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Thursday, Jul 18, 2024

LAB Holding: Breathing New Life Into Old Malls

Shaheen Sadeghi was tired of seeing the same beige strip mall when he founded LAB Holding LLC more than 30 years ago.

The Costa Mesa-based firm’s first project in 1993 took an old night-vision goggle factory in Costa Mesa and transformed it into what is now the LAB Anti-Mall, a collection of 23 shops and eateries, based off the concept of promoting small businesses over chain stores.

It’s what has served as the backbone for each of Sadeghi’s developments, which is why the company’s name stands for “Little American Businesses.”

“Growing up in the Midwest, I am a true believer that our country’s built on small businesses,” Sadeghi told a crowd of 300 after being honored as one of five winners at the Business Journal’s 25th annual Family-Owned Business Awards on May 30 at the Irvine Marriott with his eldest son Sebastian by his side, earning the company an award in the up-and-coming category.

LAB Holding has since become known for creating some of Orange County’s trendiest retail spots, including Costa Mesa’s Camp and the Anaheim Packing District food hall.

Other projects from the company include Villains, Make, Solo, Camp Out, Packard, Farmers Park, Healthy Junk, Cowboys and Poodles, Ruin Bar, Hammer and BXCR.

Sadeghi expects to eventually pass the company off to his three sons, starting with Sebastian who recently joined as managing director.

“This father and son are actively engaged in the community and are involved in initiatives to conserve the environment and preserve heritage,” said Emily Egkan, senior tax manager at Withum, who presented the award to LAB Holding.

Current Projects

Sadeghi expects to start construction for one of LAB Holding’s current projects in the next 10 months.

The unnamed project in San Marcos is a 60,000-square-foot mixed-use development that Sadeghi refers to as “Burning Man meets retail.”

He intends to make it into a “village for small businesses” with nearly 50 tenants planned for the upcoming retail site.

The project has been in the works for about five years and received entitlement at the end of 2023.

Sadeghi said they’re also putting the finishing touches on South Side Social, a collection of boutique retailers, restaurants and breweries in downtown Corona. It kicked off construction in 2022 and will replace the former Corona Mall.

LAB Holding has faced its share of challenges when it comes to building rules and regulations.

“Projects in today’s environment take eight to 10 years from concept to completion due to over regulation and complicity of working in California,” Sadeghi said.

“What we do does not fit into a generic pre-programmed, homogenized box. Our challenge is that most of the rules, regulations and policies were created in the late ’70s or early ’80s before we had iPhones. These polices do not line up with the way people live today and what the next generation of community and consumers want.

“We have a hard time as a company to compromise on authenticity.”

Designer to Developer

Sadeghi had a long career in the fashion industry before he became involved in real estate development.

His eye for design came from his time in action sports at VF Corp., Gotcha Sportswear and most previously as president of Huntington Beach-based surf brand Quiksilver.

After leaving Quiksilver in 1992, Sadeghi said he noticed a shift in youth culture.

“These were not customers that wanted to shop in a mall, nor did I feel the cool manufacturers wanted to have a store in the mall,” Sadeghi said.

An avid traveler, Sadeghi said he has traveled to over 100 countries with his family.

A trip to Machu Pichu especially resonated with Sadeghi, who was influenced by the weekly village markets, which would serve as early inspiration for the LAB Anti-Mall.

Sadeghi said he looks forward to when his sons eventually take over the reins from him, leaving him more time to pursue his other passions in life such as coming out with his first album at 70 years old.

“If I wasn’t fortunate enough to have my kids take over, it would have been a real shame because these projects are not just real estate projects,” Sadeghi said.

“Having the boys come in and take over, I honestly couldn’t hand the keys over to anyone better.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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