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Love on the Eastside: How four couples found romance and a business partner

By LUCY GUANUNA

The Eastside is home to many creative individuals. So it is no surprise that some of them would fall in love and end up working together. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we asked a few of these couples to share with us their love story and how they’ve learned to juggle their personal and work relationships while making it look, taste and sound so good.

Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza | El Sereno

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El Sereno residents, Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza became well known in the local Latino indie music scene after the release of their song Crazy Love that racked up more than 160,000 views on YouTube. Diaz, a singer and songwriter, spent a week with Cardoza in Mexico City earlier this year to collaborate on her new album.

How did you meet?

Carol: We met when we were working at Trader Joe’s in 2012. When we first met we thought we knew each other, but that wasn’t the case. Slowly we started hanging out, and one of our friends was trying to hang out with both of us. But he ended up not meeting up with us, so Irene and I went on a date.

How did you make music together?

Carolyn: Irene got me a ukulele for my birthday, and the following year I started teaching myself. Once I started getting the hang of playing I would play things for her, and that’s when the song Crazy Love started to happen. I was playing these chords and I was playing them differently, and Irene was feeling it, so she started singing on top of what I was playing. That’s what pushed me into playing music with Irene more.

Prior to Crazy Love were you already working as a musician?

Irene: I was playing a lot around the area at open mics, and some of my friends would have events and they would invite me to play. When I met Carolyn, I stopped playing for a bit because I was focusing a lot of my time on her, but the song Crazy Love ended up attracting a lot of people. The first time we played it was at the M Bar in Boyle Heights for a really drunk crowd. When we started playing, the bar really quieted down, people were really digging it. Carolyn has inspired me and still inspires me to write a lot of love songs.

Carolyn: And she inspires me. I’m not a songwriter like Irene is, but she’s always inspiring me to be creative and express myself the best way I can.

How do you keep your relationship going during times when you are apart?

Irene: Oh man, we’re still [trying] to figure that out! Well, if one of us is upset, I don’t like for it to go on or to go to sleep mad.

Carol: We talk everyday and we Facetime and luckily we have the technology to do that. We try to stay in contact as much as possible.

Jason and Laura O’Dell | Silver Lake

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Together this husband-and-wife duo have created The Odells, a clothing line that embodies the “quintessential California relaxed chic vibe.” With three children under the age of seven and a Sunset Junction boutique, The Odells Shop, Laura and Jason O’Dell run a tight ship when it comes to their home and their business while sneaking in some time to visit their vacation home in Big Bear.

How did you meet?

Jason: We met in 2002. I was skateboarding for Santa Cruz at the time, and I came home a day early from a skateboard tour. One of my teammates was about to be Laura’s roommate, so we went to Kibitz Room in Hollywood and this girl sits down next to me. We’re about 21 years old and we just started talking. The next thing I know I get invited to Thanksgiving at their house a couple of weeks later. I show up, and, after that dinner, that was it. The rest is history. It’s been 16 years; we were just kids.

When did you decide to start working together?

Jason: Laura launched the clothing line Porridge in 2003 while I was on my path to becoming a photographer. So the natural thing for me was to help with the logo, lookbooks and graphics and of course the photography. She was doing the production and apparel on her own from 2003 to 2008. The company was growing, so that’s when I stepped in to help with the production and business side of the company. In 2013, we launched The Odells brand, which was kind of an evolution, and we opened the retail store in Sunset Junction that same year.

How do you juggle home life while running a business?

Jason: It helps that Laura’s my best friend, we’ve literally talked every day since we met. In our roles there are defined tasks and we don’t micromanage each other. So she is the creative director and I don’t really get involved in design or the creative process and she knows that I’m handling production and the business side.  It makes things easy. The cool thing is that we put the kids to bed at 9 o’clock and after we talk about the kids, we talk about the business. We’re always thinking of ways to improve the business or the next project we can work on. It doesn’t feel like work because we’re passionate about what we do, so it’s fun to work together and talk about it.

Do any lessons from running a business apply to raising a family and vice versa?

Jason: Definitely. We’re super organized and we have to be as parents, so that automatically makes us really organized with the kids. We always laugh about it a little bit, like if people knew they would think we are maniacs because we’re so down to the schedule. But with three kids it kind of keeps us sane and our kids are really good on a routine too, so that definitely helps.

Lyndsi McGee & Nick Del Negro | Echo Park

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This couple’s laid back ’70s vintage style carries over into their Echo Park-based leather goods line, Mean Jean,  of sturdy earth-toned leather bags that are hand stamped and sewn. Lyndsi McGee and Nick Del Negro definitely draw on their love of music and road trips through the desert for inspiration.

How did you meet?

Nick: We met through a mutual friend in the summer of 2015. We were going to go on a date to some bar, but I ended up getting some tickets to a Ryan Adams concert from a friend. Unknowingly, Lyndsi was a huge fan of music, so she agreed to go and we went to the Greek Theatre for our first date.

When did you start working together?

Nick: On that date, Lyndsi was wearing a bag that I thought looked pretty interesting and when I asked her about it, she said she made it. She had already made a couple bags when we met, and I kind of pushed her to take it from the hobby mode, to an actual business. By December, we got our own work space in Frogtown to work out of and we rented there for about 6 months before opening up our storefront in Echo Park.

What is it like working together and how does that affect your relationship?

Nick: I would say first of all, our dynamic is really rare. I’ve never met anybody that I get along with as well as Lyndsi, and I’ve never met a man or woman that I have as much in common with as I do with her. That definitely makes it easy. We think alike especially in business terms and we’re always on the same page. But as far as switching gears and not being too burned out on the work side, we make sure to take time to grow our relationship as well as our business. We have certain things we like to do, like there’s always a pair of concert tickets on the fridge which is something that we do regularly.

Lyndsi: And now we have this new found love for pinball. To blow off some steam that’s definitely our go-to.

One piece of relationship advice for our readers?

Nick: Honestly, I feel that her and I got really lucky as far as our dynamic goes, but we’re always very open and upfront about everything.

Lyndsi: Communication is definitely the key. That goes for romantic relationships and business relationships.

Chris and Christy Lucchese | Silver Lake

Photo by Sarah Remetch/GetHer studios

Burned out on the television and film industry, Chris and Christy Lucchese, quit their jobs to start a business where they could share their love of cooking and wine through individualized wine tasting events. Home Somm prepares multicourse meals for customers that are paired with wine, which is served with a side of knowledge from Chris Lucchese, a trained sommelier. The Luccheses cater events at their customers’ and also offer up their own Silver Lake backyard for events.

How did you two meet?

Chris: We both used to work in television and film production, and we had a lot of mutual friends. In 2009, my brother and I lived on Maltman Avenue near Millie’s Cafe, and our television conked out right before the Super Bowl, so one of our friends gave us her old TV. To pay her back I offered to cook her dinner. Christy had just finished remodeling her house and since it was right in the neighborhood, our friend said we should have it at Christy’s house. I came over and I cooked dinner for a few people, had some wine, and the rest is history.

How has working together affected your relationship?

Christy: We’ve spent so much of our careers apart and haven’t had time to spend enough quality time together, and this has enabled us to do just that. I think it’s made us better communicators because we’re able to connect to see something through and it has made our communication more clear. With the finite amount of time we have to prep and actually follow through on these events, there’s just no time to argue because you have a deadline and you have to meet it.

One piece of relationship advice for our readers?

Christy: Make sure to make each other laugh everyday.

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