A LOOK INSIDE SOUTH BAY'S HIDDEN GEM + THE ORIGIN STORY
Nestled in between the calming beach and the busy streets of Pacific Coast Highway, Gum Tree is a hidden gem of a restaurant-shop hybrid that offers more than what is on the outside. Southern California and its long extension of the summer season continues to invite people to this quaint beach cottage.
We spoke with Lori Ford, the owner and boss lady of Gum Tree, to tell us more about the amazing ventures of creating a cafe-shop in South Bay.
We understand that you and your husband created Gum Tree together (so lovely!). What prompted the two of you to start a cafe + shop hybrid specializing in Australian goods?
We were living in New York City, my husband had an Aussie restaurant and bar there, I was working on product development for an accessories company, and our lifestyle was intense and wonderful and everything NY should be when you’re young, and then we got married and had a baby! Everything changed of course, and we decided to come home to the South Bay and settle down. The shop was a long time dream of mine, and my husband was supposed to get to take a break from the restaurant biz and help me achieve it. But then we found the house!
How did you guys come across this location?
I grew up in Manhattan Beach, and always wanted this little house in Hermosa on Pier Ave. The dream was a home store in an old house, with each room filled with things you’d have in that room, a cozy couch full of pillows in the living room, cookbooks and serving pieces in the dining room, etc. We were still in New York hatching our moving plans when a girlfriend of mine called to let me know my dream house was up for sale. I flew in to take a look the next day. The space felt too big to be only a shop, but with the garden out front and the natural division of space, it lent itself perfectly to a little cafe/shop combo. And since my husband had the restaurant know how, and I had the desire on the shop side, that’s what we decided to do. May I just say that my husband is a saint for agreeing to my never ending stream of ideas.
What was the origin of the name Gum Tree?
I was trying to come up with a name that worked for both a restaurant and shop, something that sounded natural, evoked a feeling of calm and community. I hit a wall and asked my husband to give me some good old Aussie slang, and after at least a dozen ridiculous Aussie words, (wally, sheila, wanker) out popped Gum Tree and right away we knew. I saw the logo in my head and the rest is history.
How did you manage to keep Gum Tree so successful?
A lot of hard work! We both spent every day in there for the first couple of years at least. We met everyone in town, got involved in our community, went to every networking event there ever was… It’s our family business, there is no other hidden income, so we had to make it work. Will is the driving force behind the cafe, and he’s always coming up with delicious and healthy new menu ideas. I’m obsessive about always finding something new for the shops, and I think that keeps them fresh and our customers coming in to discover new things all the time. We know that people have so many options, so we do our best to hire the friendliest staff, and create the most welcoming environment we can.
Your favorite dish from Gum Tree!
I eat the avocado toast with chili flakes, a side of berries and an iced latte almost every morning. But, I also love a good old fashioned meat pie once in a while! Our lentil soup is made from scratch daily and is out of this world.
What was the biggest struggle that you guys have come across?
As a small business owner the work never stops, I feel like I could always be doing more to grow the business, keep it relevant, and bring in new customers. On the positive side, it can be very rewarding, especially when you get feedback that people love what you do, it’s just the best feeling. And we love to be part of the community, watch the local kids grow, really know our customers, that’s the best part.
What do you hope to accomplish with Gum Tree in the future?
For us it’s not about opening X number of stores in the next 5 years, it’s finding the work/life balance. We hope that Gum Tree continues to thrive so that we can support our family and raise happy healthy kids! We want to be happy in our work life, we want to travel, learn, give our kids the very best opportunities, engage with our community. So as long as we continue to love what we do, we have accomplished everything.
Could you name some of your favorite brands and items that you carry in your shop? (If you could provide photos, that would be great!)
Oh gosh, I love everything we carry, that’s the criteria I use for buying every single thing. Do I love it, is it pretty, is it useful, funny, great quality, does it make me happy, would I give it as a gift? I love buying cookbooks, and pillows, and jewelry! The kids shop is so easy to buy for because there are just so many adorable things out there. Some stand out brands we have carried forever are Bla Bla, Chan Luu, Zoe Chicco, House of Cindy, Hat Attack, Rifle Paper. But I love to constantly change things up, and I love to discover new up and coming designers.
If you find yourself in sunny Southern California, check out Gum Tree in Hermosa Beach! Or check out their Instagram (@gumtree_la) to take a peek at their California Lifestyle.