El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Cynthia Robertson

Artists usually find that the most challenging aspect of their work is marketing. Trying to mix art with business is like mixing colors that don’t work together. But a wonderful set-up in La Mesa, called the Business Center of La Mesa, headed up by Phil Mann, has made a match made in heaven for art and business.

An article that she read in Parade magazine and her love for books led Heather Sheppard to start up something big in La Mesa. The story was about Todd Bol, a schoolteacher in Hudson, Wisconsin, who started up his Little Free Library project in 2009.

The first thing customers notice when they walk into the door of The Elegant Man in downtown El Cajon is the European look of the place. The shop is bold, bright and light. Owner Mike Odeesho greets customers with a dashing smile, offering help or advice with size and style.

His wife Elena greets customers, too, from the desk in the back where she helps with the paperwork. Their 4-year-old Lynette sits quietly nearby, playing games on her own little IPad.

The landscape of Mission Trails Park is never the same from moment to moment. Last Saturday, fat, puffy clouds skittered across the sky, deepening the color of the peaks and valleys in the park. Shadows moved across the trees and over the boulders. It was the kind of scene that Joan Hansen loved to paint.

Downtown La Mesa is a favorite destination spot for people to dine, shop and hang out. Its tree-lined streets, low-lying buildings and cobblestone streets invite people for a small town Main Street experience.

Since March of 2008, the City Council has been working behind-the-scenes to make the village even more attractive. The council authorized the allocation of $300K from the Downtown Parking Fund to prepare the Downtown Village Streetscape Improvement Program, according to the city’s website.

El Cajon resident Hazel Ross is highly regarded as a mentor of artists in East County. Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, the lady puts all artists, whether they are young, old and inexperienced at ease. More than that, she encourages them to reach for their highest potential. Ross credits her mother with teaching her the value of art.“She believed in exposing a child to cultural experience. She took me to see Hamlet when I was eight,” she said.

As people take one more bite of spinach-artichoke dip at parties and festivities, they might be asking if all the extra calories were worth it during this holiday season. What’s more, if they are over 55 years, taking pounds off can be even more of a challenge. 

All the recent rain and cold nights give people a sweet tooth. While chocolate is a must-have, caramel is a close second for its creamy, rich tones bringing back childhood memories. Le Caramel in El Cajon satisfies that craving with their creation of candies, sauces and other products.

Vincent and Christen Kugener are at the helm of Le Caramel, which maintains the tradition of caramel making from the South of France.

Big billowy clouds surrounded the peaks at Mission Trails Regional Park when Robie Arnolds, a teacher of fine arts of Valhalla High School, breezed into the Visitors’ Center. She walked over to where her students’ artwork hung on the walls.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” she said to the front desk receptionist. “And the art looks lovely in the natural light here. My compliments to Vicki DeLong, who is a master at displaying the work.”

Three women in La Mesa have tapped into the power of playing music together. The three of them strum their ukuleles in retirement homes and sing-along concerts to bring joy to others. They call themselves the Ukulele Babes.

Lorraine Whaley and Sara Megling started their group in 2010, playing together at the Kroc Center just for fun. Anastasia Berkheimer joined them in 2012. For three years, the women have played and sung at a senior living facility and a nursing home and, sometimes, at the Joan Kroc Center.