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A Spirit of Revival Is On Tap in Brea

Upscale Brewery, Galleries Are Among Businesses That Are Making a Name for a Downtown in Rebirth


Sally Waranch knows as much about life downtown as anyone this side of Petula Clark.

She opened a commercial art gallery in the heart of Fullerton 13 years ago, and now she's moved the business to Brea's reborn downtown. How do the new digs compare with the old?

"We get more people in here in an afternoon than we did in two weeks in Fullerton," said Waranch, owner of Sarah Bain Gallery.

By the measure of foot traffic, Brea's still-redeveloping downtown is making significant strides. The area has been decades in the remaking, but now that they're building it, people are coming.

At the Birch Street Promenade, the centerpiece of Brea's new downtown, people are coming for movies, shopping and casual dining. Some also cross Brea Boulevard to enjoy an ambitious upscale eatery with a mix of influences.

To Waranch, this new downtown feels like home.

"I was sad to leave my old space in a real live 'old town,' " Waranch said. "But the people here really seem to appreciate the arts. We've met a lot of new collectors who were just walking by and were moved by what they saw."

Art has been moving Waranch for as long as she can remember. It led her to abandon an acting career and open her gallery in 1987. She had just adopted the stage name Sarah Bain, and the gallery has held that moniker ever since.

"When I was acting, every time I got a check I would use some of the money to buy art," Waranch said. "But the dealers were so snobby. No one really talked to me about art or how to get started as a collector. I decided I'd show them how to do it better."

Waranch makes a point of welcoming fledgling collectors. "Why should people feel stupid just because they don't know what 'mixed media' means?"

Drop by on a weekend evening, when the gallery fills with potential patrons, and you might see youngsters drawing on the floor with crayons supplied by Waranch.

"In 20 years, they will be the collectors," she said.

Some children even exert an influence. One asked Waranch to discourage her parents from buying any more nudes. "She said it was getting embarrassing," Waranch said with a laugh.

The gallery, whose clients include Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne and Burt Reynolds, specializes in works by emerging artists. Waranch travels the country visiting colleges and art schools to seek out new talent. A show that ended June 10 featured paintings by Rachel Ferguson, a woman in her 20s Waranch first met in Savannah, Ga.

The show, "Things That Disappear," mined feelings of loss and renewal. One painting is of a young girl with an ornamental angel suspended over her shoulder. A blindfold covers her eyes, and an upside-down daisy pokes from her belt as she lifts the hem of her dress to reveal bare feet. The work, "Bliss" (oil on panel, $3,200), is one of nine that had been spoken for five days before the show closed. Only one remained unsold.

"Estrangement," with paintings by Poly, a graduate of Esperanza High in Anaheim, opened Tuesday and runs through July 1. Eight of the 15 works exhibited were sold before the show opened, Waranch said.

"All these artists are just emerging, and they're all making a living from a little gallery in Brea, Calif.," Waranch said. "That's pretty great."

Sarah Bain Gallery is at 110 Birch St., No. 2; (714) 255-1447. It's open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m. Sundays. It's closed Mondays.

Crafting Success

Two doors down from Waranch's gallery, Setsko Otsubo Lawton's colorful shop exhibits a different kind of creative energy. The aroma of incense, the sounds of West African pop and walls as bright as a Brazilian sunset conjure feelings more reactive than reflective.

It's hard not to get caught up in the bouncy rhythms as you browse through Folk Creations, 110 Birch St., No. 4; (714) 529-3044.

Lawton, who opened the store in July, carries clothing, art, jewelry, beads and gifts that bespeak her love of international folk traditions. She was born in Japan but grew up in Brazil.

Accenting colorfully painted furniture are clay and wood pieces from Brazil, Mexico and Peru. One display is a tribute to Frida Kahlo, with handcrafted figures depicting the iconic artist. One figure sports a huge headdress of lilies and cactus flowers ($75).

Near the door sit hip-high ceramic vases with brightly colored geckos peeking out ($130). Nearby, a table displays dozens of beads of various shapes, sizes and colors (25 to 50 cents each) that shoppers can arrange on string or elastic to create necklaces or bracelets.

Greeting customers is like welcoming guests to her home, which is decorated in the same style as the store, Lawton said.

"On weekends, when it gets crowded and I turn the music up, it's like a big party," she said. "I love it."

Folk Creations is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.

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