Brand Diego


By Catharine L. Kaufman / Photos by Brevin Blach

From a miracle solvent that repels pythons to sporty shoes that attract Sarah Palin, a surprising array of household-name brands are headquartered right here in San Diego.

Thanks to these Finest City companies setting up shop in our backyard, “shop local” are words we can be proud to live buy.

Let Us Spray

The squeaky wheel (and pooping pigeon) gets the degreaser

In 1953, a trio of scientists at San Diego’s fledgling Rocket Chemical Company embarked on a mission to create a rust-busting solvent that would prevent the skin on NASA’s SM-65 Atlas Missile from corroding. After 39 failed attempts, the scientists struck gold on number 40 with their winning Water Displacement solvent, hence the name of the now ubiquitous lubricant, WD-40.

“We create positive, lasting memories by solving problems in factories and homes of the world-from squeaks in China to rust in Russia,” says Garry Ridge, president and CEO of the San Diego-based WD-40 Company. “We have an honorable product that delivers in a simple yet effective way, at under $5 a can.”

WD-40’s 2010 sales of about $322 million represents more than a billion ounces of the company’s secret formula (which is written on a notepad locked a San Diego bank vault) being sold through nearly 170 countries worldwide.

Lube Jobs
The company’s website boasts 2,000-plus uses for WD-40, which include not only liberating snakes-in Asia, a bus driver used WD-40 to dislodge a python wrapped around his vehicle’s undercarriage-but also loosening zippers and removing (incriminating) lipstick stains.

The multitasking mixture also keeps pigeons off balconies (they’re repulsed by the smell); removes black scuff marks from floors and crayon marks from walls; lubricates squeaky door hinges, bikes and other moving parts; removes splattered grease from stoves and grime from barbeque grills; untangles jewelry chains; keeps bathroom mirrors from fogging; cleans and lubricates guitar strings and does about 1,990 other things.

Nailing It

A local nail polish company gains the upper hand

Founded in 1979, Vista-based Creative Nail Design (CND) has become the Gucci of the nail industry, producing fashionable shellacs, polishes and tips sold at salons, beauty supply stores and online.

CND’s Shellac Power Polish has added flash to the fingertips of Katy Perry, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez. Available exclusively at salons, the polish is cured under ultraviolet light for 10 minutes, leaving clients with a mirror shine and nails that won’t chip for two weeks.

“With nails, you have 20 opportunities to thrill yourself,” says CND co-founder and style director, Jan Nordstrom-Arnold, who, aided by CND’s research team, looks at trends in fabric and home design to create each year’s fresh crop of nail colors.

“Our recent CND Shellac has validated a place for nails alongside the best in hair and make-up,” Nordstrom-Arnold says, “and our secret to defending that position is innovation,”

CND’s Colour & Effects line, favored by Oprah’s bestie, Gayle King, includes 50 cream colors that can stand alone or be kicked up a notch with 15 shimmering top-coats.

“It’s almost like an adult box of Crayolas,” Nordstrom-Arnold says.

Facts at your Fingertips
All CND products are conceptualized, developed and tested at the company’s laboratory in San Diego.

CND co-founder Jan Nordstrom-Arnold has personally buffed the fingernails of Ricky Martin, Fergie (the Black Eyed Pea, not the Duchess of York) and Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist).

Nordstrom-Arnold’s family began creating CND formulas in their basement in Oceanside in the late ‘70s. Her father, Stuart Nordstrom, a dentist and organic chemist, developed the company’s first product, SolarNail Liquid, during Jimmy Carter’s solar panel crusade.

CND’s first poster girl was Susie Coelho, Sonny Bono’s third wife.

CND products have adorned nails on runway models for Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan and Vivienne Westwood.

Virgin Atlantic Airlines’ official nail color for flight attendants is CND’s Shellac Wildfire.

Monkey Business

Fashionable shoe company takes a big step ahead

Launched in 2004, Rancho Bernardo-based Naughty Monkey Shoes gained a foothold in the athletic shoe arena, gradually wedging itself into the market as a “playful, sassy, fashion-obsessed footwear brand,” says shoe-biz veteran Jonathan Mohseni, president of Naughty Monkey’s parent company, Brand Headquarters.

Naughty Monkey’s kitschy yet classy leopard print and “mixed media” flats, sandals, wedges, platforms and boots can be purchased at Nordstrom, Macy’s, independent boutiques and on e-commerce sites such as

“The success we are seeing is based on seven years of keeping the brand true to its original message,” says Naughty Monkey brand director, Jay Randhawa, “essentially ensuring that the looks being generated are different from the competition-ahead of trend but still understandable to the fashionable consumer.”

Foot Notes
More than 200,000 pairs of Naughty Monkey shoes were sold in 2010.

Cosmopolitan magazine deemed Naughty Monkey’s five-inch-heeled Retro Glam loafer one of the sexiest workplace heels.

Naughty Monkey strode a political “platform” in 2008, when Sarah Palin wore a pair of its Double Dare red pumps during John McCain’s speech that announced the Caribou Barbie as his running mate.

Paris Hilton was photographed rocking Naughty Monkey’s Out of Line camouflage pumps in Los Angeles.

Slice of Life

Local golf companies keep their eyes on the ball

In 1981, golf enthusiast Ely Callaway sold his Temecula winery to Hiram Walker for $14 million (at a profit of $9 million), quickly transitioning from grapes to birdies.

At age 60, Callaway paid $400,000 to purchase the California-based company that manufactured his favorite hickory-shaft golf club, pinning his name to the brand.

“Ely moved the headquarters to Carlsbad for perennially perfect conditions in which to develop and test new equipment,” says Callaway Golf Company’s director of communications, Tim Buckman. “Callaway was the first company to meld the golf industry with aerospace and technological innovation, and remains the dominant force within (the industry’s) DNA.”

In 1991, the revolutionary Big Bertha driver was launched with endorsements by Celine Dion and Bill Gates, driving Callaway’s sales past the $800 million mark by 1999.

TaylorMade, another Carlsbad-based golf manufacturer, is hoping to chip away at its competitors’ market share via sales of its new white R11 driver.

The club’s satin-white finish is designed to help golfers align the club more easily and to reduce hot spots and glare often associated with glossier, more reflective drivers.

“A new chapter is being written in the golf equipment industry,” says David Abeles, TaylorMade’s executive vice-president. “White technology is here to stay.”

TaylorMade was founded in 1979 by Gary Adams, inventor of the metal driver (aka “metalwood”). At the time, most drivers were primarily made of wood. Today, the company offers a line of metal woods, irons, putters and golf balls, as well as golf apparel and footwear.

Making the Green
Callaway sells more clubs than any other manufacturer, snagging the lion’s share of the world’s $3 billion golf equipment industry.

Callaway’s annual revenues exceed $951 million, with total assets topping $876 million.

Callaway was the first golf manufacturer to use titanium and carbon fiber in its clubs, which are sold in more than 100 countries.

More PGA Tour pros use TaylorMade’s drivers than those made by Callaway, Cleveland, Cobra and Ping combined.

TaylorMade hit the $1 billion revenue mark in 2006, the second time in history a golf brand has achieved this milestone.

TaylorMade’s most expensive club, the $999.99 r7 CGB MAX Limited driver, includes three interchangeable shafts and three interchangeable weights, offering the equivalent of nine drivers in one.

Pick A Winner

A first-string guitar company rocks with the best of them

Founded in 1974 by visionary stringed-instrument craftsmen Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug, Taylor Guitars has evolved into one of the world’s most prominent guitar manufacturers. Combining innovative computer technology with a master craftsman’s attention to detail, Taylor is the guitar of choice for Dave Matthews, The Killers, Beck, Jason Mraz, Taylor Swift and Social Distortion frontman, Mike Ness, to name a few.

“With a variety of acoustic and electric guitar models and a wealth of customizable options,” says Chalise Zolezzi, the company’s public relations manager, “not only are Taylors expertly crafted and beautiful to look at, they are sonically inspiring to play with a sound that’s all their own.”

Taylor Guitars are the top-selling acoustic brand in the nation. The company’s 2010 sales chimed in to the tune of $70 million.

Take a free tour of the Taylor Guitar factory, 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, at 1980 Gillespie Way in El Cajon.

No Fiddlin’ Around
Taylor Guitars range in price from $398 to more than $20,000.

Taylor Guitar’s top seller is the 814ce acoustic-electric, which retails for between $2,500 and $3,000.

The company’s 2010 sales were about $70 million.

Taylor produces roughly 500 guitars each workday, for a total of 100,000 units per year.

I Mean, Cereally

Local cereal company thinks outside the box

In the early 1980s, grain-loving La Jolla residents Phil and Gayle Tauber created a puffy breakfast cereal that has become a staple of healthy lifestyles.

Giving refined wheat the shaft, they concocted a “breakfast pilaf” of seven whole grains and sesame, forming the cornerstone of the Kashi Company.

Purchased by Kellogg Company in 2000, the company continues to operate in La Jolla, selling all-natural and organic products ranging from GOLEAN hot and cold cereals to frozen entrees and whole grain crackers.

Kashi recently launched a back-to-school challenge with author/chef Domenica “Mom-a-licious” Catelli to get kids to swap junk food for healthier snacks.

“The foods that kids eat when they’re younger may affect their taste preferences as they grow up,” Catelli says. “By introducing them to healthful yet deliciously prepared foods, parents have an opportunity to help shape their choices.”

Grains of Knowledge
The name Kashi was formed by a blending of “kashruth” (or kosher) and “Kushi,” the surname of the pioneers of macrobiotics.

Kashi’s other cultural meanings include “porridge” (Russian), “energy food” (Japanese) and “happy food” (Chinese).

Kashi’s annual sales exceed $200 million.

They Sure Can

San Diego’s tuna companies make a splash

In 1914, Frank Van Camp purchased the California Tuna Canning Company, renaming it Van Camp Seafood. At the time, fisherman used the idiom “chicken of the sea” to describe the delicate taste and white color of albacore tuna. The popular catchphrase soon replaced the company’s original name.

Today, the Sorrento Valley-based seafood company continues to market assorted items under the brand, including cans and pouches of salmon, sardines, clams, crab and mackerel.

“We have a long-standing history of providing healthy, nutritious and convenient products to consumers,” says John Sawyer, senior vice president of marketing and sales. “Our brand and iconic Mermaid are well-known throughout the world.”

Apparently, songbird Jessica Simpson wasn’t clued-in to the can’s contents.

During a 2003 episode of the MTV reality show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, Simpson pulled a classic blonde gaffe while consuming the product, blurting, “Is this chicken what I have, or is this fish? It says chicken... by the sea. Is that stupid?”

The blunder launched a publicity boon for the brand. Later that year, Simpson was invited to the company’s U.S. sales conference, where she was educated on the product and entertained a sea of sales executives by singing the company’s jingle:

Ask any mermaid you happen to see
What’s the best tuna?
Chicken of the Sea.

With or without Simpson’s help, Chicken of the Sea’s annual sales exceed $600 million.

Meant To Bee
Originally founded by a group of Oregon Salmon canners in 1899, Bumble Bee Foods is now headquartered in San Diego (near Interstate 15 and Aero Drive) and owned by British equity firm, Lion Capital.

Though generations of Americans have grown up with Bumble Bee canned tuna, today, the company also markets salmon, sardines, clams, mackerel, an assortment of crustaceans and ready-to-eat meal kits.

Bumble Bee’s focus is “providing quality products to meet consumer demand for healthy, nutritious, affordable and convenient foods harvested in a sustainable manner,” says Dave Melbourne, senior vice president of marketing.

With annual sales scaling $1 billion, the company is a leader in North American and global fish markets.

Gone Fishing
Americans consume an average of 2.5 pounds of tuna per person per year.

The most popular kind of tuna, whether in a can or pouch, is chunk light, comprising 68 percent of annual consumption.

People consume 30 percent more tuna in the summer, the biggest tuna season of the year.