The next three week’s might be The Stand’s last stand. 

Alizabeth “Alisa” Arciniaga, owner of The (venerable) Stand Natural Foods Restaurant since 2015, says she simply can’t afford its upkeep nor the prospect of surviving another long Laguna Beach winter.

“It makes me sad that this could be the end of an era,” she told me. “But at some point, you’ve just got to be realistic. After I took over ownership on Feb. 10, 2015, I had to take on a second full-time job in the mortgage industry to help The Stand survive the winter months, and I’ve had to hold on to that job ever since.”

Additionally,  Arciniaga says that because she doesn’t have a long-term lease with her landlord, she simply doesn’t have anything of a business to sell “but a few refrigerators and about eight million juicers.” Unless “a white knight” steps in to keep this historical favorite alive, Arciniaga plans to close The Stand on Sept. 5th, the day after Labor Day.

Brancard Expanded The Stand’s Offerings Beginning in 1975

The Stand girls. Alizabeth Arciniaga, pictured in front, was hired her freshman year.

The Stand Natural Foods Restaurant was first established in 1975 by Edward Brancard when he purchased the initial store, Hav’AStand, from the Laguna Beach-based Dunn family, the originators behind the wildly popular Hav’A Chips.

Under Brancard’s direction, The Stand quickly grew in regional popularity as a vegan-only establishment, serving up vegan smoothies, sandwiches and heartier dinner options.  

Alizabeth Arciniaga first entered the picture as a freshman in high school. An original Laguna Beach native, she was “one of many Sawdust rats” – a kid of an artist – as her Dad, Alfredo, displayed there and at the Festival of Arts. Brancard hired her to work at The Stand that initial summer, and she worked full time there, five days a week and even double shifts on weekends. 

Longtime Stand customer Debbie Faber, left, eventually hired Alizabeth, right, away from The Stand to work at her escrow company.

As she was finishing her junior year at LBHS, a frequent customer to The Stand, Debbi Faber, asked Alizabeth to come to work for her, answering phones at her escrow company.

“A customer from The Stand actually gave me a career,” mused Alizabeth. This occurred almost simultaneously with Alizabeth moving into a tiny Dana Point apartment with a fellow-Stand girlfriend so that she could continue to finish her senior year at LBHS.

“Clearly, The Stand was like a launching point for me, and I know it’s launched a boatload of Laguna high schoolers into new directions every single year it’s been open,” she said.  

Alizabeth Maintains the Nostalgia, Brings back Old Favorites

The Stand Natural Foods Restaurant Owners, left, Edward Brancard (1975-2015) and Alizabeth Arciniaga (2015 to present).

Fast forward to 2015 when a newly divorced Alizabeth moved back to The OC from L.A. and approached Brancard about buying The Stand, yet another launching point for Alizabeth. True to her word, she maintained Brancard’s extensive and creative menu, even adding in favorites again from the 1970s that she had loved. 

“It was important to keep that feeling of 1970s nostalgia in the place, too,” said Alizabeth. “People still come up to us today and talk about the first time they visited The Stand 30 or more years ago, and they’re charmed that it’s got the same energy and feel they remembered,” she said.       

Over these last eight years, both of Arciniaga’s children have worked at The Stand, but they’ve since graduated from college and have moved on with their own careers. Meanwhile, Alizabeth’s dad, Alfredo, is 83 and in need of help. “He’s lived in Halycon near San Luis Obispo since I was in high school because he says it reminds him of old-time Laguna Beach,” she said.

The Stand’s famed avocado sandwich

Say Your Goodbyes Before Sept. 5th
“We still juice all of our juices fresh every morning and moms know to come in with their kids for soft serve because it’s 100% fruit. It’s hard to find anything comparable,” she noted. 
I think Laguna Beach residents and the thousands of regular visitors to The Stand Natural Foods would say there’s nothing comparable. If you can’t think of anyone who could possibly take over this business, then at least come in before Sept. 5th for your last avocado sandwich and say goodbye to the end of an era.

(Cover photo credit: Douglas Miller, 1985)

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