Erik Hale is the publisher of Locale Magazine, a SoCal lifestyle magazine. Photo taken on Friday, April 18. (SCOTT SMELTZER / Daily Pilot / April 18, 2014)

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The story of Erik Hale could be described simply as the American Dream, but there's nothing simple about Hale.

Most recently, he had been driven by the pursuit of happiness. He sought fulfillment.

Why else would a highly successful car salesman quit his job and start his own company in what has been viewed a dying business?

The 42-year-old behind the pages of Locale Magazine has a story all his own, and it has little to do with the best place to eat a burger or the latest fashion trend.

Hale, a Newport Beach resident, halted a lucrative career at Fletcher Jones Motorcars and bolted for the print industry. He compares it to sitting at a poker table in Las Vegas and pushing all of his chips to the table. He is unabashedly realistic, as he says he went from the frying pan to standing in lava.

In 2010, amid a moribund economy and failing newspapers and magazines, Hale said goodbye to Jones and hello to Locale.

Yet somehow, he made it all work. His product was built from nothing but dreams and scribbled notes on a pad of paper.

He believes his topsy-turvy background paved the way for success. Locale, a lifestyle and culture magazine based in Costa Mesa, has branched out from Orange County with editions for San Diego and Los Angeles within four years.

"The one thing about my life experiences is that every single thing I did seemed to be on some preordained path that got me to where I am now," says Hale, who is twice divorced and has two children and a 24-year-old girlfriend. "Some people know what they want to be when they are younger. I just took a little longer to bake."

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A child prodigy

"I'm 42 years old," Hale says. "And I've lived in 43 houses."

Hale is originally from Hughson in the Central Valley, but his family moved around a lot. His father, Otis, was an ordained minister who also worked as a butter-churn operator for Foremost, and his mother, Dena, was a hair stylist. They are now divorced after 40 years.

Even though they were opposites, Hale and his brother, Brandon, who is one year younger, drew closer because of the moving. Erik is the outgoing one and, back then, was a bit of a prodigy. He was gifted enough that he advanced two grades and eventually finished high school at 16.

"I'm a listener, and he's a talker," Brandon says.

Erik was always told by teachers he was destined for greatness. The family's strong belief in God and faith, based in the Assemblies of God church, solidified young Erik's belief that he could conquer anything in his way.

But Erik soon realized such victories would not come easily.

One of the biggest moves for the Hales came just before Erik's senior year, while he was playing with his travel baseball team. Erik had to stay with friends when he returned "home" because he found out his family moved to Flagstaff, Ariz. His father moved the family and then notified Erik they were gone.

Erik did his best to remain on his path toward success. He attended Northern Arizona University and became part of the Sigma Chi fraternity at 17.

"That was a mistake," Hale says of his early partying days. "College lasted about a year for me."