Brass Tack is the Finishing Touch to Laguna’s Lifestyle

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While driving home after a day of shopping, Kristin Winter’s daughter complimented her on her new bracelet. Looking down, horrified, she abruptly made a u-turn back to Brass Tack to return the bracelet she had just unknowingly shoplifted. She knew that sneaking the rogue merch back into the store would have appeared fishy, so instead she bit the bullet, owned her embarrassment and, setting a good example for her young daughter, handed it back to Brass Tack’s shopkeeper, Melissa Kanarek, explaining the situation.

After that encounter, Kanarek would jokingly refer to Winter as a shoplifter and tell her employees in jest to keep an eye on her whenever she visited the store. The two became close friends. When an opportunity presented itself to open a new Brass Tack location three times the size of the original, Kanarek gave her friend an ultimatum, “If I’m doing it, I’m doing it with you or no one,” she recalls of her conversation with Winter, now her business partner.

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Just about a year old, the minimalist-styled store on Ocean Avenue has become a passion project that continues in its expertise of carrying domestic and international lifestyle products. Each item falls under fair trade guidelines, ensuring that this women-run business is supporting makers who support fair living conditions and wages.

“Everything inside of these walls is special. It’s not necessarily something you need to survive, but they are things that make a house a home,” Kanarek explains. “We’re passionate about telling the stories of makers and products.”

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The larger location means more room to fill with product from places that are closer to home like Los Angeles and San Clemente to far away destinations like Bali, Tanzania, Morocco, Africa, and Japan. Kanarek and Winter say they crave the search more than the sale. Just as they will make a drive to a trade show or flea market in a different city or state, they will also trek to exotic locales to create a curated and eclectic-styled selection of vintage and luxe products -- from pottery and textiles to home goods and jewelry.

“What we said from the beginning -- and it’s still true -- is that we want you to be able to walk in and be able to find not just one thing, but a selection of things that are really reasonable, cool, and unique,” Winter offers.

It’s apparent in every detail of the store that the friends believe in the products they’re selling and both respect and appreciate the makers who create them, as well as each other (sticky fingers or not).

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Kaitlynn Labit is a freelance writer and editor based in Orange County. Her finishing touch to any of her outfits is either a denim jacket or a hat. Get in touch with her at or on Instagram at @kaitlynnlabit.

Photos by: Meilani Cottrell.