Heather Canton is the publisher and editor of Crown City Magazine, which started over three years ago after she saw the need and took a leap.
Many residents of Coronado are familiar with the quality magazine — from the content to the paper — that shows up in mailboxes, at newsstands and locations around the island and beyond.
“I waited for the right moment and I went for it, completely throwing everything I have into it with great persistence, and I haven’t stopped working since,” she said.
Canton shared her experience with the Times, and she mentioned during our conversations that through the challenges of the journalism business and a pandemic, she thought, “just keep printing.”
A Coronado Family’s History — Around the World and Back
In the 1930s, Canton’s grandparents built their family home on J Avenue when that area was farmland. Her grandfather, Brigadier General Edward L. Pugh, fought as a Marine aviator in Nicaragua and, during WWII, was commander of all Allied fighter squadrons in the ‘43 Solomon Islands campaign.
“My grandmother Margaret Haltigan Pugh, a poet, was very involved at Sacred Heart Parish Church. There’s a special stained-glass window in honor of the Pugh family still there today. Much of my family attended Sacred Heart Parish School (SHPS) including my mother, Sarah Pugh Canton (who was born in Coronado), aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins and even their children. It was an honor to continue this tradition with my son as the most recent member of our family to graduate from SHPS in ‘20.”
Interestingly, Canton was born in Casablanca, Morocco, where her parents lived for years. Her father, John A. Canton, spent part of his childhood there when his dad Marine Colonel John S. Canton was stationed in Morocco with his wife Rosalie. Colonel Canton fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. In ‘74, after also serving as a Marine officer, Heather’s dad returned to Morocco with her mom and two of Heather’s siblings. A brother of Heather’s was also born in Morocco. After 13 years, the family moved to Coronado in ‘84 when Heather was 4 — and they grew up in a two-story house on Olive Avenue.
The Purpose-Parent-Career Struggle
The future publisher graduated from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) while working on campus and as a single mom of two children, majoring in political science with an emphasis on international relations.
“My time studying at UCSD and the sense of pride and accomplishment at graduation is a highlight of my life,” she said. “At that time I was heavily involved in environmental conservation groups, and I’d wanted to set out to find a job that would help me save the world.
“Instead, I made whatever personal sacrifices necessary to be a stay-at-home mom until my youngest started kindergarten. I made a deliberate choice to put my career on hold to be at home. It was difficult, but since early motherhood is just a sliver of a woman’s life, and because children grow up so fast, it was a no-brainer for me; and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Canton’s first real job, besides babysitting, helping her grandma or washing cars in the neighborhood, was at Marco’s Italian Restaurant (located where Tent City is today).
“I’m proud to have also worked at Coronado Brewing Company,” she added. “I often took odd jobs when my kids were young but I never made any career moves. I loved working as a caregiver but wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to do full-time. As my kids got older, I decided it was time to start going after a career, but I had no idea what I wanted to do and I felt so lost.
“Since graduating UCSD, the pressure to be a productive member of society grew steadily. I remember hearing over-simplified advice like, ‘just find something you love and make a career out of it,’ and thinking I love to do so many things, so this’ll be oh so easy, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Much of the time, I felt so much pressure to perform outside my domestic duties as a mom because our society can equate productivity with your worth.
“Inside I knew that being there for my children was ultimately the best thing I could do at that time for society, but even so, it bugged me I couldn’t answer the looming question of how I would contribute to this world and what legacy I would someday leave behind. Becoming a productive member of society was and still is very important to me.”
Though Canton struggled to figure out what her calling was, she vowed: “to grow wherever I was planted.” She took jobs which interested her and which she’s proud to have done. She worked for the Coronado Schools Foundation, the Eagle Journal newspaper, and for one of the oldest real estate groups in town, the Coronado Shores Company.
Doing the Publishing High Dive
“In 2013,” she shared, “I was a big fan of Coronado Lifestyle Magazine and Kris Grant, who did such a fine job publishing it for 20 years. Her success really inspired me. Admiring her publication, and playfully imagining what I’d do differently if I published a magazine, is when my dream of Crown City Magazine began.
“I did not want to compete with her successful publication, so the time wasn’t right. In the spring of 2018, when Kris made an announcement she was closing, I threw caution to the wind and invested everything I had into filling this void in our community. In July 2018, the first issue of Crown City Magazine was published.”
The working mother observed that owning her own business aligned with her priorities as a mom, allowing control over her schedule and more time at home. After years of going through hoops to get time off, and often being denied the time, she said it felt great to never again have to miss a family event because she couldn’t get a work shift covered.
“What inspired me most to go into publishing,” Canton described, “is the fascinating story of how my great, great, grandfather, John Haltigan, was a rogue publisher during the Irish Revolution. His son, Patrick Haltigan, escaped to the United States and became the publisher of the New Hibernian newspaper in Washington D.C., the primary Irish-oriented publication in the U.S. of its time.
“I completely geek out on the entire publishing process.”
“The idea of publishing thrilled me because whether it’s a hyper-local community publication or a national news source with the power to completely alter world events, publications strengthen communities and bring people together through literary expression and art. What’s more, I finally found something I truly love to do. I completely geek out on the entire publishing process.”
The Magic of Coronado
“Coronado is basecamp,” she explained. “No matter where I am in the world, I will always be proud to call this little island paradise home because Coronado represents an intimately close community with deep history. It signifies an intersection between environmental beauty, long-term friendships and military honor. Who else gets that when you’re in a liquor store halfway across the world and you see they sell Coronado Brewing Company beer?!”
Canton loves soft-sand running, swimming in the ocean, skateboarding, snowboarding, horseback riding, camping, hiking — really anything outdoors, she laughed — as well as reading, music and art of course. Her interests and concerns also lie in local and international issues such as education, poverty, immigration, pollution, human rights and aspirations toward world peace.
Balancing the Business of Communication
“In my life, personal challenges definitely intersect with advancing a career. My biggest career challenge is also one of my biggest personal challenges. The big B-word everyone’s after. Balance. Balancing work with other, sometimes more important, priorities.”
She elaborated how it can be about making conscious decisions like spending time with a loved one, taking a walk or a stretch after sitting for hours at the computer, learning to set boundaries by saying “no” to people sometimes. She added she’s always trying to improve in these ways.
When asked if she has advice for others interested in her industry, she said to “go for it.”
“Research all the different positions and find a position that’s worthwhile and enjoyable. Interview someone who has a similar job and if possible, shadow them for a day to get a feel for the work and any challenges which come with it. The door is always open at Crown City Publishing for anyone interested in a career in publishing. We also have great partnerships and friendships with other successful publications to help get you in the door.
“Along my journey I had countless mentors and I still do have mentors and reach out for advice all the time. Many times through the years I’ve turned to SCORE for help — a great local resource of volunteer mentors who are totally free at score.org. I’ve also reached out to old professors, employers, people I admire, and of course friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; people typically don’t mind at all and are happy to give you a boost.”
Canton emphasized how the publishing business requires honesty and integrity, that there’s a responsibility to represent people, businesses and groups — and to truthfully disseminate information.
“To produce a valuable product in this field, strong core values should guide every move. Furthermore, expect to suffer setbacks and prepare to muster the personal strength to stick to those values.”
A Hometown Magazine
Crown City Magazine is steadily evolving into a platform to strengthen, inform and build the community, like so many other entities which serve the community, Canton noted.
One of the things she’s most proud of is being the first to bring an annual August surfing issue as well as a fun surf photo contest held each spring, both bringing the town together to celebrate the local surfing community.
Recently she’s begun a guest editor concept where they’ll have different people, businesses and groups take over as editor for a month. She said the magazine has become such a powerful platform to reach a local audience of visitors and locals that she wanted to provide opportunities to those who need the exposure and would benefit from the community getting to know them better and in a more personal way.
“This is my way of making the publication more inclusive to the town, in a sense, so it can become a true community magazine where the people, businesses and groups who make it great will have a sense of ownership.”
If anyone is interested in contributing as guest editor for a month, or becoming involved in Crown City Magazine, reach out to her at [email protected].
Canton reiterates that no matter your age, gender, background — as long as you’re guided by kindness, gratitude and integrity, you’ll find your way. She said to be patient. Ignore the negative. And like she tells her son and daughter, put your fears aside and just jump off that diving board. It’s great to find something you love — something that thrills you and keeps you learning — something that doesn’t feel like work all the time. And when the workload gets heavy, she said, that’s where grit comes in. Just keep working and know that your hard work will pay off and your efforts will be rewarded.
“And breathe, girl. Keep your priorities straight. No amount of success is going to be rewarding if you’re leaving behind your values.”
The Coronado Times welcomes ‘Queens of Crown City’ suggestions from our readers of local women to profile. Email your nomination here.