Vons in Montecito
J'Amy Brown

Vons Shoppers – grab your shopping carts and stop racing those engines to Lazy Acres and Gelson’s, because the Montecito Vons is gearing up to become a competitive, racy market for the high-end shopper.

Montage today confirmed that Vons Montecito is slated to get a major upgrade starting in the first quarter of 2008. Work is scheduled to be completed by the second quarter of 2008, and the store will remain open throughout construction. The grocery will be re-designated and redesigned a Vons “Lifestyle” store, similar in style and amenities to the Fairview Vons in Goleta.

“It means upscaled amenities like softer lighting, nice floors, a large selection of organic produce, and an olive bar – it’s a more boutique experience,” explained Marlyn Denter, public affairs director of Vons. Rumors have been flying inside the Montecito store for weeks that change was about to be under foot, but the official confirmation didn’t come until today, May 22, and it was tied with a strong disclaimer.

“Right now these are the plans,” Denter said, making it very clear plans are subject to change. “But, it is no secret that we want to offer the ultimate shopping experience to the residents of Montecito. We want to provide a convenient format, one-stop shopping, and a wide variety at more affordable prices.”

It sounds good, and we’ll enthusiastically keep you posted. But remember Vons Shoppers, the grocer is at the union bargaining table and construction costs are rising with gas prices, so son’t tear up your Lazy Acres coupons quite yet.

WHITE BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY? Normally, Montecito might wince about a white fashion faux paux before Memorial Day, but there was nary a cringe in the crowd of over a hundred last Sunday at Victoria and Carter Hines’ very sophisticated white-themed garden art party. Instead, the hosts used the pale backdrop to offset and showcase more than $200,000 of rare lithographs, shown for the first time ever in a non-museum site.

From left, Raj Tolaram, Kelsey Donwen, Eric Mourlot, and Victoria and Carter Hines at Sunday's Art Garden Party.
Courtesy Photo

It was hard to think plain vanilla while mingling among the works of artists like Mir³, Matisse, Le Corbusier, and Picasso, and more than one guest noted this exhibit notched Montecito art parties up several rungs. The lithographs ranged in price from $4,500 to $28,000 and the reception, according to the hosts, was “very successful.”

Along with the Hines, Montecito art consultant Kelsey Donwen and East Coast decorator Raj Tolaram served as co-hosts, introducing guest of honor, New York’s Eric Mourlot, the grandson of renowned French lithographer Fernand Mourlot.

In the mid 1930s, during Paris’ avant guard era, artists like Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Mir³, Braqaue, Dubuffet, Leger, and Giacometti worked with Fernaud Mourlot in his Paris printshop to find new medium of expression. His grandson, Eric, was raised in this unique environment – held as baby by Picasso, receiving his first paint set from Mir³, and visiting a “kind and gentle” Chagall in his home.

The painstaking and exacting process of creating a fine art lithograph is personal and collaborative (often taking months), and an artist would leave behind a proof for the printer, seeing the endeavor as a joint artistic venture. It is these printer’s proofs that created the Mourlot family’s archived lithographs and that graced the Hines’ backyard on Sunday. While it was the first private grouping of the Mourlot family’s collections, Fernaud Mourlot’s printing skills have previously been on public view in the halls of the Smithsonian, the Norton Simon, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Picasso Museum in both Paris and Munich.

So why did Eric choose Montecito for this exceptional debut?

“I have been trying to show the archives outside a gallery and this was such a beautiful setting and so creative,” Mourlot said. Hailing from Manhattan, where he owns a Madison Avenue gallery, he said he was in L.A. to research space for a new West Coast gallery. A side trip to Montecito was, he said, both timely and fortuitous.

“What a great group of people,” he commented after the party. “I was floored about how they got what the art was about. It was really a pleasant surprise, and it was so much fun I’ll do it again,” Eric said. Among those lending their art sophistication were Kee Flynn, Mike Quinn, Betty Degenerus, Dallas and Peter Clark, Rise Ochsner, Len Freedman, Sharol and Wayne Siemens, Judy Thielscher, Tony Simon, Celeste Scheinberg, and Majorie and Joe Shipp.

Carol and Greg Harding-Brown were the first to purchase and Alan Glasser and Tab Hunter got a private indoor tour of the Hines’ art collection, colorfully decorating their absolutely not-white walls.

SAVE 50 PERCENT! If you attend the Montecito Water District Garden Tour on Saturday, May 26, at 10 a.m. at 583 San Ysidro Road, you could learn how to reduce your MWD water bill by 50 percent. Mike Clark, pictured, the district’s landscape and water conservation specialist, will lead a tour on Saturday through the district’s three newly installed and fully in bloom water-conservative gardens.

Mike Clark of the Montecito Water District's garden.
J'Amy Brown

Last week, one of those gardens- featuring dry weather-darlings like cacti, succulents, and aloe – was dedicated to the former district director, the late Robert Puddicombe, a long-time water conservation supporter.

The newly named Robert Puddicombe garden.
J'Amy Brown

“These demonstration gardens show how to save water and have an attractive and beautiful landscape,” Clark said. “By reducing lawn area, you could cut your water bill in half.” And, should you miss Saturday’s lecture, what is Clarks best tip for local water conservation? “Call me,” he said, noting he is available for a home visits to any MWD customer looking to re-landscape or wanting conservation landscaping ideas.

For information, call 969-2271 or see MontecitoWater.com.


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