Lori & Will Ford of Gum Tree

Once upon a time, an Aussie boy and a SoCal girl met-up in the Big Apple, fell in love and got married. One successful restaurant and a daughter later, the family of three moved back to her roots and set up shop at the beach. — Beach Bungalow 8

Will and Lori Ford met in New York City in 2002.

Will, a wandering Aussie, landed in NYC by chance. His brother, Frank, and his American wife, Karen, were living downtown, and Will stopped in for a visit on his way to India. He was immediately taken with the city’s energy. So when an opportunity presented itself in the form of a restaurant space, he decided to stay, and with Frank and some friends, opened Eight Mile Creek.

It was the first Australian restaurant in NYC with a focus entirely on Aussie cuisine and wines. Shortly after opening, it was awarded two stars in the New York Times, a tremendous honor that catapulted them into the top 100 restaurants in the city.

Will’s experience with Eight Mile Creek runs from chef to manager, dishwasher to busboy, host to bartender. Such is the nature of the small business. Will has also served on numerous culinary panels with chefs from all over the world, and routinely acted as an Aussie wine expert for the New York Times Wine and Food section.

Born and raised in sunny Manhattan Beach, California, Lori loved her hometown, but had the urge to see how the rest of the world lived. She tried the Midwest for college at the University of Kansas, then returned to Hollywood for a six-year stint as a costume designer.

Lori had always loved New York City, and finally decided to make the move in 2001 to pursue a career in the fashion world. She landed a job with a fantastic accessories company, Hat Attack, where she designed the Hat Attack and Buji Baja lines, as well as developed product for others, including Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Kate Spade, and DKNY. She loved the job, especially the traveling and the endless search for inspiration.

Married in 2004, Will and Lori welcomed daughter Lily in 2006, and that’s when Lori began to feel the pull of the beach—the lifestyle, the weather, and especially all of her family and friends. It had always been a dream of hers to open a store inside an old house, so when Lori’s friend called to tell her that the charming craftsman on Pier Avenue—a house Lori had always loved—was for sale, she jumped at it right away. It was truly meant to be, and within weeks, Will, Lori and Lily were moving across the country to open Gum Tree.

In the summer of 2011, little Will was born and now they’re a happy family of four. They live in Hermosa, a couple blocks from Gum Tree, with their five fish, two cats, Dorothy and Toto, and Lily’s dog, Theo.