Best Of :: Shopping & Services
What does it take to stay open as an O.G. Latino boutique shop specializing in handmade clothing and accessories in some of the most sought-after real estate in all of Los Angeles? According to Noelle Reyes, the power Latina behind Mi Vida, one of the last standing pregentrification locales on York Boulevard in Highland Park, the secret lies in "keeping it real, being there for the community and simply staying positive." On any given day, the store that offers everything from original Chaz Bojórquez artwork to a saguaro cactus–shaped iPhone case doubles as a meeting place for the neighborhood, acting as a pop-up location for local chefs serving Mexican-American–style Hawaiian musubi, or as a donation-based, six-hour-long meditative "coloring station" in collaboration with a local independent artist. As the shop is about to turn 10 years old, Reyes has no plans of moving anywhere: "We are strong, we know how we impact our community, and we will continue to showcase our identity here."
The typical Los Angeles pot shop experience includes being buzzed past heavy security gates and being watched closely by surly security guards. Interiors are often small, malodorous and impersonal. Cash transactions are quick and uncomfortable. It's an improvement from the back-alley black market, barely. West Hollywood's MedMen, which opened last year, found the right time and place for a better way. Daniel Yi, director of communications at the dispensary, says most other shops follow a "deli model," where customers ask a budtender to weigh out an amount, pay and leave in short order. The 2,100-square-foot MedMen collective in West Hollywood was set up like the Apple Store. Patients can browse strains and prices on iPads. Special sanitary containers hold samples of bud if connoisseurs want a whiff. "We want you to come in and browse and learn," Yi says. The airy, wood-lined store — there's no security gate or buzzing in — sells more than 1,000 products, mostly different strains of cannabis that have been lab-tested for pesticides and contaminants. "This is where marijuana retailing is headed in the future," Yi says. But anyone planning to bite MedMen's style should know that it recently opened a location in Santa Ana and is working on a new store in Venice. It's an expanding brand. And, with legal recreational marijuana sales scheduled to start next year, MedMen West Hollywood hopes to open its already welcoming doors to everyone older than 21.
Locals and tourists do not always think alike, but surely we can agree on this: Malibu is a magical place. Cruising the undulating roadway that leads to the coastal enclave can be a transformative process on its own. As I drive, thoughts of coffee meetings and unanswered emails are drowned out by beauty — the silhouettes of surfers gliding toward the sand, pelicans swimming in the sun. Believe it or not, the destination got even better this year with the opening of Native Hotel, a revamp of the 1947-built Malibu Riviera Motel. Each of the property's 13 bungalows is simple but chic, thanks to the curatorial efforts of L.A.-based creative agency Folklor. Exposed white beams, brass bathroom fixtures and a Dutch door leading to a private patio are just a few of the details I found myself wanting to replicate at home. Guests can add a touch of luxury to their trip by booking a massage, among other treatments, in the wellness center. Very soon, Ludo Lefebvre will lure foodies from all over with waffles and coffee served from a trailer parked on-site. Combine the above amenities with the property's proximity to Zuma Beach, Point Dume and multiple state parks, and it's a wonder people manage to return their room keys.
Stanley's Wet Goods might be the Goldilocks of wine shops — its selection isn't so big that it overwhelms, nor is it so small that you can't find exactly what you're craving. On an unusually dim and chilly recent afternoon, I went hunting for a more wintry wine than I typically drink and was expertly steered to a rich and inky Lagrein, a cabernet sauvignon alternative from Italy's Trentino region; it tasted like something Cersei Lannister might savor. The soaring room is a soothing, modern space in which to peruse the rows of offbeat and smartly curated bottles, organized by country and region, and the lower-ceilinged room off to the right is a cozy spot to grab a chair and sample a flight of whatever wine (and beer) the shop is pouring that day. They serve snacks, too. It's an even better place to spend a weekend evening, toggling between the bar, the shop and the food trucks parked out front.
Merely thinking of ice cream can cast a magic spell. The idea conjures indulgence mixed with childhood memories, simpler times and even whispers of a bygone freedom. Once upon a time, when our country seemed far less complicated, soda fountains inside pharmacies, with their long laminate counters and vinyl stools, were among the de rigueur places to see and be seen. Although they filled the dual purpose of being a place to have fun and being a place to take care of otherwise boring errands, such as filling prescriptions and buying household necessities, such pharmacies have pretty much disappeared. Thankfully, the charm of this old-fashioned experience has been re-created by De Soto Pharmacy, which went back to its midcentury roots and opened up the quaintly cool Jerry's Soda Shoppe inside the drugstore just over a decade ago. Serving amazing shakes, sundaes, sodas, egg creams and sandwiches, its specialty is ice cream served in a sundae glass coated with delectable hardened chocolate. Taking care of business while channeling your inner bobby-soxer has never tasted so sweet.
For Angelenos who want to sample the creative wares of the Bay Area without the annoyingly long drive, Echo Park's Esqueleto offers a wide array of handmade jewelry, household goods and original artwork by Oakland artisans. Shop owner and jewelry designer Lauren Wolf's light-filled shop is based on her eclectic flagship store, which is hidden away on Oaktown's Temescal Alley, nestled among some hipster guilty pleasures including an artisanal doughnut shop and an old-timey barbershop. Since 2015, her L.A. outpost has presented a mix of global discoveries such as Middle Eastern kilims and Moroccan rugs, handmade pottery and works by indie jewelers. Alongside her cleverly curated objects, the real treasures are Wolf's own creations, some of which are influenced by her time studying jewelry design in Mexico. If you're looking to put a ring on it, the shop also sources non-cheesy vintage engagement rings that don't look like something out of Blanche Devereaux's jewel box. Then there are Wolf's own one-of-a-kind, understated wedding rings, whose otherworldly visions provide ample proof that you didn't get it at Jared.
Within Silver Lake Boulevard's concentrated constellation of retail stores is one of the city's best menswear shops: Hemingway and Sons. It's run by Aussie expat Toby B. Hemingway, whom longtime Silver Lakers will remember from his now-closed gift shop Hemingway and Pickett, which shared a name with his great-grandfather's barber supply store in Melbourne. Hemingway's menswear shop showcases his deft curation without the pretension of "bespoke" collections in the Arts District or zillion-dollar T-shirts on Fairfax. Hemingway and Sons provides timeless attire; it's a store for guys who can't quite pull off the kaftans of "Silver Lake Shaman," drop-crotch joggers or those "millennial pink" shorts populating the picnics of the nearby meadow. Instead, shoppers can expect minimalist button-ups by San Francisco brand Taylor Stitch, handmade boots by century-old Wisconsin outfitters Chippewa and Stetson hats that suit every decade. Not all the wares are solids and stripes, though. Any one of the selection of whimsically patterned, short-sleeved shirts would win "best shirt" at any barbecue. The small store is packed full with gents' accessories, too, providing everything from scents and shades to simple tees and socks.
If you'd rather get mauled by wolves than go into an actual mall, Glitter Death is a unique alternative, a badass buyer's and browser's paradise hearkening back to the trash-tastic early days of Hollywood. Owner Rio Warner might be a stylist to the stars (Ariana Grande and Rihanna are among her clients) but her store caters to anything but mainstream pop style-mongers. Selling groovy vintage clothing and freaky fashion plus custom work for nine years now, she devotes a lot of space to alternative designers (Nikki Lipstick, Indyanna, Laser Kitten) and crazy accessories (giant pentagram earrings, hologram chokers, lip-shaped sunglasses, unicorn cellphone cases ... you know, the essentials). An impressive vinyl and retro rock tee selection, plus tons of art and ephemera ('90s Furby dolls, campy old signage), adds to Glitter Death's eye candy and must-have-it appeal. Collectors, young punks, glam-rats and normies looking for to explore their weirdo wild side will all find something to die (and sparkle) for here.
A visit to any shop flaunting designs by indie makers shows that Los Angeles' ceramics boom continues to explode. But among the copious saguaro-style incense holders and anonymous stoneware containers, one designer stands apart: Heather Levine. She's perhaps best known for her ceramic pendant lamps, those sleekly designed, colorfully glazed objects adorned with porous pinholes, teardrops or ovals. Light leaks through the cutouts, projecting forms onto the walls of a room, turning an ordinary space into a galaxy of shapes. She fashions wall hangings of the leftover clay circles and shards, which are dangled from branches that she sometimes sources from locations around California. For some, their introduction to Levine's works is at the Ojai Rancho Inn, the motel turned haven of hipness, which showcases her lamps in every bedroom and in the mellow poolside bar, Chief's Peak. Levine's workshop in an industrial expanse between Cypress Park and Atwater Village is packed with her ceramics. The mushroomlike table lamps hunched on a nearby table aren't destined for a hobbit house or the home of a mycologist; they're headed to the Standard Hotel in the East Village to help amplify the pharmacological feel to its stylish new hot spot, narcbar. Shelf upon shelf is lined with finished pieces, which are impossible not to anthropomorphize. They stare back at you like a gaggle of Muppets up for adoption, expressing their personalities through their polka dots or narrowly squinting cutouts. Levine occasionally has a studio sale, which draws a long line, she says, but she sells her wall hangings online and at L.A. shops including Dream Collective and General Store in Venice. Lamps are mostly commissions, which you can dream up with Levine. Since she creates each piece by hand, no two pieces are exactly alike. Like all of us, ceramics are products of their environment; each piece responds differently to the world in which it is made, surviving the heat of the kiln, resisting the pull of gravity and responding to the touch of its creator. And in Levine's hands, clay comes alive.
Massage devotees in Los Angeles are all too familiar with skyrocketing prices for a massage that may or may not lead to a discounted quasi-spa joint that smells like sweaty feet and too much Hugo Boss cologne while a CD skipping Mozart plays in the background in a mediocre session. That was before the Now opened. The beautifully designed local massage boutique has four locations throughout the city that are easy on your wallet — you'll never want to leave. The Silver Lake location is the biggest of the bunch, complete with its signature, moan-inducing $65 Swedish full-body massage (plus $25 foot/head massage offerings) and a laid-back setting. Inside the Sunset Boulevard boutique's 16-foot ceilings are an indoor cactus forest, a good-juju crystal collection, smell-good everything and earthy furnishings such as a rad raw-wood swing, indigo-dyed pillows and a floppy hammock. L.A. is a place where we are constantly focused on what's next: When will we open a bagel shop that rivals New York? When will the Metro's Purple Line be finished? When will housing prices go down? But, here, while you bask in vibes that transport you to a Joshua Tree retreat, the only thing to focus on is, well, the now.
For the music shopper, a trip to the local hard-copy supplier comes with two objectives: 1. Find something from your constantly expanding wish list; and 2. Find something you didn't know you wanted but looks cool and is priced right. You can do both at Jacknife Records, even if your preferred format is the cassette. Jacknife's devotion to the quintessentially '80s music format lines the walls of this narrow Atwater Village shop. Remember that music collection you purged when you upgraded to a car without a tape deck? You can re-buy it here. Plus, Jacknife's stock can include deadstock, so those 20th-century hits might sound just as fresh as when you first bought them. While you're there, keep your ears with the times and pick up some new releases on the format, too. Need stuff to play and store your new purchases? Don't worry, Jacknife has your audio tech needs covered, too. Follow Jacknife on Instagram to keep up with what's in stock.
Was there ever any doubt that Esters would be a boon for Santa Monica? When the team behind Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive, Huckleberry and Cassia turned their attention to creating a neighborhood wine bar, it would have been foolish to bet against its greatness. Esters is a partnership between Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb and longtime Rustic Canyon wine director Kathryn Coker, and it serves many purposes: wine shop, market, restaurant. But we love it the most for its concise but playful wine list, and as a place to stop by after work and sit on the breezy patio and drink a glass or three, and munch on some cheese and oysters and charcuterie. If you want a fuller meal, Esters can provide that as well: For its size, the tiny kitchen puts out an incredibly impressive selection of food, everything from avocado toast to a 72-hour braised short rib steak. There's a full calendar of fun wine events, a boozy brunch service, and bartenders who are thrilled to talk you through the wines — if you really love one, you can buy a bottle to take home. What more could you ask?