Interview with LA25 Member Lori Ford

November 16, 2015

LA25 Member, Lori Ford, opened Gum Tree with her husband Will 7 years ago. The couple jumped at an opportunity to establish the boutique and cafe when they stumbled upon a 1911 Craftsman house for sale on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach. Gum Tree has become a go to local spot where one can enjoy fresh salads, sandwiches, and great coffee in the café, and then pop over to the shop to browse through the eclectic selection of gifts and home decor. Two years ago they added Gum Tree Kids to the family, it’s located just up the block on Pier Ave.

With more than just the desire to open a small business, Ford and her husband incorporated giving back to the community into Gum Tree's core philosophy when it established its roots. They knew that the South Bay schools would be their charity of choice, and being located in Hermosa, with kids in the school system, they were especially eager to support the Hermosa Beach Educational Foundation (HBEF).

"Many people think that downtown businesses can rely on tourist traffic, but our passion and goal was always to serve the local community," said Ford. "We really believe in what HBEF is doing, they fill the direct needs of the school district where state funding has come up short".
A signature holiday fundraising event that Gum Tree created 6 years ago, now takes place every year. The Annual Santa Photo Event has raised over $35,000 for HBEF since it’s beginning in 2009. The community is invited to take pictures with a real bearded, jolly Santa for two Sundays in November. Lauren Pressey is the local photographer who donates her time and talent, and HBEF volunteers help with check in and logistics. Each family receives a 5x7 print and digital file for $20. Every penny of that $20 goes directly to HBEF. Patrons enjoy complimentary mini muffins and hot cocoa as they await their meeting with Santa.

"Many children now associate Santa with Gum Tree," said Ford. "Some kids even believe the real Santa lives here!" It’s become a South Bay tradition, and that couldn’t make the team at Gum Tree happier.

This year, the event will be held on Nov. 22nd and 29th from 10am-4pm at Gum Tree, with proceeds continuing to benefit HBEF. As a member of LA25, Ford hopes to continue using her entrepreneurial efforts to give back to the community, and continue building and supporting events to keep furthering art education in the South Bay.

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