ENCINITAS — On Hygeia Avenue in the community of Leucadia, there’s a group of neighbors that come together to hang out, socialize, have a barbecue or support each other in their endeavors.
For at least two of the residents there, it’s become like a family.
More like an “unrelated family,” is how 13-year-old Billy Hawkins sees it.
“It’s just really nice,” said Hawkins, who has lived in the area since he was three. “We all know each other pretty well. It’s just good to know your neighbors.”
About a year ago, artist Casey O’Connell moved to the Leucadia neighborhood after spending the last 10 years in San Francisco.
While she was preparing for one of her art shows earlier this year, it was that family feeling that inspired Hawkins to name one of O’Connell’s pieces “unrelated family.”
That piece, an acrylic and oil stain on canvas featuring two figures dancing around an open fire, was one of the first to sell in that showing at the Artists Republic in Laguna Beach, selling within the first five minutes, O’Connell said.
Not only was that special, she explained, but that all of her neighbors went up to the gallery in a show of support was special, too.
“This is the first time that I’ve ever had a community that I cared about…it’s the most special place that I’ve ever lived,” O’Connell said.
As a thank you, O’Connell made up some hats for the neighborhood with the two figures from her painting and the words, “Hygeia Love,” on it, a reference to their special neighborhood.
Hawkins got the idea to start selling the hats, this time, though, with the logo and the words, “Leucadia Love,” on them.
For his 13th birthday, O’Connell ordered the hats and handed over to him all the rights to sell the hats or to do with whatever he wanted.
The hats were selling at an “OK” pace, Hawkins said at the LeucadiART Walk where he unveiled them to the public for the first time for $20.
While Hawkins hasn’t come up with a name for his business yet, he said that it’s something that he wants to continue doing. Though he’d also like to become a professional skateboarder, too.
“That would be nice, but it’s just a dream — hard to become a reality,” he said.
Until then, Hawkins said he’s looking forward to the next local event to try his hand at selling them again.
“He’s a pretty amazing 13-year-old,” O’Connell said.
She finished the 25-foot mural on the side of the Art Deco building at 970 N. Coast Highway 101 with help from some of her other Hygeia Avenue neighbors. The mural, she said, was meant as a thank you to the community.
“I never felt home until I moved here. So this is a thank you to the city,” she said.