New Openings:

Luis Santiago in front of his shop, Las Catrinas. Photo: Allison Jarrell
Luis Santiago in front of his shop, Las Catrinas. Photo: Allison Jarrell

Las Catrinas

31742 Los Rios Street

949.441.7182, Facebook: Las catrinas sjc

When Luis Santiago found himself out of a job last summer, he wasn’t sure what his next step would be. Santiago had worked for 20 years as the manager of the Ortega’s gift shop at Mission San Juan Capistrano, but that ended when the Mission decided to open its own shop.

In April, the Oaxaca, Mexico native decided to start fresh and reconnect with his roots, resulting in Las Catrinas, a store filled with unique, handmade items from around the world. Six months after opening, Santiago is happy he took the risk of starting his own business.

“I love the customers,” he said. “They’re all happy when they come to this street, especially when they find the street by mistake. When they find it, they fall in love, and they keep coming back.”

Santiago said the store’s colorful atmosphere fits perfectly into the surrounding Los Rios District, which is the oldest continually occupied neighborhood in California. Las Catrinas is located in one of the street’s older buildings, constructed in the 1890s.

Since its inception, Santiago’s shop has grown from carrying a small selection of handmade gifts from Oaxaca to a wide array of items – from Guatemalan table runners and ornaments from Israel, to Zapoteca rugs and Talavera ceramic kitchenware and outdoor décor.

“It’s really a joy to work here,” Santiago said. “What makes me happy is that the people are happy, and they keep coming back.”

RRM Design Group

32332 Camino Capistrano, Suite 205


The RRM Design Group returned to San Juan Capistrano from San Clemente in July, and recently celebrated that return with an October ribbon cutting. The design group was based in San Juan from 2001 to 2006, but moved to San Clemente in search of more room to grow.

Mike Sherrod, principal and firm owner, said the group missed the vibrant downtown location, so when their lease was up, they headed back to San Juan. The design group’s expertise is creating environments that reflect their clients’ visions, and Sherrod said that often includes areas that are walkable.

“It’s nice to be located in that kind of environment, because it reflects our mission,” he said.

In town, Sherrod and his team are already conceptualizing a Verdugo Street redesign, incorporating more green elements and strengthening the connection between the depot and downtown. Sherrod said the design would essentially create a new pedestrian plaza in town.

Beautiful Smilez

31734 Rancho Viejo Road, Suite D


Beautiful Smilez Dentistry has opened its doors in San Juan Capistrano, filling the space Dr. Kenneth Pearson’s dental office left behind in the Ortega Business Plaza. Since opening on Aug. 26, Beautiful Smilez has been taking new patients and offering a variety of services such as general, family and cosmetic dentistry. Office manager Martina Fuentes, who has worked in San Juan Capistrano for 15 years, said she and Dr. Nadia Rezaiamiri both enjoy working in the community.

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