Looking for a book about the Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society? Perhaps you need a Jolly Roger doormat for the house. Maybe you just want to pick up some time-travel-sickness pills, a spray bottle of barbarian repellant or a few fresh dinosaur eggs before you blast to the past. Whatever your needs, Los Angeles is definitely not lacking in the quirky-shop department.
Our city's diverse population and its reputation as an arts metropolis give local merchants plenty of opportunity to sell unusual goods. Since many stores are independently owned, most of them don't just reflect unique tastes — they are physical manifestations of someone's life work.
Like the Eagle Rock Rock and Eagle Shop, some stores are temporary pop-ups, while others, such as the L.A. County Coroner's Skeletons in the Closet and the Bodhi Tree metaphysical bookstore, have packed up and moved online (though Bodhi Tree's new owners plan to open a new location).
But a few brick-and-mortar gems continue to offer a selection of weird material, affording Angelenos a kind of public-art experience while promoting an overall creative mission. Here are 10 of our favorite strange boutiques.
10. The Museum of Jurassic Technology Gift Shop
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is not just a museum — it's curator David Wilson's evolving art project, and the museum's gift shop is inspired by a curious mix of arcane folklore, hidden histories and other odd bits of ephemera. Whether it's a pair of disappearing dice, a mechanical music-box set or a collection of matches decorated with images of dogs of the Soviet space program, the MJT's gift shop enables members of the public to take home a piece of Wilson's indefinable aesthetic to enjoy long after they've left his storefront museum. 9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-836-6131, mjtgiftshop.org
9. Wacko/Soap Plant
This Hollywood-based shop is another trip through the mind of an eccentric Angeleno — store proprietor Billy Shire. The assortment of unique books, bizarre sundries and limited-edition toys at Wacko/Soap Plant actually inspired an adjoining art space called La Luz de Jesus, which exhibits lowbrow and pop-surrealist art from the likes of Gary Baseman, Camille Rose Garcia and others. 4633 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-663-0122, soapplant.com
8. Shine Gallery
Shine Gallery at the Farmers Market reflects Bernie Shine's treasure trove of dead-stock Americana. Here you'll find everything from antique novelties and sports memorabilia to old carnival prizes and vintage political pins. You'll also find semi-offensive paper Halloween masks in packages of eight, including a caricature of Satan. 6333 W. Third St., #134, 323-954-4700, shinegallery.com
7. Los Angeles Sock Market
Socks themselves aren't weird, but an entire store stocked with the garment is a different matter altogether — especially considering this place is smack dab in the middle of the Universal CityWalk tourist mecca. It's not like most people think of socks when they want to pick up a few souvenirs, but still, the Los Angeles Sock Market has its devoted clientele. The so-called “world's greatest sock place” — which also has an outpost in San Francisco — sells foot cozies in every possible size, shape, color, style and material, so no lower extremity is left behind. 1000 Universal Studios Blvd., Suite 140, Universal City, 818-509-1340, sockmarket.com
At Necromance, owner Nancy Smith's morbid collection of curiosities includes old skeleton keys, glass eyes, freeze-dried reptiles and other objects reminiscent of something you might find in the basement of the Museum of Natural History. 7222 Melrose Ave., 323-934-8684, necromance.com
5. Y-Que Trading Post
Y-Que Trading Post isn't technically a trading post, but it certainly feels like one. Located on a busy stretch of Los Feliz, this small shop sells a wide range of assorted tchotchkes, from whimsical T-shirts and handmade jewelry to other pieces of bric-a-brac that defy description. It's like your local joke-and-magic shop, but with less jokes and more magic. Plus, L.A. Weekly contributor Lina Lecaro once worked there, so you know it's cool. 1770 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, 323-664-0021, yque.com
4. Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture
If you've ever driven north along La Brea and noticed a big red plastic settee in the shape of a pair of lips, that was Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture. Billed as “a carnival of treasure,” this place is all that and more. You'll find items such as life-sized replicas of The Simpsons characters and random neon signs in the middle of a huge selection of midcentury modern furniture. Even if you leave empty-handed, this place is always worth a peek inside. 100 S. La Brea Ave., 323-934-3700
3. Farmacia y Botánica Million Dollar
Part drugstore, part head shop and part Psychic Eye, Million Dollar is downtown's definitive botánica — a store that sells alternative medicine in the form of charms, figurines and household objects that function as folk remedies. Among everyday staples you'll find candles, oils, aerosol cans and other sundries meant to treat random conditions like the fear of public speaking. There's soap for your legal troubles, incense to battle jealousy and a small bottle of red waxy oil with a label that cryptically reads, “I Can and You Can't.” It doesn't matter if any of it works — browsing this store is more fun and less expensive than therapy, and probably just as effective. 301 S. Broadway, downtown, 213-687-3688
2. Dapper Cadaver
Dapper Cadaver is the foremost purveyor of “casualty simulation,” renting and selling death-related props to horror filmmakers, Halloween fans, forensic institutes and anyone else who needs stuff like a steel autopsy table, talking headstone or camel femur. Owners BJ and Eileen Winslow thrive on finding and selling weird things — their preserved specimen jars feature vintage, scientific or even vegan items, and are all bottled in-house. They also fabricate their own sideshow oddities, with curiosities such as a real Dayak boar skull from Burma, a vampire killing kit and a wide range of two-headed creatures as well. Their client roster includes everyone from the producers of True Blood and The Hunger Games to Martha Stewart, Six Flags, the FBI and Scotland Yard. But unlike some other prop houses, this one is open to the public, and that means you. 7572 San Fernando Road, Sun Valley, 818-771-0818, dappercadaver.com
1. Echo Park Time Travel Mart
While the Echo Park Time Travel Mart won't actually take you back in time, it does sell things you might need if it did, including a 50-year calendar, a robot toupee and strange toiletries like Viking Odorant, which, unlike your average antiperspirant, works to make you “stay filthy.” Like the others, this weird store has an objective that goes deeper than just making a buck: It's the storefront for 826LA, the local chapter of a nonprofit writing organization for kids. 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, 213-413-3388, 826la.org/store