Sofas and the City

Photo by Ted Soqui

If, in your quest for that perfect living-room showpiece, it’s the art of the


that excites you — scanning Craigslist for advance garage-sale listings, verbal sparring for markdowns at bustling flea markets or racing to a Saturday-morning sample sale in the Beachwood Canyon back yard of some insufferably slender wardrobe stylist (who’s unloading the tiny, once-worn frocks of her even slimmer models) — then

The Dock Downtown

isn’t for you. It’s simply too easy.

Located in an industrial pocket of downtown, just over the Fourth Street bridge, The Dock collects overstock, samples and end-of-season furnishings, textiles, and decorative accessories from high-end manufacturers whose merchandise is typically sold at stores like Blueprint, Fred Segal, Anthropologie, American Rag and Shelter, and it resells to interior designers, set designers and other members of the trade for up to 80 percent off retail. “A lot of the product is below wholesale,” says co-founder Ali Ferber Peters, who previously owned a toy company. “Trade people say it’s so great — that they’d have to go to 20 stores to get all this.”

No surprise, then, that Dock furniture has made cameos on the sets of Desperate Housewives, Queer Eye for the Straight Girl and Smallville, among other shows, plus myriad commercials. While industry folks dropping in to dress the sets of prime-time TV dramas sounds titillating and exclusive in a velvet-rope-for-retail kind of way, The Dock does open up to the public once a month, during a weeklong, by-invitation-only “sale” for customers who sign up on the Web site.

Previously in a much smaller Atwater store, The Dock moved downtown in January. And the new warehouse — a 10,000-square-foot red-brick-and-concrete space that once housed a condom factory — is dense with bedding and table linens, hand-beaded velvet pillowcases, Italian cashmere throw blankets, cotton tablecloths with organdy cutouts, even pricey Nordstrom pajamas and robes for $15 to $20 each. There are $2 place mats, $9 rugs, all the requisite little things: handmade paper albums, vases, Illume candles in food-specific colors such as pineapple-cilantro-green. But — and this is a very anti–Chicken Soup for the Soul thing to say — it’s really not the little things that matter. It’s the big, brand-new, wildly discounted teak daybeds, rustic mahogany consoles, handmade bamboo loungers. Selected items, flagged as “dock deals of the month,” are marked down even further. In April, it was a German-designed alder-wood armoire, inlaid with crosscut bamboo circles. It retailed for $5,200 at Neiman-Marcus, and on the day we visited, The Dock was letting it go for $1,750. In March, $220 patchwork quilts went for $25 to $35.

“You can hear customers on their cell phones [telling their spouses]: ‘No, I swear, that’s what the tag says,’ ” explains Peters. “I come from a marketing background, and the culture of what it’s worth and what it’s retailing for . . . is insane.”

So there’s something of a Robin Hood–esque quality to The Dock — a sense of taking from the rich and then enriching, if not the poor, perhaps the less rich. In the process, the smart, style-savvy women behind The Dock may inadvertently be bringing on the death of the designer sample sale. Or, at least, providing an alternative.

The next by-invitation-only sale will be held Sat., June 4, and Sun., June 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Mon., June 6, through Fri., June 10, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., at The Dock Downtown, 1481 E. Fourth St.; (323) 446-0281; sign up at 


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