The ancient Greek word agápesignifies a kind of profound love that people reserve for their close family members or spouses, apart from any romantic feelings.
In the sense of Christianity, the religion’s followers associate the word with the unconditional, sacrificial love God has for humanity.
It’s those kinds of sentiments that drove Eric Ange Bowman and Boog Rose, a local pastor, to open the San Clemente venue Agápe 1928 on El Camino Real. Rose said they intend to host “some of the biggest moments in people’s lives,” such as weddings, retirement events, birthdays and more.
“In general, it’s for the people,” Rose said. “It was good for us to put that name out there, Agápe, not just for everybody else but to remind ourselves why we’re doing this.”
Although the facility opened in June, the venue’s development was roughly four years in the making. Both Bowman and Rose are longtime San Clemente residents whose friendship grew as their kids played sports together.
Despite the potentially negative consequences of going into business with friends, Rose expressed his trust in Bowman because of Bowman’s consistent commitment to serving others and going above and beyond.
“The vision from the beginning was to create a place for the people, and I just knew that’s what he’s all about,” said Rose. “With his business acumen, it was a perfect partnership.”
For more than 15 years, the two had a vision of bringing an event space to South Orange County, and in 2019, they started searching for a building where they could realize their dreams. The space at 1531 N. El Camino Real opened, but quickly looked to have been snatched up by another buyer or tenant.
Once they saw the property became available again, Bowman and Rose jumped at the opportunity to utilize the historic property that was built in 1928, and to make a valuable contribution to the North Beach area.
“Everybody in our executive team are longtime San Clemente residents, (as are) our designer and architect,” Bowman said. “It’s perfect. Everybody was just like, ‘This is awesome,’ and everybody wanted to get on this project, because the building speaks for itself.”
Both co-owners have an appreciation for vintage, historic pieces, which sparked their desire to restore the property that had been significantly altered through its nearly 100-year existence.
The renovations were extensive and expensive, as the team was required to bring every aspect up to code in addition to reengineering compromised portions and design the two add-ons within the city’s Spanish Colonial Revival look.
Despite Bowman’s experience in the hospitality and service industry, the two weren’t hesitant to bring in designers, wedding professionals and others who could help make the space the best it could be with their advice.
All the contributions helped them keep the building’s historic nature intact while creating a viable facility that could serve potential clients’ needs.
“So far from the community, (the feedback we’ve received) from everyone has been extremely positive,” said Bowman.
Since Agápe 1928’s June opening, the facility has been well-received, according to Bowman, as the whole team attempts to keep up with the demand in the summer season.
Clients and those who have toured the place have raved about the property’s large courtyard, its flexibility, and how the renovation has opened up the interior, even as the building has the same square footage as when it was an art supply store.
Bowman said they’ve succeeded in their approach to provide clients with a “blank canvas” for people to use creativity in envisioning their event.
“That’s the goal; that’s what we want to do,” he added. “We want to make people happy; we want people to love the place (and to) be able to have a great night or great day, whatever they booked, and create their own space, their own memory.”
Rose said that having a capable and talented staff to work with, as well as suppliers and others in the community that they know well and trust, makes operations easier. That includes venue manager Heather Pruitt, whom Bowman has known for years through their work together at another organization of Bowman’s.
Bowman called Pruitt an “incredible human being” and the “perfect person for the job,” especially with her experience as a wedding planner.
“When this opportunity became available, she was the perfect fit,” he said. “She’s lived in San Clemente her whole life, and she loves the area, and she’s just a great teammate.”
Nailing down the customer service aspect is “extremely important” for the whole team, Bowman added, especially with their goal to give clients the ability to imagine the event they want.
The team must be flexible and open to ideas, and the executives must additionally provide a good environment for their employees, Bowman said, as the hospitality industry continues to readjust following the harsh effects of COVID-19.
Rose added that what they do extends further into the community, as a lot of people who book tours with Agápe 1928 come in based on positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
The duo has also enjoyed their ability to host community events for local organizations.
“It feels good to be where we’re at … which is a place for the people where we feel like we’re still able to care for people,” said Rose. “It’s more than just a business. It’s a way to love people.” Learn more about the venue at agapesanclemente.com.