Upcoming Pride Month provides opportunity for ‘visibility to a community within a community’ in La Jolla

Mary’s Gourmet Salads once had rainbow accents similar to a Pride flag, but the poles have since been painted black.
Mary’s Gourmet Salads once had rainbow accents similar to a Pride flag on its exterior, but the poles have since been painted black.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Proprietors of three LGBTQ-owned businesses describe their local experiences and what the June commemoration means to them.


To La Jolla businesses owned by members of the LGBTQ+ community, the upcoming LGBT Pride Month in June can mean a time of greater visibility. It also can be an opportunity to showcase a lack of LGBTQ representation and a need for broader education about their community.

Michael and Paul Azakie

Mary’s Gourmet Salads co-owners and brothers Michael and Paul Azakie, both of whom identify as gay, said they would like to see more Pride-related activities in La Jolla to create more visibility.

“I rarely see, other than those that come to our shop ... people that identify as trans[gender] in this community,” Michael said.

Added visibility and representation is especially important in light of recent incidents, he said.

Someone left a comment on social media indicating discomfort with going into Mary’s, at 723 Pearl St., because the front poles were painted in rainbow colors, reflecting the rainbow LGBTQ+ pride flag, Michael said.

“It was a gay pride flag, but ... I don’t think anything signified what it was; they just picked up on it,” he said. “They said it was an amazing salad but they felt uncomfortable walking in.”

The poles have since been painted black.

He said he witnessed a fight in front of the restaurant in which “homophobic and transphobic” comments were made by middle school-age students.

“I didn’t know kids even knew these things,” he said. “The idealistic part of me thinks these things don’t happen anymore. But it shows conversations are not being had and people are not being protected the way they need to be.”

However, he said, “we don’t fret about that, because we are solid in who we are as individuals and how we represent our team. We can stand on our feet pretty strongly … so we focus on positive things.”

Pride Month “opens doors to … visibility to a community within a community” and helps demonstrate La Jolla’s support, Michael said.

But he said that can be a double-edged sword because “there has to be a consideration of how much visibility you want in an area that might not be ready for it.”

Paul noted it is common to have Pride-related events in June and said “it would be good for La Jolla to show everyone there is representation.”

Michael, an area resident, has Pride flags in his home windows “not because it is the entirety of my identity,” he said, “but there are a lot of people that visit this area and kids that walk with their parents,” and having flags in the windows and LGBTQ-owned businesses shows “you can live in this community, you can attain a certain level of success, you can be visible.”

Brandon Lindley

Brandon Lindley is sworn in as a La Jolla Village Merchants Association trustee in June last year.
Brandon Lindley, owner of Havaianas on Prospect Street, is sworn in as a La Jolla Village Merchants Association trustee in June last year.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Brandon Lindley, who owns Havaianas flip-flop shop at 1049 Prospect St. and identifies as gay, said he has “never experienced any alienation by operating in La Jolla.” However, he agrees that more can be done to create a welcoming atmosphere.

Last June, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association’s First Friday Art Walk was Pride-themed, and the plan is to repeat that next month.

Lindley, a member of LJVMA, said that “because La Jolla is not its own city and doesn’t have its own visitors bureau, a lot of attention goes to places like Hillcrest as far as LGBTQ+ representation. In La Jolla, last summer was the first time we did anything themed for Pride, and that was my first summer in operation.”

Lindley came from Palm Springs, “which, next to San Francisco, is the most LGBTQ-friendly place,” he said. But La Jolla has been a “welcoming, safe community” and “we have good representation of the LGBTQ+ community in our hospitality, our restaurants and beauty industry,” he added.

Still, he said, those businesses often get support during June, but “on July 1, it’s over.”

Going forward, Lindley said, “there is an opportunity to find the right balance between having rainbows everywhere and having a theme of inclusion. We want people to shop and be here and enjoy it here, so we need to make sure that La Jolla does not come across as a snobby beach town but a welcoming place … where you can come as you are.”

To do that, Lindley said, requires “being mindful and opening up your circle. Everyone needs to continue to find commonality. We don’t want anyone to change anyone’s morals, but be respectful. Everyone knows someone that identifies as LGBTQ+, and by being more mindful and respectful and aware … it will create a community where everyone feels safe and welcome.”

Doug Vocelle and Sam Grissom

Board & Brush celebrates its grand opening on Girard Avenue in April after a soft opening the month before.
Board & Brush celebrates its grand opening on Girard Avenue in April after a soft opening the month before.
(Manny Mendes)

As relative newcomers to the La Jolla business community, spouses Doug Vocelle and Sam Grissom, owners of the Board & Brush location at 7463 Girard Ave., said they’ve had “a wonderful experience” since opening their craft studio in March.

“Having moved from Mississippi to La Jolla, it has been a huge difference,” Grissom said.

With La Jolla being a beach community, “there is a laid-back atmosphere” that has rolled over into a more accepting environment, Vocelle said.

“We have loved the people we have met. We feel very welcomed and at home here,” he said.

“We want to celebrate all kinds of businesses: women-owned businesses, Black-owned businesses, LGTBQ-owned businesses, and that could be a message in The Village, that everyone is welcome.” ◆