Cayucos man instills sense of community

Just as Al Musso of Cayucos learned retail sales from his family as a child, his daughter, Morro Bay business owner Barbara Musso-Strassel, inherited her artistic father’s need to create.

“During the Depression, my grandmother made ties. Dad sold them on the street corner,” Barbara said. “In high school, my dad’s friend did lapidary. I’d make jewelry from the polished stones and sold it at work.”

Before she opened Poppy and Sole Mia on the Embarcadero, she majored in fine art at Cal State Long Beach. For 25 years, she designed and sold jewelry in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and San Luis Obispo.

Al’s career was in commercial art. He owned The Musso Company in Studio City.

“I felt lucky to have Carnation Ice Cream as a client for 35 years,” he said.

Barbara’s small-business success today might well be based on the lessons she learned as her father’s secretary.

He and Mary, the love of his life for 67 years, raised three talented daughters. In 1985, Mary persuaded her husband to move to Cayucos to be close to daughter Carrol’s children.

Barbara eventually decided to follow the family and raise her two boys on the Central Coast. Their other daughter, Marilyn, lives in Washington.

Retirement allowed Al time to focus on his passion, watercolors and acrylics. “He paints every day,” Barbara said.

He’s traveled, sketched and painted all over the world, but Cayucos captured his heart.

“When we moved here, Cayucos didn’t have an art gallery. With the help of the Cayucos Lions, Bob Emory and I helped develop the Cayucos Art Center.”

At age 95, Al conducts free art lessons each first and third Wednesday mornings at the Veterans Memorial Lions Hall.

He’s led the Youth Summer Arts Program for 24 years. He funded a high school art scholarship and developed recognition of Flag Day at Cayucos Elementary School.

With technical help from his grandson, Jimmy Hill, an editor on the television series “Criminal Minds,” Al’s book, “The Gold Country Sketchbook,” publishes on Amazon Kindle this month.

Barbara’s business philosophy is based on understanding the customer. Although Poppy began in 1997 as a gift store, clothing sales determined its direction.

“It takes a tremendous amount of creative energy to change out a retail store for each season.”

When she introduced shoes, Barbara knew Morro Bay needed a shoe store and opened Sole Mia in 2007.

“Why buy local?” Because, she said, “when my customers support me, I can support my eight employees.”

In September, Barbara introduced her father at the Cayucos Education Foundation’s annual Man of the Year luncheon, where he was one of seven honorees.

“What I learned from my father was optimism, resiliency, never give up and a sense of community,” she said. “Bloom where you are planted, he believes. Make your community your extended family.”

Reach Judy Salamacha at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.