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Sandwich shop, remodel plans for historic Spigot building moves forward with commission support


The Planning Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 20 approved exterior modifications to a historic building and conversion of a retail space to a sandwich shop/deli restaurant use at 1802-1816 South Coast Highway, on the corner of Pearl Street. 

The property, which also houses Spigot Liquor and a Quonset storage hut, is in the HIP (Historic and Interesting Places) District, which covers along South Coast Highway, from Thalia Street to Bluebird Canyon Drive.

Plans for Wigz Sandwich Shop include the service of alcohol, outdoor seating, exterior modifications to the C-rated structure on the city’s historic register and a 50% historic parking reduction. 

Applicant and lifelong resident Zac Cornwell said he’s been working on this project for the past 16 months. This intersection is particularly special to Cornwell, who grew up right up the street and used to buy candy from Spigot.

“My goal with this project is to create a special place for the community that’s affordable for both locals and local workers,” Cornwell said. “I want to create a great vibe and I just want to serve really great sandwiches.”

Commissioners all expressed enthusiastic support for the new sandwich shop. 

Chair Pro Tem Jorg Dubin said his favorite go-to sandwich shop is long closed and is excited to see this new deli open in town.

“I look forward to having another place to enjoy a good sandwich because we are kind of lacking that in town,” Dubin said. “And having it be a family, locally owned, a guy who grew up here, that just adds more flavor to the sandwich.”

It’s a positive thing any time someone comes in and upgrades an existing building that’s a little tired and in need of refurbishment to bring it back to life and activate the street scene, said Commissioner Steve Kellenberg. 

“I walk that street a lot, that area, and it needs it. It’s just a little devoid,” he said. “So I’m really excited about creating some street life (in that area).” 

Sidewalk cafes are what Laguna is all about, Kellenberg said, and help build the pedestrian and street character. 

“I’m totally supportive of this,” agreed Commissioner Ken Sadler. “It’s the type of business that Laguna could use.”

It’s not an architectural gem, but it’s historic because of its age and the people that were associated with it, including early development of Laguna Beach, Sadler noted. 

Sandwich shop, remodel plans Wigz rendering

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of the City of Laguna Beach/NBC Architect Inc.

A rendering of Wigz Sandwich Shop and the remodel of the historic Spigot building

Several commissioners commented on the interesting and long history of the building. The project includes displaying a historical/cultural exhibit inside the sandwich shop. A historic plaque will also be placed on the property to identify its historic status.

On the parcel is a 7,500-square-foot building that was constructed in 1930 and is occupied by two commercial suites: Spigot Liquor store and the subject suite that is currently occupied by the Annalise Pop-up retail shop. 

Spigot Liquor has been located at 1802 Coast Boulevard South since 1933. The storefront at 1816 Coast Boulevard South was leased to artist Joane Cromwell in 1936 for her art studio. She remained at this address until the mid-1940s. Other notable tenants in the 1816 storefront included Coast Upholstering, La Pierre Home Appliance, West Coast Gypsy Leather and Charles’ Wigs, which was the longest running tenant, from the early 1980s until closing in 2020.

On September 20, the Heritage Committee recommended the property be placed on the Historic Register with a C-rating.

Cornwell plans to launch the sandwich/deli restaurant, Wigz, with outdoor dining and the service of beer and wine in an existing retail suite with a total of 12 indoor seats and 15 outdoor seats. The proposed hours of operation are from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 

A bicycle rack for eight bikes is also included in the plans. 

There are four on-site parking spaces and a private storage (i.e. Quonset hut) are located toward the rear of the property.

The applicant proposes modifications to both the South Coast Highway and Pearl Street elevations to restore and enhance the building. The following four changes are proposed to restore the exterior of the building (as recommended by the historian):

–Remove the non-original board and batten siding and replace with vertical wood planking with pecky holes to match the existing siding.

–Remove the boards to restore the original storefront transparency.

–Remove siding adjacent to 1816 storefront to reveal stucco behind and replace wood paneled door with a single glazed panel. 

–Remove the existing 300-square-foot non-original storage area that is attached to the rear of the liquor store.

It was also recommended to update the existing signs by adding gold leaf address numbers above the entry doors on a glass transom and add a new round sign to the left of the Spigot entry door. The applicant has agreed to incorporate these items, but signage will be processed under a separate application, explained Senior Planner Martina Caron. 

Additionally, new paint is proposed throughout the main building – cement plaster (stucco) will be painted white, metal awning will be painted black and white, and roof rafter tails and eave underside will be painted white. The Quonset hut is proposed to be painted black. 

Toward the rear of the building, the applicant proposes to replace the existing chain link fence with a new six-foot high wood fence with planting in front. The existing planting area will be enlarged and a new retaining wall is proposed to accommodate a new fifth parking stall.

Sandwich shop, remodel plans current building

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Courtesy of the City of Laguna Beach

The current building at 1802-1816 South Coast Highway 

Dubin asked about the reasoning for painting the Quonset hut black.

It’s trending now for certain buildings and it creates a nice look, said Architect Nancy Balmer-Csira. Her thought was that it would help it “disappear” or not look as shabby as it does in its current state.

“We’re open to different colors,” Balmer-Csira said, like more red, instead of brown for the pecky wood as some commissioners suggested. “The idea was to freshen up the building.”

The pecky wood currently on the building is painted, Cornwell said. It’s not a great color, he added, agreeing with Whitin’s comments, but it’s too fragile to strip the paint off.

“So, we were hoping to select a color that was more ‘woody’ than what’s there now, because right now it looks very artificial,” Cornwell said. 

It’s not in his budget to replace all of the pecky wood, but he intends to continue working with the historian to determine the best process.

Cornwell’s father, Kelly, is currently in escrow to purchase Spigot, which will hopefully be completed by mid-November. 

“Big plans for Spigot,” Kelly Cornwell said. 

He’ll return to the commission with interior design changes and other improvements for the historic liquor store at a later date. 

The first thing that will change will be a sign hung inside that says, “No loitering, no trespassing on these premises” will be swapped out for a “Welcome” sign, Kelly Cornwell said. Wet dollar bills will be accepted and sandy feet are okay to come inside.

“Those are the changes that we’re going to make to Spigot, just to change the vibe,” he said. “Going along with the sandwich shop, it’s going to be a cool corner.”

He also has plans to rebuild and install the actual spigot on the Spigot barrel, which has been missing for decades, Kelly Cornwell said. 

The history of the Quonset hut is also really interesting, he added, explaining that it was surplus property leftover from WWII. In restoring the building and highlighting the history, they’ll focus on where it came from, how it was acquired and how it was built.

Kelly Cornwell said he was retired and now he’s jumping into this business venture all because of his son, Zac, who worked as a financial planner and saved his money to open the shop, he said.

“Giving that up to put his heart and soul into Laguna Beach…I’m proud of him,” Kelly said.

Other than the applicant’s father and soon-to-be owner of Spigot, there was one other public speaker and more than two dozen letters of support in favor of Wigz Sandwich Shop.


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