2021

Local efforts to support our Western Monarch population and other pollinators

[ click here to view the presentation ]

Access Passcode: &VA08tVg

Ann Baldridge, Community Programs Director of the Resource Conservation District of San Diego County* presented at our May 20 Zoom meeting about how local groups are coordinating to support our Western monarch population.  Ann explained the monarch life cycle, the San Diego Pollinator Alliance and its native milkweed project, as well as the overall threats to monarchs and why this effort has become imperative.  Click below and enter the passcode to replay a full recording of this informative session.

*In partnership with the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County and Wild Willow Farm and Education Center

April 2021

Milkweed Giveaway exceeds expectations

More than 90 Solana Beach families collected 350 free, native milkweed plants and 1,430 milkweed seeds on April 24, joining a pledge to help make Solana Beach friendly to Western monarchs and other pollinators. To date, the effort also has been supported by more than $1,700 in donations.

On April 23, the City’s landscapers transformed the parking-area garden at La Colonia Community Center into our first public pollinator park.  Long-time butterfly gardener (and our Civic Affairs chair) Cindi Clemons helped supervise the placement of 100 native milkweed and nectar plants. 

Milkweed is the only plant where female monarchs lay their eggs; it’s the only food monarch caterpillars eat. Nearby nectar plants provide food for the adult butterflies and shelter for the caterpillars and chrysalides after they pupate.

Sign-ups for the plants poured in after the City’s eBlast on April 21. Our entire supply — provided by the City and SeaWeeders — was reserved within hours. A last-minute donation and several “no shows” made it possible to meet demand and still have plants to spare for more public pollinator patches.  On April 28, after some weeding and clean-up, we began planting at our community garden on the Coastal Rail Trail.  Want to help? Email

The ongoing pollinator project is a joint effort by the City, Climate Action Commission and the SeaWeeders.

April 2021

Solana Beach steps up for our Western Monarchs

City Council in March agreed to take the “Mayors’ Monarch Pledge,” a challenge sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation to promote the development of pollinator habitats and eliminate practices that are harmful to endangered monarch butterflies.  

As reported March 6 by the San Diego Union Tribune, “Western monarch numbers have been steadily dropping for decades, from 1.2 million in 1997 to 30,000 in 2019, but the most recent results from the 24th Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count are staggering — just 1,914 butterflies total, down from the millions that used to migrate from the Pacific Northwest and Central California to overwinter along the coast from Mendocino in Northern California to Ensenada in Baja California . . . . [A]fter wildfire ripped through the area around  . . . Butterfly Town, USA, in the midst of traditional migration season . . . not a single monarch was found in Pacific Grove, a tourist mecca for people who came to marvel at the swarms of Western monarchs that congregate during the winter, clinging to eucalyptus and pine branches to find protection from the cold and wind.”

The full article, linked here, outlines several steps we can take to try to rebuild the Western monarch population, starting by providing the habitat they need to lay eggs, feed caterpillars, and protect chrysalises. Your SeaWeeders, teamed with the City’s Climate Action Commission (CAC), are here to help! Here’s how: 

  • Plant NATIVE milkweed*  rather than the showy stuff at big-box retailers. Here’s why. With the CAC, we are planning a drive-through to distribute organic, native milkweed seed and seedlings on the morning of April 24 at the Boys & Girls Club, Lomas Santa Fe Drive, west parking area.  Watch for ordering and details to come.
  • Plant lots of native nectar flowers, too, so your butterflies have food to sip. Consider Yarrows, California lilac (Ceanothus), Salvias, and Monkeyflower (Mimulus).  With the CAC and other local partners, we are developing a guide to for (nearly) year-round support of our local pollinators.
  • Don’t use pesticides or herbicides. They are toxic to caterpillars; the aphids that might flock to your milkweed aren’t.  Email to request non-toxic insect repellent and weed-killer recipes you can make at home. 

* Asclepias Albicans – Whitestem Milkweed, Asclepias Californic – California Milkweed, Asclepias Eriocarpa – Indian/Woollypod Milkweed, Asclepias Erosa – Desert Milkweed, Asclepias Fascicularis – Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias Subulata – Rush Milkweed

(Source: Monarch and Friends)

March 2021

How about cooking without gas?

[ click here to play the presentation ]

The City of Solana Beach’s recent Electrification Workshop reviewed several options for replacing aging gas-fueled home appliances with more efficient, all-electric heaters/air conditioners, water heaters, and cooktops.  The goal is to reduce related greenhouse gas emissions and advance the achievement of the City’s Climate Action goals for 2035: 

  • Reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from the 2010 baseline
  • Ensure 100% of electricity used in city comes from renewable sources.

Society Civic Affairs Chair and Corresponding Secretary Cindi Clemons attended and decided to experiment with an induction cooktop, taking advantage of a free loaner program offered to residents. Here’s her report: 

Induction cooktops and ranges heat cooking vessels — your pots, pans, and other cookware – through electrical induction. How does induction work? Instead of using thermal conduction, such as the open flame from a gas stove or a coiled electric heating element, induction uses an electronically controlled coil of metal inside a glass cooktop.  When you turn an induction stove on, current flows through the coil, creating a magnetic field directly around it, and heat is generated within the cooking vessel itself.  This is why you must use cookware with magnetic, induction-ready materials, such as stainless steel, with an induction cooktop.

I plugged the borrowed unit into a 120v electric outlet near my range and cooked a variety of meals — soups, omelets, scrambled eggs, halibut in a lemon sauce, and pot roast in a red wine sauce. Each of the dishes turned out better than any of the same I have prepared over the years on gas or electric ranges. 

Raising and lowering the temperature was fast and precise. The on-and-off response of the unit was instant according to whether I was placing the pot on or taking it off.  Everything I prepared cooked more evenly and quickly, I think because of the transfer of heat to cookware. There was also a timer that turned the unit off when the cooking time was up. The cooktop is ceramic glass, making it very easy to clean with just a damp cloth and a bit of detergent. The controls are all digital and flush to the unit for added easy clean-up. 

I also learned that induction cooking is healthier and safer than other methods. You may not know it, but gas stoves emit nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide into your house. Not good for you and not good for the environment. Also, because there is no open flame the unit cools very quickly. There is no possibility of a gas leak or line leakage. 

As you can see, I learned a lot about this new efficient, healthy, and climate-friendly way of cooking and you can too!  To borrow a unit and large pot email; loaners will be available again starting  April 22.

March 2021

“Lunch and Learn”:
Organics Recycling

[ click here to play the presentation ]

  • Is it really OK to toss a half-eaten hamburger and fries in my green waste bin? I would never add meat or oil to my compost pile! Yes, EDCO’s Anaerobic Digestion Facility is designed to break down food waste, including even bacon grease.
  • Why can’t I put unbagged pet poop in my green bin? Mostly out of respect for EDCO waste handlers  who sort out inappropriate green bin contents.
  • Should all newspaper and paper bags now go into the green bin?  No, clean newsprint and paper bags should still go into the blue recycling bin. Soiled newspapers or paper bags used to collect kitchen scraps, as well as parchment paper, paper towels, and unwaxed fast-food take-out wrappers should go into the green bin. Please do NOT put plastic bags, wax paper, or coated cardboard into the green bin.
  • What’s wrong with ‘biodegradable’ plastic bags?  They don’t really degrade in a timely manner.
  • And what is EDCO going to do with all of that biogas and digestate it will generate in it’s fancy new Anaerobic Digestion Facility? Can customers get free fertilizer?  Biogas will be refined into fuel for EDCO’s fleet.  Digestate will be distributed for agricultural purposes. Some of this output may, in the future, be available for residential gardening.
  • Can apartment and condo dwellers participate in Organics Recycling? Programs for multi-family dwellings are being developed. Meanwhile, apartment and condo residents might try finding a “composting buddy” who will add their kitchen scraps to a neighborhood green bin. 

We got answers to these and many more questions about the City of Solana Beach and EDCO’s adoption of organics recycling in a virtual meeting on March 18.  EDCO General Manager Jim Ambroso and Chris Spielmaker, Director of Market Development, joined veteran composters Irina Grongborg and Kristine Schindler of the SeaWeeders to explain new green waste-bin expectations and offer some practical tips for sorting kitchen scraps. 

To learn more, view an educational video, or request a free, 1.5-gallon kitchen caddie for scraps or to order additional green waste bins, visit the Organics Recycling page at

February 2021

“Lunch and Learn”:
Latino Historian Maria E. Garcia, author of “We Made San Diego”

[ click here to play the presentation ]

Maria Garcia is a retired school principal and has been an activist in the Chicano movement since 1968. She is the recipient of the 2015 SOHO Cultural Heritage Award for her “Neighborhood House” series about life in Logan Heights. She was inducted in the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016 and has been honored by the San Diego Union-Tribune as a Latino Champion.

Maria’s current book tells various stories about Latinos who contributed to the history of San Diego, including community activists who have worked to affect social issues.  It also chronicles the experiences of several Latino veterans of the war in Vietnam.

Maria said her interest in La Colonia, Solana Beach’s original neighborhood, started with the street names.  “So many were in Spanish,” she noted. Local resident Gina Gonzales set up a meeting where she and eight other women shared stories about growing up in La Colonia.  Maria also met with Ray and Theresa Rincon of  Tony’s Jacal restaurant and its long presence, as well as Simona Gonzales, who started the first Girl Scout troop in Eden Garden and who, with her husband Frank, coached a 1959 Little League World Series playoff team.     

The book took five years to write, after compiling dozens of oral histories. “We Made San Diego” also includes a contribution by Society Historian and Heritage Museum Curator Lisa Montes. 

“The men and women in this community worked as house keepers, gardeners and raised their children. They united to save a church. They sent their sons to fight in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and every war since then.  In the 1980s, when the whole country faces a drug problem, La Colonia faced the same problem. The [San Diego County] Fair and the race track contributed to the financial growth  of business in La Colonia. People such as Lucy and Desi Arnaz, J. Edgar Hoover and sports figures and jockeys were all part of the community,” she notes.

Maria Garcia

Maria was born in Yuma, Arizona and moved to San Diego at age 3, growing up in Encanto. Following are insights to her background and activism excerpted from a 2017 interview with the San Diego Union- Tribune:  

My biggest challenges have been the racism I faced as a young child. It affects the way you see yourself for years. . . My first year of school I learned that eating tortillas was wrong since my poor mother received a call asking that she not pack tortillas in my lunch so that the other students would not make fun of me.”

“That negative self-image I experienced as a child stayed with me for the next 12 years of my life. I guess that’s why I experienced such interest in the Chicano movement. It gave me a place to belong. The Chicano movement gave me pride in who I am.”

After attending San Diego State University and and joining the Chicano Movement, “I believed that we would change the world. I honestly thought by being educated and teaching future generations not to be racist, we would have a different world by the year 2000. I was so naïve. I thought by fighting for equality and teaching the history of our accomplishments in this country we would be respected. The movement taught me so much about working together. I loved the unity experienced in a picket line. I loved learning about people and historical events which came via the Chicano Studies classes I took at SDSU.”

While going to college as a business major,  Maria worked as a teacher’s aide, which convinced her to change her major and become an educator — based in Southeast San Diego, rising through the ranks to become a vice principal and principal.  After retiring, she worked as a teacher at the Ronald MacDonald House.  “I worked with the children whose siblings were at Children’s Hospital. My goal was to give these kids attention and some form of  ‘fun.’ In some cases, they were watching their sibling dying and needed that special attention.”

Lately my motivations have been to make sure that others know about our contributions to this country and especially to San Diego . . . I think we have so much untapped power in our community we just have to move it forward to gain the respect and recognition we deserve.”

“We Made San Diego” is available for purchase through Amazon Books.
December 2020

Year-end food drive surpassed our goals

The Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society and the La Colonia Community Foundation would like to thank everyone in Solana Beach who made donations and volunteered to help with our food giveaway at La Colonia Community Center on December 19-20. It was extremely successful.   

We were able to provide food for  193 Solana Beach families, impacting 955 individuals — more than double the goal for the event.

Food Drive leader Lisa Montes and other volunteers verified recipients’ local addresses and asked for their number of family members to size donations to needs.

The Wounded Warrior Homes organization provided us with 2,000 pounds of non-perishables and 450 pounds of fresh vegetables picked up and delivered to us by several volunteers. The Community Resource Center in Encinitas and the ProduceGood organization donated additional food. On Saturday,  Dec. 19, generous community members lined up for two hours giving us food, toiletries and more than $2,000 in gift cards to local grocery stores.  In all, an estimated three tons of food was collected, along with toys and clothes.

Council-member Jewel Edson helped sort foods into nutritional categories and came up with bagging scheme to ensure each family received a balance of proteins, grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit, as well as snacks and sundries.

Volunteers from Teen Volunteers in Action and their parents helped sort food and move it to the distribution site. Thank you to CVS in Solana Beach who let use their shopping carts to help with the transfer of food. Thank you to Danny Hernandez for delivering the shopping carts.

Jewel Edson and Dave Zito helped us from The Solana Beach City Council. Dan King from the City came on the weekend to lock and unlock the Community Center for us. Tina and Joe Zucker represented the Women’s March, Solana Beach and were generous with their time.

Thank you, too, to all of the others who helped us in some way; if you saw the continuous line of cars picking up food you would have been proud of your efforts. In addition to families who walked to get their food, cars were parked on the side of the road from Genevieve down Valley to the park entrance beginning at 3:30 for our event, which didn’t begin until 4:00.

Thank you Solana Beach for all of your care and love for members of our community.
Solana Beach has heart!
Solana Beach tiene CORAZON!

Pat Coad, Communications Chair

December 2020

Creating our first-ever ‘virtual’ Holiday Crafts Boutique

As usual this Fall, Holiday Boutique inventory started piling up in Pam Dalton’s living room and on Lenore Dale’s dining table. That’s about where the “usual” ended. 

This year, instead of Crafts Group get-togethers there were Zoom calls, starting Sept. 2 with discussion and a commitment to pursue a digital Boutique.  With that agreement — and way more determination than experience — the Society’s eCommerce era was born.  “We really had no idea what we were getting into,” Lenore recalled during a recent “recap” Zoom call with the Boutique team.

But their own online shopping guided expectations.  For example, unlike in prior years, every item would need not only a “stock keeping unit” (SKU) and detailed description, but also a flattering photo. “Oh, and after Lori Borowski, Pam, her grandson and I took several hundred carefully-staged photos, we found out they had to be square, not rectangle,” recalled newly-minted e-commerce lead Lenore.  “So, after editing every photo into a square, we uploaded each with a title, description, SKU, price and category, so it could be sorted and searched.” 

The virtual shop was assembled in something called “Woo Commerce” (not kidding), which, in turn, was outfitted with “widgets” and a “Wordfence” to ensure security around online transactions.  “We weren’t only learning how to build a web store,” said Kathleen Drummond, who tackled techie chores with Lenore, “we were learning a new language.”  

As the countdown-to-opening ticked on, it became clear that some professional web help was needed. Through our volunteer Brett Johnson, who completed an initial site upgrade to make ready for e-commerce, Lenore found Chris Stone, a Palm Springs-based artist and designer. Chris updated the Society’s website navigation and home page, creating a new “Get to Know Solana Beach” feature to take users to our History, Heritage Museum and Historical places pages, as well as the showcase of Boutique products categories.

Opening Day, Nov. 9, was not without hiccups. “At first, only a few items were displaying. In the process of fixing that, folks found their browsers trying to load everything in the store on the shop page,” Lenore recalled. Society Communications Chair Pat Coad put out a plea for patience while the bugs were worked out. By late afternoon, each of 394 distinct products was nearly online for everyone to browse. Sales started coming in fast.

A crew of “fulfillment” elves then began the process of picking, packaging and tagging each order for each buyer. On Nov. 13, these were transferred to La Colonia Community center, where packages were grouped alphabetically to await pick-ups. Buyers started arriving a bit after 9 a.m. on Nov. 14, dutifully masked and happy to remain in their cars, per City requirement, while runners brought out their goods.

This popular ornament sold out quickly!

 “It all went so smoothly that we actually sent volunteers away early that afternoon,” Pam said.  Her grandson Eddie was among the volunteers helping to deliver dozens of packages to buyers who preferred to remain at home. 

After the Boutique “closed,” the “store” remained open for sale of poinsettias for the SeaWeeders 8th annual fundraiser. All 300 sold out by Saturday, Nov. 28, either online or in-person at the Post Office.  

Final tallies are still underway, but it appears that the virtual Boutique was successful financially, as well, with close to $7,600 in sales and donations — just shy of last year’s record $8,000 in revenue.  “And that’s without baked goods,” Pam noted. 

Would the Crafts Group entertain another online sale? 
“We could!”