Clay Peterson Fosters Creative Expression in Costa Mesa, at Boathouse Collective

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 at 9:41am.

Here at Nook, we have a passion for people, places and properties. Welcome to #TastemakerTuesday, where we’ll feature the visionaries in our favorite nooks who are dedicated to building a better community through their talents.

Downtown L.A. may have some great speakesies, but to find Costa Mesa’s spots, you have to navigate through an industrial area for the quite literal diamond in the rough: The Boathouse Collective.

Clay Peterson grew up in Costa Mesa. He’s raising his family there, and at one point worked full-time while creating art and music in a warehouse off the beaten track, among factories and storage facilities. His vision for an art and recording studio that hosted local bands wasn’t paying the bills, so he transformed the space. In reality, he re-envisioned the entire concept of what the work “collective” means to a community. The Boathouse Collective became a common eating area for his neighbors, with local bands playing nightly. After they obtained their liquor license, they were free to serve the signature cocktails made with herbs from their own garden, a fully enclosed garden patio that allows for experimentation with tasty concoctions.

Upcycled materials recreate the nautical feel of the original building’s use, now with family style seating, where all ages really are welcome and not just if they fall into the category of “well behaved.” Peterson recruited Chef Mathieu Royer of Pizzeria Ortica, Hinoki and the Bird, and Morimoto in Napa Valley to fuse his traditional Japanese and other international dishes with a distinctive menu they termed “Creative California.” They specifically source from local farmers who they trust.

Chef Royer said in a YouTube interview that it was the creative intent of the space that grabbed him and he knew he “had to find a way to do it. When I came in here and saw the concept and met Clay, I just knew.” Many reviews of the menu say the sparse descriptions don’t come close to the tastes on their plate, so make some bold choices and continue the adventure with your meal!

As for the rest of his personnel, Peterson realized that he can’t just hire qualified people, but has to dig deep to figure out if the potential employees “get it,” if they understand that it isn’t just another job. He sees every aspect of The Boathouse Collective as creative. Everything is expressive in their space: the music, the art, the food, and they want to bring the community into a unique space for an experience you cannot find anywhere else.

The decor stays true to the original architectural intent of the building, with reclaimed shipping containers that create the garden. Peterson repurposed a vintage steam pipe for the bar, and hung some of the surfboards created by Peter Shroff, the son of an auto body shop occupant who inhabited the space after Ditmar-Donaldson, a boat building business in the 1950s.

Beyond a restaurant, beyond an art gallery and way beyond a music venue, at The Boathouse Collective you can also sit in on The Boat Co. Talk Show with host Derek Sabori of The Underswell. Sabori talks with local thought leaders and entrepreneurs with the mission to create a better world right in their own backyard. Boat Co. Radio also broadcasts live every Wednesday from 8-10pm on KOCI 101.5 FM, showcasing local talent.

To describe The Boathouse Collective as a “hard to find” experience holds double meaning, since there’s no outside signage and parking can be very difficult. When they first opened, there was parking next door, but that space has since been taken. So prepare to embark on an adventure as you wind through the industrial streets of Costa Mesa to land at The Boathouse Collective. The company you’ll find are worth the trip.



I Heart Costa Mesa: Boathouse Collective/Boat Co. Radio/Matt Costa

Ride along with Mister Mesa to visit KOCI’s Boatco Radio Show at Boathouse Collective – on Costa Mesa’s Westside. They’re working hard to Keep Mesa Cool with live music, great eats, tasty libations and creative collaboration with local artists. Peek behind the curtain at this neighborhood hot spot – also featuring a live performance by Brushfire recording artist, Matt Costa. Enjoy!