By Don Kindred
Laurie Wodiske grew up in Ridgecrest, California, a small town in the middle of the Mojave Dessert. Her father was literally a rocket scientist for the Department of Defense.
Laurie showed her taste for fashion early and was voted best dressed in high school, having sewn all her own clothes.
But her life took a different direction. She graduated in three years from UCLA with a degree in Political Science and Public Administration. She married her college sweetheart, Richard Wodiske, who opened a dental practice in Mission Viejo, and they moved to Lake Forest. Like most of us, one visit to San Clemente was enough to convince them to move here.
“We took a drive south and found a home for sale in Misty Ridge, we walked around the back, and decided to buy it before we even went inside. That was in 1988,” she reveals.
Laurie began her business career with a small, female-owned company, called Merit Property Management. She found her degree to be a strong benefit to her work, as she saw to the business of managing planned communities through the management of homeowner’s associations. Their client list includes names like Talega, Rancho Santa Margarita, Dove Canyon, and Coto de Casa.
“You are actually managing little governments so to speak” she says, “the company started with a handful of people and grew and grew and grew, until we became the largest property manager in California. It expanded from handful of employees in 1988 to over 400 today.”
In the fall of 1999, after 15 years, Wodiske decided it was time for a change.
“I really left to spend time with the family,” she says, “I had always worked long hours, and as my oldest was entering high school. I realized I was going to blink and they’d be gone and I would have missed any opportunity to spend this time with them.”
Laurie became a stay at home mom, trying a little consulting on the side, but mostly she became car service for her three children and worked out earnestly. While she admits it should have been an enviable lifestyle, she needed to be doing more and was looking for another challenge. When the children were older and had more independence, it was an opportune time for her to immerse herself in something and yet still be close to them.
Wodiske decided to try her hand at something new, something that would take advantage of another skill she had acquired through years of experience, shopping. In 2003 she opened Variant, an upscale clothing boutique at 165 Avenida Del Mar, featuring women’s clothing and accessories with a Bohemian style. Taking the leap into private enterprise has allowed her to combine her years of management experience with her passion for fashion to create another success story in the Village. She reports sales are strong with every month showing an increase in sales. She’s also come to enjoy the positive nature of her interaction with customers.
“My previous career was focused so much of the time on resolving conflicts, a lot of it was negative,” she says. The focus of this business is about the positive. Maybe it’s finding the right thing for someone who is attending a beautiful wedding, is celebrating a weight loss or is looking to find something fun and unique to add to their collection. The focus is always positive and lighthearted.”
Now look for Wodiski to work her magic in her newest venture. She has just purchased another downtown business called Angel Wings and will be remaking it into a younger, more contemporary shop with even more of the unique clothing, shoes, bags and jewelry that she’s becoming known for.b
Profile: Laurie Wodiske
Business: Variant Clothing and Jewelry, Inc.
Previous Field: Property Management
Husband, Rich, (Brett 19, Brianna 17, Trevor 15)
What do like the best about the change?
“I enjoy the flexibility of structuring my day and I enjoy seeing the people in my own community where I live and have raised my children. The familiar and happy faces are really a treat in my life.”
“Meeting the nicest, hard-working and honest people in the wholesale end of the business in an environment that would often indicate the opposite perception. I was also surprised at how often we get feedback that the store is what San Clemente has been needing for quite some time, and how much they like the selection.”
“Ensuring that consumers were ready for higher end, designer driven pricing and styles in a community that had principally had experience with a more casual , surf driven market for style. Also, getting all of the San Clemente residents to enjoy their downtown more. There is a lot to offer here. The history, beauty, great products, and just visiting with the locals. It is one of the most charming elements of San Clemente, its downtown, but it may not be being explored by all of the residents.”