2017 SCV Woman of the Year, Laina McFerren, is as comfortable serving the community as she is serving the “Staples with a Twist” at Wolf Creek, the Valencia restaurant and brewing company she co-owns with her husband Rob.
Originally from the Northern California area, Laina came south to study theatre arts in 1984. Her extra-curricular high school activities of swimming, dancing, and cheerleading combined with her academic prowess gained her entry to study at the University of California at Los Angeles.
During her lower division years at UCLA, Laina developed an interest in mass communication, prompting her to declare a major in that field in her junior year. She graduated form UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in Communications in 1988.
Laina began her professional career training servers at the Cheesecake Factory in Marina Del Ray. While her organizational and leadership skills were enough to earn her the attention of restaurant manager Rob McFerren, there was also a spark there that would develop into a romance. In 1990, family members and fellow Cheesecake employees celebrated the marriage of Rob and Laina. The couple settled briefly in Westchester as Rob continued on with the Cheesecake Factory, and Laina took on a new position at a restaurant in Pacific Palisades.
A desire to own their own home as well as their own restaurant brought Rob and Laina to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1992. They used their combined restaurant experiences, coupled with Rob’s interest in brewing craft beers, to open Wolf Creek in 1997.
The birth of a new business wasn’t the only creative process taking place in the McFerrens’ lives; there were also the arrivals of daughters Amanda in 1994, and Gillian in 1999.
As their family grew, so did the success of the restaurant and Rob and Laina found that they were a favorite target for local charities, which were always on the lookout for “dining out” donations for their fund-raisers. A few of the volunteers who came to Wolf Creek seeking donations were from the American Red Cross. They encouraged Laina to join the organization in 2000, launching her on a second “career” – in volunteerism (she was named SCV Red Cross Volunteer of the Year in 2002).
Her community involvement with the Child & Family Center began as a vendor in the Center’s annual Taste of the Town fund-raiser. After a few years of participation, Laina came up with some ideas that could facilitate the coordination and set-up for her and her fellow food and drink vendors. She took those ideas to the event chairs in 2005 and soon found herself serving on the boards of the C&F Center Foundation and the Center Board. She served as chair of the Foundation board in 2012, and became co-chair of Taste of the Town from 2014 to 2016.
While the majority of her Child & Family Center volunteerism has focused on board activities and the annual Taste of the Town event, Laina has also served on the Adopt-A-Family Project, 35th Anniversary Celebration, Guardians of Hope, and committee work with the Center’s Santa Clarita Jazz Festival, Kid Expo, golf tournaments, and installations.
Laina joined the Valencia Industrial Associations Connecting to Success Committee in 2014, and became a board member of the College of the Canyons Foundation in 2015. Her involvement with COC has also extended to the Culinary Advisory Board, the Patrons of the Performing Arts Committee, and the Social Committee for Outreach.
During these years of personal service, both Laina and Rob have continued their in-kind restaurant and brewery donations to community charities like Carousel Ranch, Circle of Hope, Straightening Reins, Soroptimist International, and SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery.
Laina has also served as secretary of the Los Angeles Brewers Guild, a non-profit organization to promote and support the craft beer community throughout greater Los Angeles.
The craft beer component to the McFerrens’ growing food and catering business led to a larger brewing facility and a new out-reach project in 2013, which they call Community Pint Night. The Wolf Creek Brewing Company, located in the Rye Canyon Loop, is made available to local charities and service organizations every Tuesday evening for one month. A percentage of the beer sales goes back to the participating organizations.
The site has also become a popular fund-raising venue for organizations such as Rotary, which recently held a Car Show and Music Concert there, and the Child & Family Center, which initiated its action-packed Trike Derby there in 2017. The 2018 Trike Derby will take place Saturday, October 6, from 3-6 p.m., followed by a concert by the blues band, Kelly’s Lot & Friends.
Between their family life, volunteer activities, and business commitments, there isn’t much time for leisure pursuits, but when Rob and Laina do squeeze in some “down-time,” they travel to other countries and, not surprisingly, spend the majority of the their time sampling the local cuisine and craft beers.