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Josh Sanford, from left, Robby Sanford, Don Sanford and Connor Dougherty in the woodshop. Photo courtesy Sanford Shapes
ColumnsLick the Plate

Lick the Plate: Eating around town with Sanford Shapes Skateboards

It’s been a while since I’ve featured a local business in a Lick the Plate takeover column but when I first saw a beautiful Sanford Shapes skateboard and learned they were based in Leucadia, I had to follow up.

Sanford Shapes is a local family business producing stunning artisan cruiser skateboards. Robby, Josh and Ethan Sanford, along with close friends Connor Dougherty and Brett Naudin, are the backbone of the operation. Numerous other friends have become key players in the company and are a valuable part of the team as well.

The venture began in 2013 when, as young teenagers, they started to experiment with building skate decks. Uncle and aunt Don and Cari Sanford, who own Sanford Builders in Leucadia and have a state-of-the-art woodshop, helped launch the endeavor.

Since then, Sanford Shapes has become a legitimate contender in the cruiser skateboard market and offers real wood inlaid designs with geometric patterns on their decks. Their mantra of “no paint, no stain, no dye” differentiates Sanford Shapes from most other skate companies who use screen printing and heat transfer graphics. They are also looking to branch out into killer cutting and charcuterie boards and hooked me up with a beauty of a sample that I’ve been using daily.

Josh (the youngest of the three Sanfords) is the lead in the woodshop with his precision craftsmanship and eye for details, but the whole team pitches in on the cutting, jointing, gluing, clamping, planing, and sanding. Once the decks are complete and ready for set-up, oldest brother Robby heads the operation in the shipping warehouse, gripping the decks, setting them up with trucks and wheels, and packaging orders.

Ethan lends a hand in all areas and is quick to take the new skate designs to test at the local skateparks. Ethan’s skateboarding skills are on a different level, so his “test pilot” position was an easy appointment. Connor and Brett have stellar woodshop skills and have been an anchor for the operation as a whole. Connor is also studying business marketing at Point Loma Nazarene University and those skills are taking Sanford Shapes to new levels.

I was just impressed by the level of dedication and professionalism happening with the skaters at Sanford Shapes. I’m sure it is influenced by their uncle Don, who is one of the most respected builders in the area.

I hung out with some of the Sanford team recently and besides being blown away by their amazing boards and business smarts, of course the conversation turned to food. For a lunch break from the shop, or after-surf meal, here’s where the Sanford crew can often be seen eating around town:

Josh Sanford favors Nectarine Grove, Birdseye Kitchen and Jimbo’s as some of his favorite spots. “After a long surf session, I need something really filling but healthy and quality. I either get the pizza, or a burger [at Nectarine Grove] and it hits the spot. I also love Birdseye Kitchen as Thai is my favorite type of food. I usually get either a yellow curry or a Pad Thai. It’s hard to leave out Jimbo’s the health food/grocery store as their sandwiches and hot food are amazing, healthy (all organic), fresh, and a great value for the price.” Nice picks Josh, I can’t get enough of Birdseye either!

Operations guy Robby Sanford follows his brother’s lead in taking the healthy road. “I’m definitely into eating healthy and organic so I’m a regular at all the health food spots in Encinitas. In the winter, there’s nothing better than some Pad Thai from our local Thai/Vietnamese restaurant Birdseye Kitchen. Along with my brother Josh, I frequent Nectarine Grove where I typically get the Chimichurri Steak Bowl. Everything on their menu is spectacular, all organic and natural ingredients and lots of great paleo options.” A double shout-out from Josh and Robby for Birdseye Kitchen and Nectarine Grove, love it!

I was waiting for one of the crew to mention Mexican food and marketing guy Connor Dougherty came through with Serranos Mexican. “I’ve eaten my way through most of their menu and loved it all. The fish tacos are insane (and budget friendly for a college student) and the California Burrito is another favorite and won’t leave you hungry for a while. Plus, they have a great variety of homemade salsas.” Thanks for the tip Connor, I’ve not checked out Serranos yet.

In the small world department, it turns out that Don Sanford and I are connected through our day jobs as many of his construction projects utilize Stellar Solar and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about his work. Don and his wife, Cari, also share some of my favorite restaurants including Kai Ola and The Plot.

“One of our favorite dinner destinations is Kai Ola as their selection of sushi and special rolls offer great variety and are fresh and tasty,” Don says. “Favorites are the Moonlight roll and Beacons roll, each with a unique and mouth-watering fusion of flavors. Their staff and atmosphere are lively and fun, making it a great Leucadia outing.

“When we feel like a drive up the coast, we love heading to Oceanside. The Plot is a wonderful plant-based restaurant that is a go-to for us. Vegetarian or not, this place will have you coming back for more. Their Shepherd’s pie is a favorite and we always save room for one of their chef’s culinary delights for dessert.

“Naked Café has so many amazing items on their menu, making it a favorite after-surf breakfast or lunch stop. The Harmony Bowl is often the first choice, but the extensive menu selection has something for every appetite.”

Good stuff, Don and thanks for guiding this young talent along and providing them the foundation for what looks like much future success.

Check out Sanford Shapes at