Chef Ian Gresik and The Arbour

Fine dining mainstay remains relevant
By Frier McCollister

The Arbour represented chef Ian Gresik’s fine dining debut in Pasadena when it opened in 2017. 

In the three short ensuing years, which included a pandemic lockdown, Gresik’s quiet mastery in the kitchen has managed to garner a loyal cadre of enthusiasts, who have proven to be critical in sustaining the operation through the precarious course of the pandemic. 

“About 80% of our to-go orders are repeat guests, (people who come) once a week,” Gresik says. “It’s pretty impressive. Our clientele, who come weekly or more, give us their support.”

This fact was verified by two local gourmands — Laura Bulgarelli and Keith Rouse — who brought up the topic of The Arbour quite randomly in a recent conversation. 

“It is beyond divine,” Bulgarelli says. 

She describes Gresik’s take on risotto, showered with in-season truffle shavings. Though truffles are now out of season and the abbreviated pandemic menu doesn’t include the labor-intensive risotto, the couple had more to say about Gresik’s work at The Arbour. 

Rouse is a Pasadena-based lawyer and a former restaurateur who once owned and operated the Madeline Garden on Green Street. 

“I like the fact that it’s farm-to-table fresh. It’s high quality. The chef clearly knows what he’s doing,” Rouse says.

A South Bay native who grew up in Torrance and Redondo Beach, Gresik initially trained at Cerritos College for baking and pastry. 

“I’m a formally trained bakery and pastry chef,” Gresik says. 

“That’s how I broke into the field. I was down in San Diego working at a few places and then I decided to go back to the Cordon Bleu.” 

That was Gresik’s introduction to Pasadena, where he attended the vaunted and now-shuttered culinary academy for a second round of training in 2000. After graduating, he lived in Pasadena for a time and “bounced around” until 2015, when he, his wife Nancy and family returned to the City of Roses. The move sparked inspiration. 

“We thought (Pasadena) needed another restaurant, and we thought our style of food would play well here,” he says. 

Their instinct proved to be correct.

That style of food is based on fresh, organic ingredients. 

“The culinary inspiration behind The Arbour is just utilizing the bounty of California,” Gresik emphasized. “From the local produce to the meat purveyors, I would say 90% of our product is organic.” 

Pre-pandemic, Gresik routinely engaged with 20 to 30 local farms, most based in Ventura County. 

“Now it’s about a dozen,” he says wistfully. 

Before the pandemic, he helped sustain farmers. 

“Now they take care of us.” 

Jeff Stein of Scarborough Farms in Oxnard, for example, provides lettuces and herbs. 

“He runs a great program there,” Gresik says. 

The Arbour’s fresh meat is sourced from West Coast Meats and a broker in Newport Beach to stick with his mantra of sourcing local. 

“If we want lamb, we use California rack of lamb,” he says, for example.

That commitment to fresh, locally sourced ingredients is combined with Gresik’s refined palate and technical mastery to produce the menu at The Arbour. His evolution as a chef began after his tour at the Cordon Bleu, with the help of an influential mentor. 

“I spent seven years with Joachim Splichal of the Patina Group at the original Patina on Melrose and then at the Walt Disney Concert Hall,” he says.

Shortly after the onset of the pandemic lockdown, the now-legendary chef and restaurateur Splichal sold the Patina portfolio. 

“He’s pretty much retired,” Gresik adds. “He sold the group. He’s focusing more on his wineries. He’s got the Domaine de Cala, a winery in Provence. We have two of his labels on our wine list. He had a great run.” 

Gresik left Patina to helm Downtown’s lauded Drago Centro as executive chef for five years. There is another Pasadena connection here. The upscale Italian restaurant is owned by chef Celestino Drago, whose brother owns the popular local trattoria Celestino’s, just four blocks north of The Arbour on Lake Avenue. 

“So, arguably, I worked with the best French chef and the best Italian chef in town,” Gresik says. 

After settling in Pasadena and surveying the fine dining landscape, the Gresiks found the storefront on South Lake in The Arbour building, which prompted the restaurant’s name. 

“We went ahead and built out a restaurant,” Gresik says. “We’re in the old building that used to be Express Clothing. We did a full build-out. It was 11 months from start to finish.” 

The time and effort paid off. The dining room exudes a calm, casual elegance, and the expansive open kitchen seems, predictably, a chef’s dream come true. 

“I already knew what I wanted,” Gresik says. 

He engaged architect and designer Chris Keith and his firm, Spacecraft, because of Keith’s willingness to collaborate directly with Gresik’s vision. 

“He was one of the only people who wanted to work with my design.”

The lovely result speaks for itself.

Although the now-empty dining room serves to stage takeout and delivery orders, Gresik has managed to create a lovely, 16-guest outdoor dining space on his relatively quiet strip of South Lake. Although the restaurant also boasts a generously expansive parking lot behind the venue, Gresik hasn’t yet been able to activate it for outdoor dining.

“We’re an independent restaurant that is nimble enough to make it,” says Gresik, who winnowed his staff from 50 to seven when he pivoted to takeout. 

“We rolled with all the punches. Our strategy has been defense. We’d rather have a smaller footprint and be safe. (And) still be relevant and still serve our guests quality food.” So far so good.

Now about that food. Perusing the current menu, which has been slightly abbreviated during the pandemic, Gresik points to popular favorites.

For starters, the bacon tart ($13) baked in puff pastry with onion and served with béchamel sauce, Parmesan and wild greens is a standout. Perhaps a bit more on the farm-to-table theme is the shaved Brussels sprout salad ($14) with fresh goat cheese and toasted pine nuts tossed in a white wine vinaigrette. There’s also a classic Caesar ($13) and a beet salad with baby lacinato kale and golden raisins with a lemon vinaigrette and “hazelnut dust” ($13) on the menu.

Popular entrees include the sophisticated comfort of bucatini in vodka sauce ($25) with ground pancetta, tomato cream and Parmesan. There’s also sea bass with polenta cake, roasted fennel, baby bok choy, celery root puree and lemon foam ($35). 

One of Gresik’s signature dishes is the duo of duck ($38), which features roasted duck breast with a leg confit served with peppercorn sauce, parsnip puree, baby turnips and spinach. There are also weekly specials. Recently, it was roasted rack of lamb with spiced couscous, fresh peppers, chickpeas, green onions and salsa verde ($49).

The specials include custom cocktails to go, which, Gresik adds, has helped. Lead bartender Nick Christianson doubles as a waiter. 

Gresik is also quick to credit Mathew Haro, his chef de cuisine.

“He deserves a lot of kudos for being flexible,” Gresik says. “I give him a lot of credit. We’ve been working together for 10 years. You see the true colors of people in a crisis.

“We were lucky enough to get the PPP loans for the first and second rounds. That’s been a huge relief. But it doesn’t guarantee our livelihood or success, if you look at how it works. It’s eight weeks. But I will say, I’m very pleased with the city of Pasadena. The new mayor, Victor Gordo, he’s behind business.” 

Gresik never shut down The Arbour, realizing he needed to cater to the attention of his loyal following. Otherwise, “there’s no guarantee they’ll come back,” Gresik asserts. Accordingly, The Arbour serves dinner seven nights a week. “The whole thing for us is to stay relevant.”

Guests can preorder online for takeout or delivery, and reservations are likely recommended for outdoor seating on-site. That said, these days it might just be the chef greeting and seating, as Gresik’s focus has shifted to front of house. 

“I’ve been a chef for over 20 years,” he says. “It’s my first time being a waiter.”

Finally, as a grateful gesture to his loyal patrons and a sweet, exclusive gift to Arroyo readers, Gresik was persuaded to divulge The Arbour’s recipe for chocolate mousse.

THE ARBOUR
527 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena
626-396-4925, thearbourpasadena.com

Tea for Two

The Huntington to renovate historic garden tearoom
By Kamala Kirk

After decades of serving guests in its Rose Garden Tea Room, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens will renovate and expand it. 

Since the initial conversion of the building into a tearoom, there have been many alterations to the building over time, particularly to the kitchen areas. This is the first major rehabilitation. 

“The idea started with a (pre-pandemic) assessment of both the building on the outside and the building and the kitchen on the inside,” says Randy Shulman, The Huntington’s vice president for advancement and external relations. 

“The architectural details and overall condition of the original tearoom have been in decline for many years and need work. Over the past six years, we have worked to stabilize the exterior architectural details as much as possible, but we knew that over the long term it had to be worked on.”

The $7.5 million project went into municipal review in January 2021, and The Huntington expects it to be completed in 2022. Developed by The Huntington with Architectural Resources Group (ARG), the project will restore the front of the original building, in addition to a new outdoor dining experience and improved functionality in service areas.

“The COVID-19 seating and service considerations helped to inspire the idea of an elegant but exterior fully ventilated structure in the garden for dining,” Shulman says. 

“After the renovation is completed, the restaurant will be able to function with people seated more than 6 feet apart. Therefore, it would be a safer place for people to enjoy a meal as we emerge from the pandemic.”

The Rose Garden Tea Room’s food provider, Bon Appetit, also found the kitchen was inadequate for providing the level of service that it wanted to offer. The project will modernize the kitchen, upgrade the indoor dining space, develop new restrooms and ancillary areas, and create a pavilion on the building’s eastern side that opens onto the Shakespeare Garden for exterior dining service.

“The pavilion will be able to seat approximately 44 in COVID-spaced seating, approximately 68 in normally spaced seating,” adds Steve Farneth, the project architect for The Huntington’s Rose Garden Tea Room renovation and founding partner of ARG. 

“Overall, including interior and exterior seating, the new facility will seat approximately the same number as it does currently.”

The project plans to renovate the room on the west side of the building that opens to the Herb Garden. In addition to being used for the tearoom’s general service, it will be made available for private rentals. 

“On the west side of the building, we will replace an existing wood frame dining room with a slightly larger but much more open space overlooking the Herb Garden,” Farneth says. “Rolling doors along the south, west and north walls will open the room to the Herb Garden.”

The renovation comes on the heels of The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration, which kicked off September 2019 and features a yearlong series of exhibitions, public programs and new initiatives. The tearoom is part of The Huntington’s historic core and will connect the building to the surrounding gardens’ visual and physical elements, making for a unique tea experience.

“The tearoom has been closed to the public since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Shulman says. “However, when the tearoom reopens, we will be offering a high tea table service like we have in the past, including a vegan and gluten-free high tea, and expanding the add-on section of fresh salads, soups, cheese plates and charcuterie boards.”

For more information, visit huntington.org. 

Paired for Success

Realtors Peter Martocchio and David Goldberg help clients find their dream homes
By Kamala Kirk

For almost 20 years, local Realtors Peter Martocchio and David Goldberg have been top producers for Sotheby’s International Realty in Pasadena, representing buyers and sellers for many luxury and historically significant properties throughout Los Angeles.  

Their extensive knowledge of the Southern California real estate market and its rich history, combined with their background and expertise in creative design and architecture, has earned them a reputation as trusted professionals who offer clients true local knowledge and insight on the luxury real estate market and trends.

Growing up, Martocchio was a classical pianist and tap dancer. He worked at the La Jolla Playhouse while attending UCSD, eventually transferring to UCLA, where he graduated with a degree in theater arts. Several years after moving to LA, he opened a retail store in Silverlake that required a full renovation, and over the course of the project he discovered his passion for real estate. That ultimately led him to become a licensed agent in 2001.

“I discovered how much I cherished the design/build aspect of the Silverlake adventure, but seeing as I didn’t own the property, I vowed never to embark on property improvements on any property that I didn’t own outright,” Martocchio says. 

“That is what motivated me to get my real estate license. I later discovered that there is something entirely uncanny about the similarities of the theatrical cycle and the home-selling cycle. Each house is the set, the open houses are much like opening night, and the run of any listing always has theatrics. The concentrated duration of the process creates an instant family-type unit.” 

Goldberg’s family owned a construction supply business, so he was exposed to construction and architecture from day one. He has two degrees — a Bachelor of Arts in design/architecture and landscape architecture from UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. 

Prior to obtaining his license and becoming an agent in 2004, Goldberg worked as a designer for home remodels and new construction. He often oversaw renovations, restorations and other general improvements on properties that Martocchio listed for sale or had sold to clients.

“I started my career in real estate by building homes from the ground up and selling them,” Goldberg says. “I then started buying old character homes, renovating them and then selling them. As an agent, it has been a huge part of my success being able to show buyers the potential in a property that needs work. I also can oversee the things that need to be done to prepare a property for sale. My design background is an important part of my ability to make a property look amazing before sale.”

Married for 23 years, Goldberg and Martocchio have worked together as a full-time real estate team for the last 17 years and formed House of Martocchio in 2017. While the majority of their business is in Pasadena and Altadena, they work in many areas of Los Angeles, including Silverlake, Highland Park and Eagle Rock. They have also sold properties in Bel-Air, Palm Desert, Claremont, Oxnard, Santa Barbara and Lake Arrowhead, among others.

“Our dynamic as a team is great,” Martocchio says. “Because we live and work together, there is a natural rhythm and distribution of responsibilities. More often than not, David works with our buyers and is the field agent, while I handle the many nuances of our listings. In this new age of immediacy, that often means that I am close to my desk or portable electronic devices so that I can respond swiftly to any issues that come about.”

Since the beginning of their careers, Goldberg and Martocchio have been involved with historic homes and landmarks. They have sold renowned properties by many famed architects, such as Greene and Greene; Rudolph Schindler; and Buff, Straub & Hensman.

The Kresge/Richter Laboratory in the North San Rafael Hills was one of the most important historic properties for which they represented the purchase and ultimate resale. Goldberg worked as a principal designer with the owners and helped transform the property from a scientific/educational facility into a single-family home, receiving an award from the city of Pasadena and the state of California for his efforts on the project.

“Understanding the history and relevance of these properties architecturally is an important part of properly representing these homes,” Goldberg says. 

“When preparing these homes for sale, it’s crucial that you respect the original architecture and character of the property while taking current trends and styles under consideration.” 

One of Martocchio’s first listings was the Hale Solar Laboratory in Pasadena on what was once a remote edge of Henry Huntington’s estate. The property is a National Historic Monument, bearing the highest classification of a protected property, and had been owned by the Carnegie Institute before falling into private hands. 

“There are many special considerations that must be taken when dealing with such properties,” Martocchio explains.

“As the Mills Act took hold in Pasadena, I began working with many homeowners in the application process. Selling such homes also requires special knowledge and understanding of the maintenance contracts. There are pros and cons to the program, and I’m well-versed in explaining the nuances to homeowners, buyers, sellers, agents and the general public. Historic preservation isn’t something to be feared, and I try to explain potential restrictions in a matter-of-fact way.”

Goldberg and Martocchio have been Pasadena residents for 27 years and live in a National Register Spanish home in the Prospect Park Historic District. They recently purchased a post-modernist property next door to their home and are in the process of transforming it into an industrial-influenced modern loft, with the intention of using it as a deluxe home office.

“I was attracted to the area for many reasons, the most important is the abundance of beautiful character homes and stunning neighborhoods,” Goldberg says. “I also love the smaller town feel here and the city’s history.”

Martocchio, who had a secondary emphasis in writing in college, is putting the finishing touches on a novel he wrote that was inspired by his love for the Arroyo Seco.

“When I came to Pasadena in 1997, it immediately felt like home,” Martocchio says. 

“There is a genetic reaction I have when passing the Eagle Rock on the 134 Freeway and having the grandeur of the Colorado Street Bridge welcome me into the central Arroyo with the mountains running as far as the eye can see — it never gets old. It’s like turning the page in an illustrated novel and finding a two-page color spread. It goes without saying that the houses, the trees, the cultural institutions and the diversity of the community make it an exceptional place to live and work.”

One unique thing that sets Goldberg and Martocchio apart from others is the team of experts that they work with and bring in for various home projects for clients. 

“We have an entire crew of people, from architects to engineers, who we can tap into when a client wants to renovate or redesign their home,” Goldberg explains. 

“When we’re showing a buyer homes, we can show them the potential in a house, which opens up the possibilities. We make the experience much easier by taking control of all these things so that clients don’t have to worry about them. I love helping people fulfill their dreams when it comes to where they live.”

Clients appreciate the personal approach and attention to detail that Goldberg and Martocchio provide throughout the entire process of buying or selling a home. They are excellent negotiators, are transparent from beginning to end and make it a policy not to do double-end deals.

“We take considerable time making sure that our clients understand the process and the many situations that will come up that they need to be prepared for,” Goldberg says.

“One aspect of real estate that is extremely important for an agent is their ability to understand their client’s needs and personalities. An agent has a huge responsibility to keep a transaction together by negotiating a fair deal for each party involved. My negotiating abilities can result in significant monetary gains for our sellers and fair deals for our buyers.”

COVID-19 has impacted the real estate market, resulting in an increased homebuying demand, a lack of inventory, and home prices that have exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Martocchio and Goldberg recently represented a buyer and, out of 36 offers on a home, theirs was the one that was accepted. 

“Being successful listing agents gives us an advantage when competing with multiple offers, because we get to see the creative ways other agents work to represent their own clients, and we can take the best of their methods and apply them on behalf of our clients when confronted with multiple offers,” Martocchio says.

The pandemic has also raised the industry standard and forced a higher degree of organization. Goldberg and Martocchio’s listings are designed to protect the health of anyone who steps foot onto one of their properties. 

 “I think our clients know we are successful, capable and open-minded,” Martocchio says. 

“We try to make the process fun by infusing humor into our conversations. I believe that our clients know when hiring us that every decision we make is for their benefit. Our job is to adapt our services to each client — some clients don’t have computers; others don’t text. Some are out of the country entirely, so we may implement video calls to stay in touch. Our business occurs in an ever-changing landscape of technology and culture. We have to monitor the stock markets, the sociopolitical arena, new laws and regulations, mortgage rates, international politics and more. If we can speak to the specific needs of each client, then we start with a mutual understanding that builds a strong relationship.”

Goldberg adds, “You can make a huge impact on someone’s life by finding them an exciting home to buy or helping them sell a home. I love helping people. Seeing someone happy because of my work with them means the world to me.”

House of Martocchio
David Goldberg: 626-644-6011
Peter Martocchio: 626-529-6880
houseofmartocchio.com

Hop On Board

Poe the Passenger is driving toward notoriety
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When the Pasadena alternative rock trio Poe the Passenger performs, there’s one thing the musicians want to come across: They’re authentic. 

“The mantra in our band is live your life loving yourself first and spread love to others when you can,” says Jeff Pridgen, the vocalist and guitarist. “You never know what they’re going through. This is more than music. This is family.”

Recently, Poe the Passenger’s “family” pushed the band’s song “Follow Me” to the top of KROQ’s “Locals Only” show, which features bands out of Los Angeles and Southern California.

“It was a dream of ours,” Pridgen says. “We’re still on their rotation. Now we get to meet people via social media who are from Brazil, France, Russia and Pakistan, as well as local music supporters.”

“Follow Me” is an ode to a handful of Poe the Passenger’s fans. It tackles the pain of being bipolar.

“It’s not something any of us deal with,” Pridgen says. “I’ve researched and read about it. We have fans who have told us that they have it. It’s a tough subject for them, so we decided to shed a little bit of light on it.

“That’s where this ebb and flow comes from in that song. Sometimes people feel up and some feel down.”

Former Pasadena City College students Pridgen, Trent Marderosian and Matt Rosenblum assembled Poe the Passenger in 2017. Although they attended PCC at the same time, they didn’t connect for a few years later. 

Since forming, Poe the Passenger clocked well over 100 live shows pre-pandemic, gaining a diverse following of fans from all around the world.

Born in the Chicago area, Pridgen moved to Pasadena in 2011. He was into film before he co-founded Poe the Passenger. 

“I was doing a lot more film production and working behind the scenes,” he says. “I dabbled in a bit of acting, too. I had always played music in Chicago.”

He switched to music because he says he believed he didn’t have control over the outcome of his career. With music, he can create these “little, short stories” with songs and put all of his effort into it.

“I get way more out of this than acting,” Pridgen says. “It’s not the case for everybody, but that’s how I feel.” 

Inspired by Green Day, early Maroon 5 and Rise Against, Pridgen was performing acoustically when he ran into his now-drummer Marderosian. 

“I always wanted to reform a band, but I didn’t think about that when I moved to LA,” he says. “Trent listens to progressive music. He grew up on Thrice and Circa Survive, which had some fame in the early 2000s. 

“Matt loves groove. He’s big on Muse, Tool and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When we’re writing something, sometimes we have disagreements. We are able to meet somewhere in the middle. We come up with really cool stuff.”

Among the cool stuff is the single “Heart Strings,” which was scheduled to be released on February 19. Pridgen calls it a “hometown nostalgia type of song.”

“I wrote the lyrics from the perspective of being away from my family,” he says. “My family is 1,600 miles away, but every day I feel their love. 

“I wanted it to feel like I’m taking the people I met here in LA back home to see my brother, my mom and my goddaughter, and bask in that hometown nostalgia.”

Poe the Passenger is planning to release an album later this year but wants to release it with authenticity and sustainability in mind. When the trio are not recording, they do community service by helping out at recycling functions or working with the homeless in Pasadena. 

“We’re trying to find something we can do to promote the community and promote sustainability,” he says. “We want to be able to reach people around the world as well as locally. We keep it super honest. We come from a perspective of self-growth or inner growth.”

Although a livestream is in the future, Poe the Passenger is looking forward to performing live once again. 

“There’s something intangible about it,” he says. “This energy that you feel from people and they’re watching you and singing our songs is amazing. It’s the soundtrack of their night. 

“That feeling is so incredible. To not have that for almost a year has been really tough on us. Thankfully, we can still communicate with our fans through social media. We miss our fans dearly.” 

Magnificent Murals

Artist Patricia Llovera’s beautiful designs are showcased throughout the community
By Kamala Kirk

Patricia Llovera started drawing when she was 12 years old, around the time her mother passed away. She hung out in her room on a beanbag chair drawing pictures from the dictionary while listening to classical music. Her favorite was Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” 

Throughout her teenage years, Llovera continued to draw and dabbled in calligraphy, but when she landed an office job after graduation, her artistic endeavors were put on the shelf. 

Fifteen years later, when she was laid off, Llovera rediscovered her talent for the arts and began taking courses in writing and art at Pasadena City College and the Otis College of Art and Design.

Llovera studied multiple topics, including illustration, life drawing, composition, as well as writing, illustrating and designing children’s books. She became fascinated with geometric work, and one of her professors at Otis College once compared Llovera’s style to that of Frank Stella and early Piet Mondrian.

“I discovered that writing and drawing made me feel good about myself, and I really appreciated the discipline that I had,” Llovera says. 

Llovera began attending Wine & Canvas painting classes in Pasadena, where her artistic skills shined. On a whim, she participated in the Pasadena Chalk Festival in 2010 and honed her chalk skills. 

“I thought I could do chalk art, too, so I went to see what would happen,” Llovera shares. “My first year was a really cool year for the Pasadena Chalk Festival because they were named the Largest Display of Chalk Pavement Art by the Guinness Book of World Records. I love doing the chalk festival. It’s not always about winning. I do love to win, but I’m not tremendously competitive. I participate because it’s fun and creating makes me feel good.”

Since them, Llovera has participated in over 20 chalk festivals, including the Carlsbad ArtSplash, Monrovia Chalk Festivals and the Chalk Art Festival in Centennial, Colorado. 

In 2015, Llovera and a fellow artist formed a two-person mural team, designing and creating murals for cities, schools, restaurants and private residents, in addition to creating custom designs on windows for businesses. During the five years they worked together, Llovera helped create murals throughout the San Gabriel Valley and in Wilmington, and her various artwork has been displayed at libraries in Bellflower, Pasadena and Monrovia.  

“Murals are often complicated, detailed and require a lot of prep time,” Llovera says. “You have to clean and prep surfaces before starting the design, and paint acts differently on different surfaces. I often use a water-based latex paint, which is safe to use around schools. I’m very safety conscious and like to keep a neat and clean workspace.”

Llovera is also a member of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts and developed a talent for refurbishing utility boxes for the city of Monrovia, where she was eventually awarded with two boxes of her own to paint with her designs, along with another utility box in South El Monte.

“A lot of cities will put out an artist call to paint utility boxes, then you can send in your artwork to be considered,” Llovera explains. “Sometimes there will be a theme for the utility box. I lean toward geometric designs because they’re balanced and uniform. I love working with bright, eye-catching colors.”

Llovera now works on her own and continues to provide mural and artwork services for clients. She also enjoys painting canvases for friends and family and designing hand-painted cards for different occasions. Since COVID-19 occurred, the chalk festivals and competitions have gone virtual, so Llovera has been creating designs on her driveway or on canvas and submitting them online. Aside from chalk art, she also enjoys working with acrylics, watercolor, pencil, charcoal, and pen and ink.

“I love the drive that I get from art, and it makes one more disciplined,” Llovera says. “It’s cool being an artist, because I can use anything as a tool. Nothing is going to be perfect all the time, and you learn from your mistakes — there’s always an opportunity to improve. I’m always up for commissions, and I’m constantly looking for competitions to enter. It gives me an excuse to create, and it keeps me in practice. If I don’t win a competition this time, there will always be others.” 

For the past five years, Llovera has been a full-time, live-in caretaker in Pasadena for her 100-year-old grandmother.

“We have a lot of fun together,” Llovera says. “It’s definitely challenging being an artist and a full-time caregiver at the same time, but I’ve learned that if I want to get more things done, I have to take advantage of the time I have. So, if she’s taking a nap, I’ll use that time for working on projects or creating stencil letters for a client. It’s all about finding a balance between time and responsibility.”

Llovera is also eager to pursue a career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Five years ago, she finished a book for young readers on how to execute chalk designs, addressing technique, art supplies and safety issues, as well as the joys of working as an artist in the public workspace. She is in the process of updating the book and plans to resubmit it to publishers.

“I want to write more books for children that have good morals and lessons in them,” Llovera says. “I also want to continue my journey as an artist. Picasso said that it took him a lifetime to paint like a child. There is beauty in children’s artwork; we seem to forget that as we grow up. If you want to draw a tangled mess of lines and weird colors, go for it. Draw what makes you happy; other people may end up liking it as well. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s always important to follow your heart.”

To see more of Llovera’s work and to contact her for commissions, follow her on Instagram @patricia_llovera_. 

Finding a Home

Jason Hardin shares his love of Pasadena with clothing line
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Jason Hardin attended 19 elementary schools as he hopped from relative to relative, trying to find a stable home. 

“My parents were unstable,” he says. “My father had trouble with the law.”

As a high school freshman in 1995, Hardin moved from the Bay Area to Van Nuys. However, he attended Pasadena High School.

“Pasadena was the first place I never wanted to leave,” Hardin says.

To show his love for Pasadena and Altadena, he created the Made in Dena clothing line.

“I feel Pasadena isn’t presented on the mainstream media past the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl,” Hardin says. “There is so much more to it. I always loved the businesses here.

“Outside of the political division and borders, Pasadena and Altadena have always been one community for those who grew up here. It was my way of trying to shine light on the community and pay homage to the things I tend to love in Pasadena.”

Thanks to his years at PHS, 1995 to 1998, Pasadena was the first place he had a steady group of friends. 

“It was the longest time I went to one school,” he says. “I never stayed anywhere long enough.”

He rode the bus for 2 1/2 hours from Van Nuys to Pasadena High School every day. The time was worth it.

“When I moved to Van Nuys, (his guardian) says I could go to PHS if I could figure out how to get there,” he recalls. “I called the bus lines and found out how to get to PHS. I would take the bus every day, to and fro — even during football season. I didn’t have any time off. I just love the people here, the togetherness and the community.”

After high school, he briefly attended Pasadena City College, where he had access to a computer. 

“That’s what got me involved in doing business services and graphic arts for folks,” he says. “I struggled with finding myself and exploring what I was good at. My father passed when I was 19. My mother was still living in San Jose. I was here kind of lost. 

“I was homeless right out of high school. I was sleeping on the bus for a few months. I rode the 24-hour bus until school started at PCC and then I could go to my friend’s house and change.”

After college, he started the short-lived magazine The Dena Magazine to help promote the community as well as his friends involved in the arts and business. 

“I wanted an affordable, if not free, way to promote my friends,” says Hardin, an avid golfer. “With all that love, I wanted to create something. I did it all myself. I wrote all the stories, sold all the advertising, did the artwork and took the photos. 

“It was very, very tiring and overwhelming at points. I became so busy I couldn’t work on that product.”

An independent business consultant, Hardin plans to use Made in Dena with his youth-mentoring projects. He says he believes anyone can create or will themselves into their dream job. 

“I don’t care how qualified you are,” he says. “If you create that dream job, you have that job. No one can deny you if you do that. I invite youth to help me. Even if you don’t like T-shirts, you can learn about finance, artwork and marketing.”

Hardin hopes to inspire others. He was lost, but he found his way, thanks to Pasadena. 

“I never thought Made in Dena would resonate with so many folks and cross so many borders,” Hardin says. “Pasadena is a very diverse place. I still have an attachment to the city.

“People send me photos of them wearing Made in Dena clothing outside of Pasadena or Altadena. I was just amazed to see how proud people are of Pasadena — just like me.”

For more information, visit huntington.org. 

Made in Dena Clothing
madeindena.com

Achieving Real Estate Dreams

Hythe Realty is a women-owned company that guarantees the best results for clients  

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Seasoned broker Vera Nelson and Realtor Barbara Richardson King put their clients first with their brokerage Hythe Realty Inc, stripping the process of corporate or financial priorities. Clients and agents are drawn to the women-owned company because of their commitment to outstanding service and to the community.

“We really wanted to do something that totally focuses on the client,” Nelson says. “Whatever their needs, whatever the scenario, we are there for them during the entire journey. It’s not a cookie-cutter solution, and it’s not transactional for us. 

King adds, “Our leadership focuses on a high level of ethics and integrity. We are passionate about what we do and about helping people achieve their real estate dreams and their goals.”

Longtime partners in the business and Pasadena natives, the two women realize the launch of Hythe Realty in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic was ambitious, but more importantly it was a spiritual journey. 

“We felt it was the perfect time to get the message to clients that we understand the essence of their journey in good times and in challenging times,” Nelson says. 

The name Hythe Realty is eye-opening. The term “hythe” means small port, safe haven and/or soft landing. In other words, it is somewhere clients can hang their hat. Hythe Realty primarily serves Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, although they cover all of Southern California as well.

“If that’s where you’re going to find the home, that’s where we’re going to go,” Nelson says.

Nelson is a 20-year veteran of the real estate industry and living proof of the B.A.M. effect: broker, adviser and mentor. She began her real estate journey in 1999 and eventually became a top producer for Century 21 Master-San Marino, which she was affiliated with until 2010. She then became a broker associate, mentor ambassador and a top producer for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage/CB Realty from 2010 to 2020. 

Being in the top 2% of her chosen field is not by chance for Nelson. She knows how to set the agenda to lead the negotiations. 

“You don’t only represent your client,” Nelson says. “You have to have a relationship with the buyer’s agent or the seller’s agent. It’s a whole relationship-building journey from the beginning to the end. 

King, a veteran Realtor in town, was voted “Realtor of the Year” two years in a row, which represents her commitment to excellence and service to her clients. As a native Pasadenan, her knowledge of the area is unparalleled. 

In addition, King serves on several locally based community and nonprofit boards of directors, representing her commitment to improving and strengthening neighborhoods and the community. 

The team

Hythe Realty’s team consists of highly motivated and technical professionals, trustworthy real estate agents that will help guide clients during the home search. King and Nelson have trained all team members so that they are well versed in Hythe’s mission of service first. 

As technology continues to direct the path forward, Hythe Realty has several team members that provide the highest level of technology to help buyers find the perfect home quickly and to expose sellers’ listings to the broadest possible qualified buyer pool, resulting in the best price and terms.

Their in-house designer/Realtor, Wanda San Juan, has worked with renowned interior designer, author and television personality Nate Berkus, who is also Oprah’s designer. San Juan got her start in real estate by staging properties and buying and selling homes. 

“Hythe Realty stages homes because, after all, a showing is comparable to a first date,” San Juan says.

Nelson adds, “It’s nice when clients walk in and you see the looks of amazement and pleasure on their faces. They can’t believe it. Then when their home sells for top dollar, we’re right there with them. It’s not just to close, it goes beyond that. Now our relocation experts move in to find new housing in nearby or distant locations. We also have an incredible resource list of professionals that provide a myriad of needed services.”

The luxury market

In a historic year for luxury real estate, California saw its all-time price record shattered. More than 200 homes traded hands for more than $10 million, and two sold for more than $100 million. In the long-ago days of 2019, the $10-million-plus market fell well short of 200 deals.

Every home, whether 800 or 8,000 square feet, is a castle. In the end, it’s all about presentation.

“Everything is so grand sometimes with real estate and sales,” Nelson says. “To genuinely have each person’s harbor, their port, their safe haven is a pleasure. We’re going to help them do what they need to do in their lives to navigate their next chapter or make it easier for them. It’s more than a modern luxury market. It’s not just about giving statistics. It’s the ‘extra’ things, like a concierge service.”

King and Nelson also have extensive experience with VA home loans and frequently work with members of the military, veterans and their families.

“It’s not about the commission and the money,” Nelson says. “It’s about the passion for what we do to really find the right haven for people, or the right spot. Everyone has their place, and we’ll go find it. We have a deep respect for our military members and veteran community. Now it’s time for us to serve them.”

A first impression

A testament to their success, Hythe Realty has received many positive reviews from satisfied clients, praising them on their experience, vast market knowledge, positive and friendly attitude, ability to navigate challenging negotiations, and more.

“If you are looking for high standards, exceptional expertise, genuine care and someone who fights for you, then Hythe Realty is the only name you need to know,” says Kianna Dorman, an active-duty Air Force member. “All thanks to them, I’m proud to say I’m a first-time home buyer.” 

Hythe Realty also gives back to the community, specifically organizations like Black Girls Code, Surfrider Foundation USA and the Pasadena Educational Foundation. The movement isn’t something Nelson and King brag about. Often, they keep the donations to themselves. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a joy in it. 

“It’s not just a real estate company,” Nelson says. “It’s not an organization — we’re alive, we’re fluid, we’re moving.”

King adds, “I definitely agree. I think a ‘business’ is something that focuses on the bottom line of the client.  I take every situation and we build a custom package for each situation.  We listen, we care and we perform!”

“Hythe has solutions for every unique situation, and for every client, ‘We can give more,’” Nelson shares. “We can protect more. We can grow more. I think that’s the essence of Hythe Realty. We have that personal touch. It’s that connection with people.”

Vera Nelson

Founder | Broker

CAL DRE No. 01333471

626-298-3025, vera@hytherealty.com

Barbara Richardson King

Founding Partner | Global Estate Director

CAL DRE No. 00903286

626-319-0315, properties@barbara-king.com

Keeping Customers Safe

Post Alarm: Shields up since 1956
By Arroyo Staff

For more than 60 years, Post Alarm has been helping to keep its customers safe with a unique combination of technological innovation, practical experience and personal care. Post’s customizable security solutions are designed to meet customers’ needs now, and can grow alongside your changing family or business needs.  

Customers can rely on Post’s locally based team to stay vigilant so they can relax and enjoy their homes. Unlike many other security firms, the owner and operators of the company live and work in their communities. 

They have always been a local, family-owned company, and Post Alarm was founded on a passion for protecting the communities the staff calls home. It is that passion that makes Post the best in the business.

Post Alarm is one of the nation’s few security companies with the distinction of owning and operating its own UL Listed Monitoring Station. In addition to that elite certification, Post has been honored with 5 Diamond Accreditation. This puts Post Alarm in the top 5% of alarm companies in the nation. The superior setup of Post’s central station enables Post to have superior response time to most of its competitors.

“While our central station and technology is best in class, Post’s real superpower is our people,” says owner Rob Post.

“We invest in extensive training for our security team, as well as every other team member that serves our customers. Our team truly cares about delivering their very best. When something goes wrong, you can rely on us to be there as soon as possible with the help you need, when you need it.”

Post’s home security solutions put families’ safety first, but convenience is a close second. With fully customizable options that include motion detectors, cameras and smart home integrations, security systems can give clients peace of mind. This starts with traditional burglar alarms and extends to cameras with ID recognition. Post’s smart home integrations allow customers to remotely lock and unlock doors from a phone, turn lights off or on, adjust the thermostat, and of course see cameras from a smartphone. 

Customization options extend beyond traditional solutions — and even innovative services like Night Shield, protection for loved ones with Medical Alert, and traditional patrol services. 

Night Shield allows clients to set up their own preferences so that if an intruder steps foot onto a property at night, Central Station is notified. Post Patrol is automatically dispatched to the home so everyone can rest easy at night. The Medical Alert service can even help protect loved ones from a distance, allowing for private response with just the touch of a button. There are more services to explore — and Post can help customers find the perfect security solutions for their needs. Post’s local patrol arrives quickly on the scene whenever help is needed. 

Experience the peace of mind that Post’s locally based, award-winning, innovative protection can bring to a home and life. Give Post a call for a no-cost consultation.

In the Midst of Chaos

Artist Lita Albuquerque’s ‘Red Earth’ brings calmness

By Kamala Kirk

After being closed for more than three months due to COVID-19, The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino has reopened most of its garden areas to the public.

Guests visiting the Japanese Garden are greeted by a new site-specific artwork, “Red Earth” by artist Lia Albuquerque, an internationally renowned installation and environmental artist, painter and sculptor.

“I was commissioned to create a work for The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration, and I was excited to work in the gardens and to work in response to nature,” Albuquerque says. 

“Robert Hori, cultural creator of the gardens, took me all around the grounds and offered a wide range of sites. When we walked by the western gate of the Japanese Garden and I saw the intimacy of the bamboo grove there, I knew immediately what I wanted to do. It felt like it was the heart of the garden, that I could do something more personal there and speak to that specific site.”

The installation centers around an approximately 3-ton boulder capped with bright red pigment surrounded by bamboo stalks affixed with copper bands that glint under leaf-filtered sunlight. Vibrant red disks have been placed along paths leading toward “Red Earth” to draw visitors to the display.

“I work with color as presence and as a springboard to sensations,” Albuquerque says. 

“I drew my inspiration from the green circle of bamboo trees, which seemed like a nature theater on which to place a presence. That gentle theatricality also inspired me, like it was meant to have a work there that would be part of the site itself. The piece is really about the grove and the light hitting the bamboo, which I emphasized by creating copper rings to encircle the bamboo stalks at different heights almost as if it were a musical score, as well as Red Earth, which is the boulder around which everything swirls. Most of the time, the earth speaks to us if we would just take a moment to listen and to hear. This ‘Red Earth’ surprised even me after finishing the installation and experiencing it. It’s as if the boulder itself had a presence that was expressing itself to me, asking me to pay attention, asking me to synchronize my heartbeat to hers. Once I did that, I could almost see her breathe. It’s a wonderful moment to be connected like that to the earth itself in the intimacy of the bamboo grove.”

To create “Red Earth,” Albuquerque and her studio team went on a search for the perfect boulder that had to have a certain presence and a certain shape like the crest of a mountain. She knew she wanted Bouquet Canyon rock and found the quarry three hours north of Pasadena, but once there it was not an easy search. At the quarry, the boulders that were already quarried were on the ground and it was hard to see what their shape would be once standing vertically. The boulder could also not exceed 3,000 pounds, as it had to be craned over the bamboo without damaging trees.

“I wanted it to have a mass, a presence, which meant a lot of tonnage,” Albuquerque says. 

“When we finally found the correct boulder after multiple trips to the quarry, the one that we liked most was 7,800 pounds and had to be cut down and trimmed without losing its natural shape. We installed it on a rainy March 10. The opening was to be on the spring equinox, March 21, the first day of spring. Then, during the pandemic, we were able to create the red circles that led the public to “Red Earth,” and a few days before July 1, we were able to complete the installation of the red pigment and the copper rings on the bamboo trees. It is one of the few art works that can be physically experienced during this pandemic. That is exciting to me.”

For Albuquerque, the color red has always been about the fiery energy that is at the core of the earth. Back in 1981, she created a project called “The Horizon Is the Place that Maintains the Memory” for the Hirshhorn Museum and Gardens, which was about the memory of the earth being seen and maintained by the horizon of the moon. For that exhibit, she poured red powder pigment on the stone, as if the stone were emerging or rising from the core of the earth, bringing with it all its energy. The stone at the Hirshhorn was from a quarry in California and was called Bouquet Canyon rock, which is the same rock that Albuquerque used for “Red Earth.”

“Conceptually it is different, but aesthetically has the same quality, only placed in a different context and at a different time,” Albuquerque says. 

“In this case, there is the dichotomy between the presence of a 3,000-pound boulder, which is obviously permanent, and the ephemerality of the powder pigment that can be blown way. The gesture of dusting the boulder with pigment is also so ephemeral. The combination of strength and fragility is what I was going for, that we need to pay attention to both. We certainly understand how changeable things are during this time of the virus. There remain the eternal relationships and fundamental aspects of our existence. Perhaps that quiet theatrical space in the garden, perhaps the mass and presence of the piece, will remind us of that greater sense of being.”

Viva La Revolucion!

Muralist Alejandro Chavez adds color to the world

Story By Nikhil Bhambri | Photos by Luis Chavez

In a world of suffering and inequality, South Pasadena resident Alejandro Chavez uses different artistic mediums to encourage social change. 

Chavez has been using his talents to create art that portrays, in a deeply evocative way, the lives of those affected by political, environmental and social upheaval. It all comes from his belief that shared experiences through meaningful art can break down divisions and unite diverse people in the fight for equality. Chavez’s artistic family, his travels and multifaceted life experiences have shaped him into the artist he is today. 

In the late 1990s, Chavez’s uncle exposed him to political art, which helped him understand the 9/11 attacks. This inspired him to use muralism and graphic design to raise awareness of current issues. Chavez strives to challenge divisive or limiting paradigms, by creating dialogue that is catalytic to healing. 

According to him, art—regardless of what it depicts—is a universal language that can be appreciated by all people. His work conveys a message to raise consciousness about social issues and engages people in dialogue. These conversations allow for greater understanding and acceptance of others for who they are. 

Chavez is galvanized by local and global social and political concerns, and his art depicts impactful stories that he believes do not receive enough attention. His themes include environmental issues, women’s and gay rights, and immigration. He emphasizes leaders who have struggled on behalf of their community in the fight for liberation and equality.

Chavez began working on murals in 2014 with his cousin, who works on NBC’s “The Voice.” His murals revive the rich tradition of Chicano culture and stories. He says he believes murals bring life to a city’s streets. When street art is censored, it feels as if society has been numbed. The messages expressed through street art highlight something more important than what’s presented on the daily news. 

Trump’s political measures, such as the border wall and anti-immigration, have inspired Chicano artists to vocalize their views. In Boyle Heights, Chavez painted a wall in which Trump is in a headlock by a famous Mexican wrestler. Despite being a gang-infested neighborhood, community members have shown respect for the piece. In a neighborhood where few things are permanent, the mural has not been defaced many months later.

In 2014, Chavez and his father hosted a debut art show, themed “synergy,” in San Fernando. The father-and-son duo collaborated on artwork reflecting the daily struggles of communities worldwide. Pieces including a portrait of Malala Yousefzai and a painting titled “Peace in the Middle East,” in which children of different religions hug each other while bombs fall in the background.

“War is a dark topic to talk about,” Chavez says. “These children of all races embracing each other highlights the power of love, peace and unity, while also capturing my message of turning negativity to positivity.” 

One of Chavez’s most recent paintings is of Kobe Bryant. Shocked by the Black Mamba’s passing, he painted the image to heal himself. As Chavez grew older, he deeply respected Bryant’s mission to educate underprivileged children through sports. He hopes to follow the superstar’s message of hard work and dedication in his own life by being influential in a positive way.

“There are few guarantees in life, which include change, birth and death,” Chavez says. “This conversation can be brought to the table here in LA, and being the international city that it is, it will hopefully spread worldwide.” 

Travel helps Chavez refresh, reinspire and heal. His experiences overseas have a lasting impact on his art style and themes. 

“It has exposed me to several mediums of art, and messages from all around the world,” Chavez says. “They have impacted and influenced me to use my artistic skills to speak truth and bring darkness to lightness.” 

Chavez recently traveled to Japan, Cuba and Belize and brought cultural remnants back to Los Angeles. While painting a mural in Cuba, he modified his style and technique, as he could not buy supplies from an art store. This inspired him to paint more “freestyle art pieces,” in which the wall guides him through the process, while he just uncovers it through paint strokes.

 In addition to creating art, Chavez works as a bartender at ARO Latin Bar, where his mural titled “The Future is Women” is painted on the bathroom wall. 

His interactions with his Indian boss, Karan Raina, have broadened his horizon and impacted his artwork. He has become more aware of international politics, and the India/Pakistan conflict was the key influence in his “Peace in the Middle East” painting. Furthermore, he has become fascinated by Indian spirituality, specifically the yogi lifestyle and concept of Karma. 

Doing yoga regularly helps him feel relaxed and connected, and he has found that it enhances his creativity. 

“Through spirituality and the mind-and-body connection, I have expanded my consciousness and understanding of how energy works,” Chavez says. “It is through this understanding and in this space where I can create my most authentic and truest work. Art heals.

“During the time of COVID, I have been blessed to have many quantum leaps in my mental and spiritual growth. All of (them) have positively impacted me in many aspects of life.” 

Howard Serrian, Chavez’s friend, describes him as a liberal, anti-establishment revolutionary who is about exploiting change while going against the normal society standards. 

He finds Chavez’s art to be thought provoking, intriguing and empowering. The color patterns catch viewers’ attention, as they are very easy on the eyes. Serrian believes Chavez’s messages about tolerance and peace are especially important for mid-adolescents, who are still shaping their ideas and trying to grasp reality. 

Chavez wants to leave a legacy. His exposure to different walks of life has helped him better identify with the marginalized and hence create a realistic portrayal of their plight. He believes that a shared appreciation for art is a strong first step in breaking barriers and engaging people in meaningful dialogue. Chavez has a vision; he dreams of a personal artistic mission that will eventually unite different citizens to fight harder for international peace and equality.