Virtually Vroman’s

Bookstore boasts stellar lineup for September
By Arroyo Staff

The renowned bookstore Vroman’s is hosting more top-notch virtual programs throughout September.

The “Vroman’s Life” events are held virtually through Crowdcast. Register through vromansbookstore.com.

Susan H. Kamei, in conversation with Teresa Watanabe, discusses ‘When Can We Go Back to America? Voices of Japanese American Incarceration during WWII’

6 p.m. Tuesday, September 7

In this dramatic and page-turning narrative history of Japanese Americans before, during and after their World War II incarceration, Kamei weaves the voices of more than 130 individuals who lived through this tragic episode, most of them as young adults.

It’s difficult to believe it happened here. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. government forcibly removed more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast and imprisoned them in desolate detention camps until the end of World War II just because of their race.

In what Secretary Norman Y. Mineta describes as a “landmark book,” he and others who lived through this harrowing experience tell the story of their incarceration and the long-term impact of this dark period in American history. 

For the first time, why and how these tragic events took place are interwoven with more than 130 individual voices of those who were unconstitutionally incarcerated, many of them children and young adults.

Their words will resonate with readers who are confronting questions about racial identity, immigration and citizenship, and what it means to be an American. 

Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez
discusses ‘For Brown Girls with
Tender Hearts and Sharp Edges:
A Love Letter to Women of Color’
with Yesika Salgado

The founder of Latina Rebels and a “Latinx Activist You Should Know” (Teen Vogue) arms women of color with the tools and knowledge they need to find success on their own terms.

For generations, brown girls have had to push against powerful forces of sexism, racism and classism, often feeling alone in the struggle. By founding Latina Rebels, Rodríguez has created a community to help women fight together. 

In “For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts,” she offers wisdom and a liberating path forward for all women of color. She crafts powerful ways to address the challenges brown girls face, from imposter syndrome to colorism. She empowers women to decolonize their worldview and defy “universal” white narratives by telling their own stories. 

Her book guides women of color toward a sense of pride and sisterhood and offers essential tools to energize a movement. 

Jarrett Adams discusses ‘Redeeming Justice: From Defendant to Defender, May Fight for Equity on Both Sides of a Broken System’

6 p.m. Monday, September 13

He was 17 when an all-white jury sentenced him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Now a pioneering lawyer, he recalls the journey that led to his exoneration — and inspired him to devote his life to fighting the many injustices in the legal system.

Facing nearly 30 years behind bars, Adams sought to figure out the why behind his fate. Sustained by his mother and aunts, who brought him back from the edge of despair through letters of prayer and encouragement, Adams became obsessed with our legal system in all its damaged glory. 

After studying how his constitutional rights to effective counsel had been violated, he solicited the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, an organization that exonerates the wrongfully convicted, and won his release after nearly 10 years in prison.

But the journey was far from over. Adams took the lessons he learned through his incarceration and worked his way through law school with the goal of helping those who, like himself, had faced our legal system at its worst.

After earning his law degree, he worked with the New York Innocence Project, becoming the first exoneree hired by the nonprofit as a lawyer. In his first case with the Innocence Project, he argued before the same court that had convicted him a decade earlier — and won.

In this cinematic story of hope and full-circle redemption, Adams draws on his life and the cases of his clients to show the racist tactics used to convict young men of color, the unique challenges facing exonerees once released, and how the lack of equal representation in our courts is a failure not only of empathy but of the collective ability to uncover the truth. 

Maria Amparo Escandón, in
conversation with Alex Espinoza,
discusses ‘LA Weather’

6 p.m. Tuesday, September 14

LA is parched, dry as a bone, and Oscar, the weather-obsessed patriarch of the Alvarado family, desperately wants a little rain. He’s harboring a costly secret that distracts him from everything else. His wife, Keila, desperate for a life with a little more intimacy and a little less Weather Channel, feels she has no choice but to end their marriage. 

Their three daughters — Claudia, a TV chef with a hard-hearted attitude; Olivia, a successful architect who suffers from gentrification guilt; and Patricia, a social media wizard who has an uncanny knack for connecting with audiences but not with her lovers — are blindsided and left questioning everything they know. 

Each will have to take a critical look at her own relationships and make some tough decisions along the way.

With quick wit and humor, Escandón follows the Alvarado family as they wrestle with impending evacuations, secrets, deception and betrayal, and their toughest decision: whether to stick together or burn it all down. 

T.C. Boyle discusses ‘Talk to Me’

4 p.m. Saturday, September 18

When animal behaviorist Guy Schermerhorn demonstrates on a TV game show that he has taught Sam, his juvenile chimp, to speak in sign language, Aimee Villard, an undergraduate at Schermerhorn’s university, is so taken with the performance that she applies to become his assistant. A romantic and intellectual attachment soon morphs into an interspecies love triangle that pushes hard at the boundaries of consciousness.

What if it were possible to speak to the members of another species — to converse with them, not just give commands or coach them but to really have an exchange of ideas and a meeting of minds? Did apes have God? Did they have souls? Did they know about death and redemption? About prayer? The economy, rockets, space? Did they miss the jungle? Did they even know what the jungle was? Did they dream? Make wishes? Hope for the future? These are some of the questions Boyle asks in his wide-ranging and hilarious new novel “Talk to Me,” exploring what it means to be human, to communicate with another and to truly know another person — or animal. 

Stuart Neville discusses ‘The House of Ashes’

1 p.m. Monday, September 20

Sara Keane’s husband, Damien, has uprooted them from England and moved them to his native Northern Ireland for a “fresh start” in the wake of her nervous breakdown. Sara, who knows no one in Northern Ireland, is jobless, carless, friendless — all but a prisoner in her own house. When a blood-soaked old woman beats on the door, insisting the house is hers before being bundled back to her care facility, Sara begins to understand the house has a terrible history her husband never intended for her to discover. 

As the two women form a bond over their shared traumas, Sara finds the strength to stand up to her abuser, and Mary — silent for six decades — is finally ready to tell her story.

Marisa Kanter discusses ‘As If on Cue’ with Becky Albertalli

6 p.m. Friday, September 24

Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. 

Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.

But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win. Except Natalie and Reid.

Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them.

Vroman’s Local Author Day featuring David F. D’Orazi and Vicki Childs 

6 p.m. Monday, September 27

D’Orazi presents ‘The In-Between Artist: The Story of Tony D’Orazi’

The successes and struggles of influential 20th century artist Tony D’Orazi are detailed in this first biography, “The In-Between Artist: The Story of Tony D’Orazi,” from his early years as a child prodigy in Missoula, Montana, to his ascension into an award-winning artist by way of New York City and Chicago and his days working for Disney to ultimately becoming the radio and television personality known as Uncle Tony O’Dare, “the first cartoonist of the air.” Tony’s personal struggles would repeatedly attempt to derail his artistic ambitions, but the art would always find a way to persevere.

Along his ascent, he would also meet his true love, with whom he formed a vaudeville act, which found them entertaining crowds across America.

From there, he became a husband and father of four who constantly struggled to find balance between his roles as a visual artist and family man, all while battling with severe bouts of mental illness.

This is a portrait of an artist and entertainer that also includes later chapters of his life, in which he went on to become a successful salesman and character actor, all while still pursuing his need to create. In the end, despite all these roles he played and the countless hurdles he faced, Tony remained an artist in between. Ultimately, his story proves that no matter what obstacles he faced, his art always found a way.

Vicki Childs presents ‘Rachel’s Butterflies’

What would you need to lose in order to find yourself? Growing up in their elite British private school, three girls became inseparable. Decades later and worlds apart, they’ll soon discover that some bonds last forever.

Liz, an ambitious businesswoman, is beholden to nobody and determined to keep it that way. Emily, a homebody with a countryside cottage, is happy to be surrounded by her family and her crafts. Chrissy, a writer turned Realtor, is living the American dream in sunny Los Angeles. But are their lives as perfect as they seem?

A sudden tragedy reunites the childhood friends, but just as they begin to reconnect, their lives are derailed. Each will be forced to reexamine who they are and make some life-altering decisions. Can they embrace their chance for true happiness, or will they continue to be molded by those around them?

In this compelling tale of struggle and redemption, three women learn that when your world turns upside down it’s your true friends that lead you back home.

6 p.m. Tuesday, September 28

Jay Coles, in conversation
with Dave Connis, discusses
‘Things We Couldn’t Say’

From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love — and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was 9.

There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother and his father when Gio was 9 years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her — and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.

It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure — especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone now.

Cole shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who he is and who he should be. 

Fresh from Mexico City

Tacos Casa is the home to authentic dishes
By Frier McCollister

For Brisa Lopez of Tacos Casa, culinary novelty and authenticity are intertwined.

“I don’t believe there is anything new in food,” Lopez says.

“You can be as experimental as you want to, but it will never be something that has never happened before. However, if you try to combine that with your story and your heritage, that’s what makes your food a little more special.”

Tacos Casa handles pop-ups, catering and public events. Lopez is also a private chef. 

Lopez draws the line between Tacos Casa catering and her pop-up formats, which tend to feature more familiar street food options and her catering approach. 

“The kind of food we make, I have to make a huge division: What we do at events or markets or pop-ups is one thing,” Lopez says. 

“It’s completely different from what we do in catering or more formal areas. The difference is in the complexity of the dishes.”

While her eponymous tacos are on both sides of the business, the catering menus emphasize regional pozoles and rich moles. Lopez has mastered more than 10 regional moles as part of her repertoire.

A Mexico City native, Lopez is emphatic about bringing her family’s influence into her cooking. She makes it clear that her approach is distinct from conventional Southern Californian Mexican or Chicano cuisine. 

She’s trying to stick to the recipes one would find in Mexico. 

“Because Mexico is not about sour cream and refried beans and flour tortillas and rice on everything,” Lopez says. “So, I think that’s a little bit of the difference about what we offer and why people come from Glendale or Alhambra to try our food every week.”

Before the pandemic, Lopez operated Tacos Casa mainly as a busy catering operation. Lopez averaged as many as 45 events a year. The pandemic eliminated that model, and she quickly pivoted to her pop-up format that includes a regular presence at Altadena Farmers Market on Wednesdays. Nearby Café de Leche on North Lake hosts Tacos Casas for brunch between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays.  

Fortunately, Lopez’s catering activity has recently come back to life. This month, Tacos Casa will provide the opening and closing night gala dinners at the 13th annual HOLA! Film Festival. It’s the country’s largest Mexican film festival. This year it’s being held at Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Downtown Los Angeles and runs from Friday, September 17, to Saturday, September 25. 

For opening night, Lopez created a menu focused on regional red, green and white moles in honor of Mexico’s national colors and Independence Day, celebrated on September 16. Closing night’s menu will be a surprise.

September also marks the fifth anniversary of Tacos Casa. 

“We started by doing community events that were Latino-heritage related, and that’s how I started,” Lopez notes.

Lopez maintains a deep emotional connection and affection for her roots in Mexico City and her family’s influence. Her grandmother and aunts maintained restaurants there, and the atmosphere at home was suffused with culinary activity and interest. 

“It was always something very crucial emotionally, socially and family-wise on an everyday basis,” Lopez says. 

“I think that’s the reason why I wanted to embark and learn more about food and the living of it, because it wasn’t just a plate of food. The experience we had, it was always connected with something we were going through — if it was a passing, a celebration, a fight, a wedding, a quinceanera, a reunion of family that hasn’t seen each other in 20 years.

“The most alive place has always been the kitchen, for as long as I remember. It was my goal to come here and just try to transmit that.”

Lopez arrived in Southern California 16 years ago inspired by romantic impulse.

“When I came here, it was a love situation, nothing else,” Lopez says. “I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know anybody besides the person I was coming with. I had to start my life here all over again.”

In Mexico City, she established a career in digital advertising and marketing, and it took some time, patience and perseverance to forge a new path. 

“When I moved here, the lack of knowledge of English was a bit of a challenge. I had to humble myself and learn what I had to do and learn the city and break through some fears and go through some challenges,” she says. 

Ultimately, she landed a digital marketing position with a major Spanish-language media company based in the United States.

Lopez exudes a sense of calm assurance and determination. Those qualities paid off. 

“I moved between companies, and I worked in digital advertising for a few more years,” she says. 

“Until for myself, I hit a goal, when I felt very accomplished. I ended up being the manager of national campaigns for the African American and Hispanic markets. I felt very happy. I think I proved what I had to do. Now, I really wanted to experience and do what I always wanted, which was cooking.

“That’s when I quit everything. I quit my job. I put my savings into my business, and I started this adventure.”

Street food culture in Mexico City inspired Lopez. 

“Mostly in Mexico City, but really all across the country, (food) is always on every corner,” she says. 

“It’s somebody eating — all the time. The soul of the authentic food in my country, it’s street food — all kinds.” 

It’s also available any time of day. 

“Honestly, it’s 24/7,” Lopez says. “There’s not a schedule or time. It happens all the time.”

The menu at her market stand, and the regular brunch pop-ups at Café de Leche, reflect that culture with some dishes not often seen locally. 

“Besides the tacos, we make a pambazo, which is a big sandwich that is stuffed with potatoes and chorizo,” Lopez explains.

“(At most local taco stands) you won’t find something like that. It’s not very common. But once people get used to that item, they embrace it because it’s something new. It’s different and it still has the Mexican taste of it.” 

Gorditas are another big seller for Lopez, which she compares to Salvadoran pupusas and Venezuelan arepas.

Don’t get Lopez started on commercial fast-food varieties of Mexican dishes.

“If you say, ‘I can go out to Del Taco and get some chilaquiles,’ guess what?” she says rhetorically. “Ours is actually made with mole, and we make our mole from scratch.” 

Oaxacan mole to be precise. It’s a staple on her brunch menu and well worth sampling.

Other distinctive items on the brunch menu include huevos divorciados with green and red salsas separated by fried eggs; molletes, toasted rolls topped with scrambled eggs, potatoes, chorizo, cheese and pico de gallo; and another Mexico City street staple, the guajolota. It’s essentially a cheese tamale sandwich, topped with fresh salsa, crema and cotija cheese. Catering setups include a taco bar, an antojitos or appetizer bar, full buffet service and formal dinner service.

Lopez sees an actual restaurant in the near future. 

“Hopefully, if not next year, in the beginning of 2023 (I intend) to definitely have a location,” she says. “If it happens, it will be here, because I’m very fond of where I live.”

Her home has been in Altadena for the past nine years, and she lived in South Pasadena for four years prior to that.

Lopez says her community partners paved the way for her move to a brick and mortar. 

“If it wasn’t for two businesses, I don’t know if I would be here,” Lopez says. “I feel compelled to share that. Café de Leche and Altadena Farmers Market. (Because of them), now we’re actually saving some money.”

Despite the pandemic, Lopez says she feels inspired. 

“I think this very unfortunate momentum that we have all gone through, it has also shown the best part of us as a community in this area,” she says. “People have become more close and more considerate and more open to try other things.

“Try always to be local and support each other. That doesn’t happen in all communities and neighborhoods, and that’s what I’ve seen in my area. We always try to be local and to support each other, so the money stays here, and the support stays here as well. That is something that I think is very important for all of us. Thank you for this opening to the community.”

As a token of gratitude to Arroyo readers, Lopez shares her recipe for sopa de frijol negro y tlacoyos. 


Tacos Casa 

323-308-9883, tacoscasa.com


Sopa de frijol negro y tlacoyos

Sopa de frijol negro y tlacoyos is naturally vegan, gluten free, low in calories, high in fiber and made out of Mesoamerican ingredients only.

For the soup

750 ml of vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups of black beans (cooked)

1 small onion

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 dried pasilla chile, clean, without seeds and soaked in hot water

8 epazote leaves (can be found at the fresh produce area in Hispanic markets)

1 tablespoons of sea salt

1 tablespoons of vegetable oil

In a nonstick pot, put the oil; half of the onion, finely chopped; garlic; and let cook on a medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir until golden brown. Add half of the broth, cover and leave on low heat.

Blend the rest of the broth with the beans, salt, 3 epazote leaves, pasilla chile and 1/2 onion.

Add mixture to broth and let cook on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with fresh chopped epazote.


For the tlacoyos

2 cups of corn flour for tortillas

2 cups of water

1 cup of mashed potatoes,
 lightly salted

3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

2 thin pieces plastic to make the tlacoyos

In a bowl, mix the corn flour with the water until you get an even, smooth dough. Knead it for a few minutes until it feels soft. Heat a griddle over medium heat.

Divide the dough in 10 equal parts. Grab one dough piece and roll between your hands. Place between the sheets of plastic and roll with a rolling pin to form a thick circle.

Uncover and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of potatoes in the center. Cover with plastic; fold the circle to seal the edges; lightly press until getting a flat, long diamond shape. With two hands, hold the tlacoyo and press the ends to form pointy tips on each side.

Place the tlacoyo in the hot griddle and cook each side for about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness. Add oil to taste around the tlacoyo for crispiness.

Passionate Plea

Amy Sulahian proclaims honor of law enforcement profession
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Pasadena attorney Amy Sulahian says law enforcement officers are undervalued — especially because they’re an integral and indispensable part of society. 

To support them, in 2017 Sulahian co-founded The LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) Project, a nonprofit organization that strives to reaffirm the honor and strengthen the resolve of the law enforcement professional. 

“I have a lot of close friends who are in law enforcement,” Sulahian says. “It’s something I’m passionate about supporting and felt compelled to bring to light and support.

“There are many entities that support fallen soldiers, which is something I am also passionate about.”

Sulahian’s brother served in the Army’s Special Forces as a Green Beret, so it hits close to home. Like the military, law enforcement officers risk and often sacrifice their lives with the sworn duty of maintaining a civil society. 

She has raised thousands of dollars for the cause, but the pandemic has severely hampered fundraising efforts. Regardless, her kindness extends beyond the California border. 

“There are law enforcement officers who need our help everywhere,” she says. “While there are other organizations that also assist fallen or injured officers and their families, we do not want to just provide a check, but rather truly try to understand and provide specific needs to them and help facilitate to fulfill those needs. 

“We search for resources and solutions that will assist the officers and their families on the road to physical, emotional and financial recovery.”

A notable donation happened on November 9 and November 10, 2018, when she traveled to ISM Raceway (now Phoenix Raceway) in Avondale, Arizona, to benefit fallen Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Tyler Edenhofer. 

Edenhofer was shot and killed in the line of duty on July 25, 2018, during an altercation with a suspect who was throwing debris at passing vehicles on the I-10. The suspect killed Edenhofer with his own service weapon. 

A Navy veteran, Edenhofer was finishing his last night of field training, as he only graduated from the State Trooper Academy on May 4, 2018. He is the youngest fallen trooper in DPS history. 

“We had a NASCAR truck wrapped with his badge number and his name,” she says. “It raced the night of the 9th and 10th. The LEO Project sold commemorative T-shirts with his name, badge and the truck image on them to raise money for his mother, Debbie Edenhofer. It was a great success.”

The LEO Project planned a March 2020 fundraiser in Beverly Hills, but that was postponed due to the pandemic. 

“It’s been difficult to do our traditional fundraising events,” Sulahian says. “Hopefully soon we’ll be starting back. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of fallen and injured law enforcement officers across our nation. I’m eager to continue our efforts.”

So many folks, she says, do not understand or appreciate law enforcement officers’ jobs. 

“We go around in our day-to-day lives, ignorant to so much that is going on around us and the potential harm that is being precluded because of these great men and women in uniform,” Sulahian says. 

“They come to our aid. We forget they are our rescuers when there’s nobody else there. They are the ones who are there. They support, encourage and protect us. They tell us, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ That is not a little thing when you’re in the midst of a traumatic experience.”

As an example, Sulahian recalls a “terrible car crash” involving her mother and son. 

“I knew exactly what it was like to feel helpless and needing somebody to be there to help,” she says. “When I arrived on scene, it was a horrific sight. It was the officer on scene that kept me calm and gave me reassurance they were going to be ok. Thanks to all the first responders, my mother and son are still with us.”

Sulahian, who owns the successful firm Sulahian Law, says it is not a problem balancing the two endeavors. 

“When you have a love and passion for something, you don’t look at it as work or something that takes of your time. It’s a natural part of your daily existence.”


The LEO Project

yourleoproject.org

A Champion of Compassionate Care

Dia DuVernet is Pasadena Humane’s seasoned CEO 
By Jordan Houston

Despite earning a degree in social work and spending years working to improve the quality of life for vulnerable communities in need, Dia DuVernet says switching to animal welfare was a natural transition. 

The president and CEO of Pasadena Humane explains that in order to successfully work with animals, one must also be proficient in connecting with humans. 

DuVernet, a licensed clinical social worker and certified fundraising executive, worked with organizations serving vulnerable children and families prior to entering her current field. 

“The sheltering world has been evolving more and more to provide those human-animal support services,” DuVernet says. “We’re trying to work with people to keep their pets rather than having the first option to be having pets come into shelters.” 

As head of Pasadena Humane since June 2019, DuVernet has not only worked tirelessly to continue the organizations legacy of spearheading animal support services but to also expand.  

The organization is a donor-supported nonprofit that provides animal care and services for homeless and owned animals in the greater Los Angeles area.

“It’s just such an amazing organization with a great reputation,” she says. “It’s one of the leading organizations in animal welfare in the country.

“I work with a really talented staff of about 130 employees and have over 1,500 volunteers. We are so fortunate to have the support of the community both with our volunteers and with our donors.” 

Geared toward helping keep companion animals in “loving homes,” the Humane in 2020 achieved a combined 91.5% live release rate for dogs, cats and critters.

It also saved 100% of “healthy and safe” animals, according to its website.

“Our mission is compassion and care and to make sure that companion animals live in loving homes,” DuVernet says.

“And to help the community peacefully coexist with wildlife. We do both companion animal work and wildlife rehabilitation work. People are more familiar, I think, with our adoptions, but we also care for injured, orphaned and sick wildlife animals.” 

In 2014, Pasadena Humane doubled in size with the opening of its Animal Care Center. The campus features a low-cost public spay and neuter clinic, behavior and training center, updated dog boarding kennels and an expanded retail store. 

The organization opened the Neely Cat Center and Critter House a year later, which offers cats, rabbits and other critters an “inviting, dedicated space of their own.”

Pasadena Humane has since honed in on program development, DuVernet explains, including progressive sheltering practices focused on increasing adoptions, saving the lives of more animals and helping guardians keep their pets.

“We have just a beautiful campus that has evolved over the years that is a wonderful shelter for the animals who are in need of shelter,” DuVernet says. 

“The programs have grown and evolved as animal welfare has evolved, and we have a robust veterinary clinic and are able to treat animals with medical needs.” 

The president and CEO says she is extremely proud of the nonprofit’s outreach programs. 

The education programs are tailored toward informing the public about compassionate care for wildlife and companion animals alike. 

“Our outreach into the community is really important in terms of having our wildlife education in the community,” DuVernet explains, citing the Humane’s youth education and mobile wagon, which showcases animals up for adoption throughout different areas of the community. 

Boasting a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University and a master’s degree in social work from Smith College, DuVernet was raised in Albany, Georgia. The youngest of five girls, she recalls loving animals from her early days — citing her family’s German shepherd mix named Moses, a Pekingese called Missy, and Puff the cat.

Before moving to Pasadena, DuVernet lived in Virginia, where she was the president and CEO of the Virginia Beach SPCA. She also previously worked as vice president at The Up Center, a Virginia nonprofit organization improving the quality of life for children and families.

“I love working for a mission-driven organization that makes lives better both for the animals and the people who love them,” DuVernet shares. “Especially during challenging times like this.”

Throughout the pandemic, DuVernet says the sheltering world has seen a shift in people’s desires to adopt pets — for the better. 

More and more people are looking to care for animal companions to keep them company during times of social isolation, she says. 

“What we saw during the pandemic was a real increase in people’s interest in adopting pets,” DuVernet says. “We had a huge outpouring of support from volunteers, and it’s really changed the face of sheltering.”

As far as next steps, Duvernet says the Pasadena Humane is looking to incorporate adoptions by appointments only, as well as allowing fewer visitors into the shelter at a time. 

“The animals benefited because it was quieter,” DuVernet explains. “They were able to sleep more and were less stressed, and healthier.

“We’re trying to take what we’ve learned from the animals and take into what we hope to be a post-pandemic world by doing service appointments.” 

DuVernet is proud of her position. 

“Whenever people hear you work with the Humane, you can see joy in their eyes,” DuVernet says. “They want to show you pictures of their pets. It’s a very happy place. The people who are involved are so dedicated and engaged and talented. I’ve really enjoyed the switch.” 


Pasadena Humane

361 S. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena

626-792-7151, pasadenahumane.org


Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run

Nonprofit fundraiser for the animals returns
By Pasadena Weekly Staff

Pasadena Humane’s 23rd Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run is set for Sunday, September 19, at Brookside Park at the Rose Bowl.

The organization hopes to raise $250,000 to help save the lives of thousands of animals with programs like foster care, kitten nursery, animal ICU and a pet food bank. 

This family- and canine-friendly community fundraiser features in-person activities including a 1-mile or 5K walk or run around the Rose Bowl, a vendor village with goodies and giveaways for pets and people, a doggy costume contest and agility course. Attendees do not need a dog to join the fun — just a desire to help animals.  

“We are thrilled that the Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run will return to Brookside Park at the Rose Bowl for its 23rd year,” says Dia DuVernet, the organization’s president and CEO. “I’m looking forward to celebrating this day with our supporters and their beloved canine friends, while raising money to support the lifesaving work of Pasadena Humane.” 

Animal lovers are encouraged to fundraise for the animals by registering as an individual or as part of a team on the Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run website and asking family, friends and coworkers for donations. Participants can win prizes and compete to take home the title of top fundraiser, top donor or top fundraising team. 

For the first time, registrants can choose to attend the in-person event or participate virtually. General and virtual registration is $50 through noon Friday, September 17. 

On-site registration will be $65. All registered participants will receive a limited-edition Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run T-shirt, bandana, bib and medal. 

On the day, event check-in and the vendor village open at 8 a.m. at Brookside Park. The walk and run begins at 9 a.m. and festivities, including contests, vendor booths, team photos, food trucks and music, will continue until 11 a.m. Brookside Park is located at 360 N. Arroyo Boulevard in Pasadena. City of Pasadena COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced.

For more information and to register, visit wigglewagglewalk.org. 

An Eye for Detail

Realtor Chelby Crawford puts her clients first
By Kamala Kirk

For more than 20 years, Realtor Chelby Crawford has helped her clients achieve their real estate goals when buying or selling a home. 

Prior to pursuing a career in the real estate industry, she owned an antique store and café. Although her attraction to real estate goes back to when she was a young child, Crawford became even more interested in real estate when she bought her first home in Pasadena.  

“I moved to Pasadena in 1994 and became very interested in real estate through that experience of buying my first house,” Crawford says. “I came from Manhattan Beach, and this area was so different to me with all of the history, beautiful neighborhoods and architecture. It’s such a beautiful community, and I have really grown to love it. I absolutely love it.”

Crawford started working at Coldwell Banker in San Marino before moving to Dilbeck Real Estate, where she worked for many years. She ultimately returned to Coldwell Banker. Crawford specializes in the high-end luxury markets in Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, La Canada Flintridge and surrounding cities. She works with a diverse clientele and has represented everyone from CEOs and athletes to first-timer buyers.

“When I started at Coldwell Banker, I was working with the Realtor who sold me my house,” Crawford says. “I specialized in relocation and catered my business to high-profile individuals.”

Clients enjoy working with Crawford because of her vast knowledge and experience, as well as the positive experience she provides.

“People love that I’m calm and patient,” Crawford says. “I’m not a salesperson; I help guide them. I open the pathway for them to discover what they are seeking. I have long-term clients that I’ve had for multiple decades, and my business is based on repeat and referral.”

When Crawford was younger, she studied art history and traveled all across Europe. She spent some time living in France and speaks fluent French. A perfectionist at heart, Crawford combines her love for interior design and art with her passion for real estate to help showcase each unique property that she represents.

“Interior design goes hand in hand with real estate, and I used to do interior design when I had my antique store,” Crawford says. “Helping clients prepare their property for the market to look pristine and perfect is one of my specialties when it comes to selling a house, because I have a certain way of doing things that’s effective.”

Crawford offers a 360-degree approach to marketing and caters her marketing plan very specifically to each home and each seller’s needs. She also has a passion for writing and spends a lot of time curating the perfect copy for each listing.

The real estate industry remained extremely busy during 2020, and Crawford noticed that clients didn’t want to wait any longer to have their dream home.

“Owning the perfect home became so important to people, and many were moving out of the denser parts of the city for more space and to be closer to nature,” Crawford says. “They all want their dream homes now and aren’t as willing to compromise like they were before.”

Crawford is also very community oriented and has held numerous leadership roles for local charitable organizations and events. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors. Last year, she received the International Presidents Elite Award from Coldwell Banker.

She is also a board member for Gateways Hospital, which provides a variety of mental health services to communities in Los Angeles.

“There are so many troubling issues with mental illness, and I want to be part of the solution in any way that I can,” Crawford says. 

One of the things that Crawford loves most about working in the real estate industry is meeting new people and creating lifelong relationships.

“I never lose track of my clients, and we keep in close contact. It makes you feel like you’ve become part of their family because you’re so intricately involved in one of the most important events in their life,” Crawford says. “It’s emotional, and they rely on you so much. Then, when it’s time for them to make another big change, you come back into the fold. Every experience is a new one, because people have so many different situations and needs. The experiences I have had through the years only gets better and better.” 

For more information, visit chelbycrawford.com. 

The tree of Life

Debra Manners shares Sycamores’ missionBy Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Debra Manners calls her time with Sycamores her “life’s work.”

For 35 years, Manners has had executive roles with the mental health and welfare agency that has 10 locations throughout Southern California.

“I think I’m just motivated because there’s a lot to do,” says Manners, the president and chief executive officer. “As you know, in particular these last two years, we’ve seen the impact of COVID on families and children and people’s mental health. What inspires me are the success stories and the people we work with and the staff.”

For nearly 120 years, Sycamores has offered programs and services through a network of locations stretching across Los Angeles and the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Antelope valleys for children, youth, young adults and families facing serious life challenges.

The behavioral health services impact more than 16,000 lives annually. Services include residential treatment, transitional shelter care, foster care and adoption, transitional living assistance for young adults currently or at risk of experiencing homelessness, outpatient and school-based mental health services, wraparound/in-home services, psychiatric services, psychological testing and educational support services. 

Manners has worked for Sycamores for nearly 35 years in increasingly responsible roles. With 800 employees, the organization recently dropped Hathaway from its name because it “didn’t sound like a nonprofit.

“People would say it sounded like we’re a law firm. We did a survey of staff, considers and other partners and asked, ‘Hathaway or Sycamores?’ A little over 52% said Sycamores. It works with our mission because the tree (logo) is the tree of life and it’s more calming.”

The name remained with the Hathaway Center for Excellence, which was established in 2007 when Sycamores created a separate department to conduct research and evaluate the effectiveness of the agency’s programs. 

The department has since expanded to include clinical training. It provides enhanced learning in behavioral health care to the staff and peer professionals. Hathaway Center for Excellence’s methods, products and resources are centered on evidence-based practices and implementation science principles.The Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently awarded a $1.9 million grant to the center.

Early start

Manners spent her formative years in Washington State and studied art in college. She says she believed she couldn’t support herself as an artist, so she taught art at a women’s prison. 

“Their stories were incredible,” she says. “I felt just awful for these women because of the wrong choices they had made. At the same time, I was working at a children’s shelter. These were the children who were removed due to abuse and neglect, those kids who had parents in prison.”

She says she thought to herself, “This has got to change. This isn’t OK.” Quickly, she pivoted and studied social work as an undergraduate and a master’s student. 

“We see what’s going on in the world because of technology,” she says. “There’s a struggle to help people. Clearly, we see it now with the homeless population. We run a homeless program for transitional aged youth between 18 and 25. 

“Many of them were in the youth foster care system. The one thing that’s so common is they either don’t have families or the families don’t have the resources to support them. They may have the desire and motivation, but they don’t have the resources. It comes down to these individuals having resources.”

Manners can relate. Early in her career, she had a foster child named Eric, who entered the family’s life at 14. When he was 18, he went into the Army and subsequently attended college. He works as a teacher. (Manners preferred not to reveal Eric’s last name.)

Manners has three daughters, too — Hilary, who works at the Ronald McDonald House; Amanda, an interior designer turned stay-at-home mom; and Andrea, a college student.

A better life

Sycamores’ new tagline is “a better life,” which has a personal meaning, Manners says. 

“It means something different to everyone,” she adds. “At Sycamores, we work really hard to help kids, families, adults and young adults achieve a better life for what that means to them. 

“We want it to involve family and friends. We want successes to be able to be sustainable and take care of themselves. For many, it’s a long journey to get there. One thing about the agency is we do whatever it takes. We stay with you as long as it takes.”

With managed care, patients are limited to 10 to 12 sessions. 

“That’s not who we are,” Manners continues. “We often have those who we work with do really well and say goodbye. Two years later, they call us for a quick tune up and they’re back on their own. We try to make sure that people get what they need.”

Sycamores has an “interesting” model for homeless folks, she says. Sycamores provides what she calls “scattered-site apartments.”

“We lease a two-bedroom apartment in a building,” she begins. “Sometimes it’s a mom and a baby in an apartment, so we lease that apartment for them. We work on mental health issues. They go to school or get a job so they can be sustainable. 

“They can stay with us up until age 25. For most individuals, it takes about two years and then they’re on their own.”

The program works well because clients learn to follow rules, she says. In group homes, residents are disciplined, something that continues on their own.

“Ours is a different model than what you typically see. We started that program many years ago, in 2001. A foundation helped us, and we started this program. It’s certainly grown. Some of the young adults who come out of foster care come back and work for us. They have a lot of credibility because they were in the system themselves.”

Looking back on her 35 years with the organization, Manners has a quick comment. 

“I’m still in my career and, at some point, I’ll retire,” she says. “There’s just a lot to do. There’s a lot going on all the time.”


Sycamores

www.sycamores.org

‘I’m So Grateful’

Hasblady Guzman’s son and clients keep Bokaos afloat
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Hasblady Guzman shares that her Aveda-affiliated salon, Bokaos, has a loyal client base. 

That’s an understatement. 

Throughout the pandemic, salon clients maintained Guzman’s morale — and business — by paying for services in advance, purchasing products, and texting supportive messages to her. 

“They kept texting me and sending pictures of their hair undone,” Guzman says. “They would write, ‘I am waiting until you do my hair.’ They’d offer a high premium to go into their homes to do their hair. They wouldn’t accept that I would come for less. We never lost touch. There was this big fervor to help me out. I’m so grateful.”

Now, Guzman is working to rebuild the 4,000-square-foot Bokaos Aveda Salon’s business and clientele. 

Styling is in her DNA

As a child in Colombia, she grew up watching her mother make women feel beautiful and confident in her salon.

“Seeing my mother help women feel better than when they came in was awe-inspiring. At a young age I saw how powerful it was to provide a great service — making someone feel uplifted,” Guzman says. 

She quickly learned responsibility in her formative years.

“At 12, I was taking deposits on my bicycle and making change for her,” Guzman says. “She would give me hundreds of pesos, and I would get her change. Nobody ever bothered me or questioned it.”

Guzman was offered a full-ride scholarship to UC Santa Barbara but chose to join her family business. She’s never looked back.

In 1982, Guzman and her family escaped the dangers of Pablo Escobar’s reign and fled their native Colombia to find a better life in the United States. She learned English by watching American television, and at the age of 21 she opened her first hair salon, Renaissance Hair Studio in Glendale.

“Being in the business this long, it’s much more normal,” Guzman says about being a female business owner.

“At the beginning, when I was 21, people would say, ‘Where’s the owner? Where is he?’ It’s been nice to show that a woman and an immigrant can make it if you stay focused. I don’t take no for an answer.”

In 2002, she expanded by opening a second salon, Bokaos Aveda Pasadena, and eventually a third location followed in Glendale in 2008. In 2009, she moved all three businesses to one beautiful loft location with hardwood floors and a soaring chandelier in the heart of Old Town Pasadena.

At the salon she is joined by her brother, Alfred. 

Pandemic pivot

Guzman is hiring and training staff these days, and she’s ready for any service new or established clients may desire. Pre-pandemic, she would have ordered what she needed 

“I’m purchasing everything for any service that I offer,” Guzman says. “I purchase hair extensions, every hair color on the planet. I’ve added brands. Whatever I’m promoting, I make sure I’m ready to deliver. Someone wants extensions? I have hair on hand. I didn’t before. I would order things.”

If Guzman did not have products on hand, she fears clients would spend their money elsewhere because women are selfless. 

“They will spend money on their kids, their husband or their house,” she explains. “Women put themselves last. I have to be ready to deliver. They feel guilty spending money on themselves.”

A stylist for 31 years, Guzman sees her clients’ children now. 

“Many of them have daughters who want highlights, balayage and extensions,” she says. “I think I’m part of their family. 

“I met them when they were single — no marriage, no kids, nothing. Now, the kids are taller than me, and I’m doing color and cuts.”

Extensions are her forte because they make women look younger and “so different.” Guzman does extensions three ways — keratin, I-tip and tape.

“When you take a woman who feels she doesn’t look as soft or young as she used to and put hair on her, it takes 10 years off. When she has shiny hair and it’s thick, it’s always a sign of youth. It really helps a woman come to life when she has hair like that.”

She is also a blond specialist and knows how to take someone safely to blond and with the right tones.

“We use Aveda color. It is 98% natural and all the packaging is 100% recyclable, which is incredible,” Guzman says. “They spend a lot of money in the way they package and are very honest as a brand. Right now, we have Nutriplenish, a moisturizing line that Aveda just came out with. It helps dry, stressed hair and makes it soft. It’s a great line for hair in California.”

What it all comes down to is her customers’ happiness.

“You have to have a lot of heart to be a small-business owner,” she says. “In my business, it’s important to remember the value of great relationships with your guests and staff.”

Guzman is a dedicated member of the Pasadena community, supporting Hillsides. She fundraises for their gala every year with cut-athons, service donations and clothing donations for the kids. She has been featured on KTLA 5 with Dayna Devon, and Guzman does the hair of several news anchors. Guzman is proud to announce that she will be doing the hair of all seven Rose Queens for 2021 and 2022. 

Her 22-year-old son, Kostas, helped her make it through the pandemic. He took on several jobs to lend a hand financially.  

“He’s been taking college courses online,” she says. “He took a quarter off, and he’s been working at the salon. Whatever help I need, he’s there. He has helped me with legal affairs and is part of what makes the salon happen. My other boy, Lucca, just went off to college. I also cannot hold back from mentioning my staff. I am very thankful for them as well. I’m very fortunate, I have to say.”

Bokaos Aveda Salon

One Colorado

52 Hugus Alley, Pasadena

626-304-0007, bokaosaveda.com

Coming Up Roses

Meredith Thomas leads the PR charge at the stadium
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Born and raised in Pasadena, Meredith Thomas loved the buzz around the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl events. 

After graduating Trinity University in Illinois, she spent three years in the Midwest working for Motorola. The call of Pasadena was so strong that she returned to become the Rose Bowl Stadium’s director of communications six years ago. 

“I was away for about six years in Illinois until I missed home,” Thomas says. “The tournament, everything that happens here in Pasadena is so iconic. I’ve been here ever since.”

Now Thomas is ramping up to help the Rose Bowl Stadium celebrate a landmark anniversary: its centennial year. The 100th anniversary campaign will begin on October 28, which is the venue’s 99th birthday. 

“We will be revealing a new logo and new cool, fun features and a whole lineup of events,” she says. “We thought, ‘How do we continue to make our brand know and emphasize that we’re going into the centennial year?’ Our trademark and branding are huge for us.”

This project, which began a year and a half ago, is important to Thomas. 

“I joke all the time that I won’t be around for the next 100. I want to enjoy this,” she says. 

No two days are the same for Thomas, the Rose Bowl Stadium’s communications director.

“We have UCLA and the Rose Bowl that happen annually,” she says. “But from concerts to soccer to music festivals that take place on our golf course, it changes all the time. We’ve had incredible opportunities, too. We’ve had the Rolling Stones and U2. They’re such iconic concerts that have happened here at the stadium.”

The staff at the Rose Bowl Stadium took the COVID-19 pandemic well. They couldn’t host events inside the venue, but the team continued to provide for the community by issuing meals to Pasadena Unified School District families on the weekend. 

“We provided weekend meals for families,” Thomas says. “The parents either lost their jobs or were unable to work as they had to care for their children at home. We got to stand up in that moment.”

The Rose Bowl Stadium also served as a COVID-19 testing site during the pandemic. 

“Using the facility to give back to the community in times of need is at the forefront of our mission,” Thomas adds.

Her road to her Rose Bowl Stadium position was smooth. She tried out for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Royal Court, went through the process and met folks in the public relations department. She eventually interned during summer breaks from college for nearly four years. 

Once she graduated, she was offered a full-time position. For nearly two years, she worked in publication relations and as the parade media coordinator. 

She left to work in Motorola’s communications department in 2013 but came back to Pasadena in June 2015. Her Rose Bowl Stadium position is a great conversation piece, she says. 

“The Rose Bowl Stadium and the Rose Parade are what really put Pasadena on the map,” she says. “When I go on an airplane and people ask me where I’m from and I say ‘Pasadena,’ 90% of the time people know exactly where you’re talking about. It’s such an iconic location. To have a very small handprint on what happens here is such an amazing opportunity. I wake up grateful for it every day.”

Committed to Success

Knowledge and trust are keys to Hythe Realty’s growth

By Kamala Kirk

Navigating the real estate market can be extremely challenging, especially nowadays, which is why it’s essential to work with seasoned experts who have thorough knowledge of the industry. 

Vera Nelson and Barbara King founded Hythe Realty Inc., a Pasadena-based agency that covers all of Southern California. They focus on serving their clients and the community’s real estate needs.

“Barbara and I had worked together on different deals over the years, and I’ve always had a very deep respect for her ethics and integrity,” Nelson says. “We cultivated a business relationship, but also had a deep friendship based on trust, respect and loyalty. We knew the market was changing, and given our years of experience, we knew real estate would not be done the same way moving forward.”

King adds, “We’re prepared for any change in the market. We’ve survived the various cycles and help our clients survive through it as well.”

Nelson has worked in the industry for more than 20 years and was previously a top producer at Century 21 Master-San Marino and Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage/CB Realty. King is a veteran Realtor who has been voted Realtor of the Year multiple times. 

“As a third-generation Pasadenan, I love this community, the San Gabriel Valley and all it has to offer, from its residents and culture to the architecture,” King says. “It’s an amazing community filled with incredible people. We’re here to help people, and we’re of the mindset that good enough is not good enough for us. We’re looking for excellence in everything that we do for our clients as well as the experience that we offer. It’s our clients’ needs and dreams that we’re really focused on. Real estate can be a very emotional experience for people, and we are able to help them through the entire process.”

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Nelson and King joined forces to start Hythe Realty. The name is based on the Old English word for a small harbor or landing place.

“We were looking for the definition of a safe haven, and the name came organically,” Nelson says. “Our logo represents people’s roots and their home, all the way to their dreams and beyond.”

Hythe Realty’s team has grown to 13 licensed Realtors in just over a year. The agency has recruited a diverse group of talent that includes former Google engineers. Its roster also has a marketing director, business manager and in-house designer. Nelson and King train all team members, as Hythe Realty’s mission is providing service first. 

“We’re inclusive, and we’re one of the few women-owned brokerages out there,” Nelson says. “We’re not like other corporations, and we get to do what is best for each client. We’re keeping the integrity of the business. We’re growing exponentially. We’re investing so much in our team and creating the next generation of Realtors.”

Hythe Realty offers an extensive list of services that includes everything from real estate transactions and consultations to staging and revitalizing homes. Nelson, King and their team work with clients to help them achieve the maximum value for their property whether they are buying, selling or renovating. They also work with a vast network of professionals and service providers during each step of the process — even after a home is sold.

“We don’t just say goodbye when the keys and transaction are done,” Nelson says. “We care about our relationships with our clients. Our trusted network speaks for itself; people call us long after they’ve received their keys when they need something. We’ve put together a great team of lenders, stagers and others who are the best of the best. That has taken years to develop, and we share those resources with our clients.” 

King adds, “When you’re selling or buying, you need movers, painters and more. We have a tried-and-true resource list of service providers as well as professional attorneys who we have worked with. In a single real estate transaction, there are upward of 20 or more collaborative businesses that are involved.”

From first-time buyers to high-end luxury real estate, Hythe Realty prides itself on working the entire gamut of real estate. Many satisfied clients have left positive reviews for the company, thanking it for helping them navigate challenging negotiations and praising its knowledge and positive attitudes. 

“It’s not just Vera’s years of experience and innate brilliance as a real estate professional or her ethics, honesty and integrity that give her an edge; there’s so much more,” say Trisha and Rob Reece, who are longtime clients. “Within Hythe Realty, Vera has assembled a network of professionals such as stagers, video producers and mortgage brokers. If she doesn’t know the answer, she knows someone who does. Her own knowledge extends beyond the Los Angeles housing market and the ever-changing laws, statutes and regulations in California to architecture and construction.”

Hythe Realty is also dedicated to serving the community and does work for organizations such as Black Girls Code, Surfrider Foundation USA and the Pasadena Educational Foundation, among others. They also come together to help veterans.  

“We love veterans,” Nelson says. “There are a lot of veterans that have been disappointed by not being able to purchase homes. We get into the trenches, move forward and help those that served us get the blessings they deserve. We wouldn’t be here without them.”

Looking ahead to the future, Hythe Realty is moving to a new office location in town in the coming months and plans to continue to grow and expand the team. Most important of all, Nelson and King look forward to continuing to provide clients with the excellent service they’ve earned a reputation for.

“I love the communication and connection I have with clients during their journey,” King says. “Whether they’re buying or selling, they need support and guidance, and I love being that person they can turn to. I really enjoy seeing families get their first home, and now children of my clients are coming to me for their first homes.” 

Nelson adds, “It means a lot to have so many people believe in our women-owned brand. When people hear about Hythe Realty, they have a good definition of who we are. And we will continue to go out of our way to make a difference in their lives.”

Hythe Realty Inc.

hytherealty.com 

1-800-674-7989

Products with Soul

Mokuyobi adds a splash of color to functional backpacks

By Olivia Dow 

Julie Pinzur saw a “hole in the market” for fun and functional backpacks, so she created them herself. 

In 2006, she founded South Pasadena-based Mokuyobi and splashed color all over the industry with her design of backpacks and other accessories. Soon she is opening a store in Downtown LA.

“My whole goal is to bring the ultimate mashing of fun and function together,” Pinzur says. “It actually works. It’s functional. It’s quality made.” 

With Mokuyobi, Pinzur designs bags, accessories and apparel, led by bold colors, magic and “awesome sauce” — and they’re all produced locally in LA. That’s been a priority for Pinzur.

“We make everything with local Los Angeles contractors,” she says. “We support our local community. That’s always been super important to me. I’m working with people who make the products. It feels very personal, which I like. I feel that creating a product with a soul means something, which is special.” 

Pinzur has been sewing and constructing bags for 20 years, and she created all of the bag samples. This connection, she says she believes, makes Mokuyobi special. 

“This way you can score bags, apparel, hats and patches that are not only seriously cool products but also make sense for your day to day,” she says.

“We definitely don’t aim to blend in. Color and usability are frontiers that we are always exploring. We enjoy taking a different approach to bag shapes, styles and palettes that haven’t been done before.”

The bright colors immediately have an effect on people, Pinzur explains. The products, whether it’s the citrus fanny packs or the colorful T-shirts, bring smiles to people’s faces. 

“When it comes down to it, everyone just wants to have a good time,” she says. 

Mokuyobi, or , means Thursday in Japanese. To Pinzur, Thursday is the best day of the week because there is “always something to look forward to.”

“Whether it’s Thursday, your buddy’s party, vacation time or a hot date, there are always good things coming that spark excitement,” she says. “We strive to create that same spark in you when your Mokuyobi package arrives.”

Mokuyobi’s bags hold everything one needs in an easy-to-access and functional bag. The choices are creative. Square mesh backpacks ($65 to $70) are creative, as are the new citrus fruit collection ($75), which puts a cool spin on fanny packs.

“I love the idea of your backpack being your on-the-go house,” she says. “It’s everything you need, all of your necessities for what you need when you’re not at home. You bring your style from your home décor and have it be fun and functional.”

All Mokuyobi bags and backpacks have lifetime warranty and a guarantee from manufacturer’s defects.

“We always are here to fix it for free,” Pinzur says. 

She loves to design her accessories, clothing and bags. The clothing is just as fun, with color-blocked T-shirts (starting at $46) and others that appear to have a splash of paint ($46). She says when she sketches the plans, she loves to see the drawing come to life. 

“I don’t overly focus on trends, I try to follow my heart in terms of construction and design and what I think would be helpful to offer someone,” Pinzur says. 

Pinzur is looking forward to opening a storefront in DTLA after working from her Pasadena office for years. 

“We are opening our first store in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles,” she says. “That has been my goal since I started the brand. I’ve always wanted to have a real brick-and-mortar store.

“It’s been really fun to interact with customers, and even people coming from out of town will visit. It’s so exciting to have an actual store people can come to and they’re not walking into our office. It’s more of a professional store setting, which is really exciting for me.”