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Homie Calls Manhattan Beach Home

May 16, 2018 02:33PM ● Published by Jeanne Fratello

Photo credit: homie Manhattan Beach

Homie, the new cafe and shop on Highland Ave., is all about Manhattan Beach - from its owner and staff, to its locally sourced foods, to its carefully curated collection of gifts by up-and-coming artisans. The cafe had a soft opening earlier this week and is already drawing crowds due to word of mouth among its many local supporters.

"The whole 'hometown' thing has always resonated with me," said Homie owner and lifelong resident Kelley Bailey Haley, who grew up in an original 1922 beach bungalow at the edge of downtown Manhattan Beach. "I always identify with this city."

As for the name, she said: "If you look up the word 'homie,' it has many meanings, but to me it means friendship, connectedness, the feeling that you belong somewhere."

The front part of homie is a cafe that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - with well-known local chef Jason LeClair at the helm. On the menu is fresh and local food, including meats from Manhattan Meats ("These guys have been feeding me for the last 56 years," said Haley), as well as produce from local farmers' markets, baked goods delivered each morning from El Segundo and seafood from a family fishery in San Pedro. Haley notes that there's no freezer or walk-in, so the food has to be fresh.

Haley, a coffee fanatic, is also especially proud of Homie's Verve coffee, which comes straight from the farm where it is harvested and has developed a cult-like following because of its fresh flavor. "These coffee beans are fresh - there's no vacuum sealing - so they last no longer than a month," she said.

Behind the cafe is a cozy couch and a small boutique featuring the work of up-and-coming local artisans, as curated by Haley's longtime friend, stylist Robin LeBowe. The collection includes cardstock, textiles, jewelry, candles, pottery, and more.

"All of the artists make their own goods - nothing is produced in a factory - and each artist has a story," said Haley, who notes that the artists' stories are featured in a small book at the shop. "Their goal is to be 'seen,' and our goal is to carry something that no one else has seen."

Local Roots

Although the homie space came together in just seven short weeks, the cafe/shop represents the culmination of a lifetime of connections and experiences that brought Haley to this place.

Haley essentially grew up in downtown Manhattan Beach, where all of the shopkeepers knew her and her sister. She held a variety of different jobs in the restaurant industry, including serving as the first female bartender at Ercole's. She maintains a close relationship with the Guidone family, owners of Mangiamo Ristorante and the former Talia's. "I always wanted to open a restaurant, and I give them [the Guidones] one hundred percent of the credit for the inspiration," she said.

Haley went on to finish nursing school and spent 28 years as a nurse specializing in pediatric brain tumors before she retired, and as she describes it, "got bored quickly." She soon returned to her dream of opening a restaurant, and when the space (the former home of the Nikau Kai Cafe and shop) became available, things started falling into place quickly.

As she settled into the space, she began to experience the strong sense of connectedness that runs through the town and its businesses. She noted that her closest neighbors - Simmzy's, The Kettle, and Sharks Cove - have welcomed her with open arms and stepped up to offer her various supplies when she unexpectedly ran out of small items during her first trial days. "These guys have been amazing," she said. "The doors just opened up and people brought stuff over."

She also said she was touched by a meaningful gift from her new neighbors at Right Tribe - who knew that she collected hourglasses and brought her an antique ship's hourglass as a welcome present.

And her mother, who still lives in the original beach bungalow nearby, recently stopped by with a basket of homemade scones to thank the staff for their hard work.

Looking ahead, Haley said she hopes to continue on with some of the same small-town traditions that she grew up with, such as offering a "kids' tab" for kids to ring up charges at the cafe on a special account under their parents' names. She also wants to make sure that all kids feel welcome - even and especially the ones who are coming in from Junior Guards. "I'm not worried about them coming in with sand on their feet," she said.

Haley added that she's enormously grateful that the town has welcomed her so openly in just a few short days, and she looks forward to the opportunity to "pay it forward" in the community. It's a journey that has been full of "sweet surprises," she said. "Everything just keeps clicking."

homie is located at 1140 Highland Ave. in Manhattan Beach. It is open seven days per week: Sunday through Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Friday/Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Phone: 310-546-HOME (4663).

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