SHOPPING IN LOS ANGELES
Whether you're looking for trend-setting fashions or just some tourist schlock mementos, Los Angeles has your shopping needs covered like no other place in the world. Los Angeles practically invented the shopping mall!
Street shops are generally open Monday through Saturday from 10 or 11am to 5 or 6pm. Many are open Sunday, particularly those near the beaches, movie theatres, or clusters of other stores. In addition, quite a few choose one night a week, often Wednesday or Thursday, to offer extended evening hours. Mall shops take their cue from the anchor department stores; as a rule, they open around 10am and do business until 8 or 9pm. On Sunday, shave an hour or two off each side, while holiday periods increase mall hours substantially.
Sales tax in Los Angeles is 8%; savvy out-of-state shoppers know to have larger items shipped directly home to save the tax.
Shopping Streets & Neighbourhoods
Since the late lamented Bullock's department store closed in 1993 (its Art Deco masterpiece salons were rescued to house the Southwestern Law School's library), Downtown has become less of a shopping destination than ever. Although many of the once-splendid streets are lined with cut-rate luggage and electronics stores, shopping here can be a rewarding -- albeit gritty -- experience for the adventuresome.
Savvy Angelenos still go for bargains in the garment and fabric districts; florists and bargain hunters arrive at the vast Flower Mart before dawn for the city's best selection of fresh blooms; and families of all ethnicities stroll the Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway (between 3rd and 4th sts.; tel. 213/624-2378; www.grandcentralsquare.com). Opened in 1917, this bustling market has watched the face of Downtown L.A. change while changing little. Today its sawdust-covered aisles serve Latino families, enterprising restaurateurs, and cooks in search of unusual ingredients -- stuffed goat heads, mole, plantains, deep-fried smelt, Mexican cane alcohol -- and bargain-priced produce. On weekends you'll be greeted by a mariachi band at the Hill Street entrance, near a market feature, the fruit-juice counter, which dispenses 20 fresh varieties from wall spigots and blends the tastiest, healthiest "shakes" in town. Farther into the market you'll find produce sellers and prepared-food counters, spice vendors who seem straight out of a Turkish bazaar, and a grain-and-bean seller who'll scoop out dozens of exotic rice and dried legumes. It's open 9am to 6pm daily.
Another popular Downtown shopping zones is Olvera Street (tel. 213/628-1274; www.olvera-street.com), a lively brick pedestrian lane near Union Station that's been lined with stalls selling Mexican wares since the 1930s. Everything that's sold south of the border is available here, including custom leather accessories, huarache sandals, maracas, and -- but of course -- freshly baked churros. On weekends, you're bound to see strolling bolero musicians, mariachis, folk dancers, and performances by Aztec Indians. It's open daily from 10am to about 7pm.
If you're looking to find the best shopping deals in handbags, luggage, shoes, costume jewelry, and trendy fashions, then try your best to find a parking meter or park in one of the parking structures from Olympic Boulevard to 12th Street and explore Santee Alley, located in the alley between Santee Street and Maple Avenue. Often referred to as the heart of the fashion district, you'll find everything you've ever wanted at bargain prices. Go early on Saturday mornings if you want to blend in with the locals.
Okay, so you have to wake up a little early to experience the Southern California Flower Mart, 742 Maple Ave. between 7th and 8th streets (tel. 213/627-2482), but if you do it right -- wear comfortable shoes, bring cash, and pick up a cup o' joe -- you'll find walking through the myriad of flower stalls a very tranquil experience. Besides carrying the usual buds and stems that you see in Sunset Magazine, you'll be surprised to find tropicals such as torch ginger, protea, and bird of paradise. You can purchase flowers by the bundles at amazingly low prices.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard: L.A.'s Antithesis to Rodeo Drive-- When you're finally fed up with the Rodeo Drive attitude and megamall conformity, it's time to drive to Venice and stroll the eclectic shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. This refreshingly antiestablishment stretch of street has the most diverse array of shops, galleries, and restaurants in Los Angeles. (Locals still cheer that there are no franchises in the neighbourhood.) You can easily spend the entire afternoon here pouring over vintage clothing, antique furniture, vintage Vespas, local art, and amusing gifts. For one-of-a-kind designed jewelry, check out Nagual, 1326 Abbott Kinney Blvd. (tel. 310/396-8500), whose "metals with an edge" designs have caught the eye of many celebrities. Or if you're looking for a unique gift, you'll want to walk into the shop of Strange Invisible Perfumes, 1209 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (tel. 310/314-1505), where they can custom-make a scent to match your musk. Then there's Firefly, 1413 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (tel. 310/450-6288), a local favourite. It's that one store you can go into and find a great baby gift, stationery, books, quirky handbags, and cool clothing. DNA Clothing Co., 411 Rose Ave. (tel. 310/399-0341), is the mother lode for the those looking for the coolest, most current styles for men and women at great prices (numerous stylists and costumers use DNA as their resource for sitcoms to feature films). You'll find all your major brands as well as their own private label wear, and fresh stock arrives weekly. When you're ready to sit down and look over your loot, take a break to eat at one of the boulevard's many restaurants, including Joe's (the best California cuisine in L.A.), Primitivo, Axe, Lilly's, Massimo's, Jin's Patisserie, French Market CafÃƒÂ©, and, of course, Hal's Bar & Grill, with its live jazz music.
Lingerie Insider-- Panty Raid, a very charming boutique, carries brands for the serious lingerie collector such as Cosabella, Mary Green, and Felina, as well as Hanky Panky (cute lace tank tops and boy short sets), Betsey Johnson, T & C California, Eberjey, and Only Hearts. A selection of hosiery, socks, yoga outfits, loungewear, and gift items -- including candles, bath and body products -- are also available. 2378 1/2 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. tel. 323/668-1888.
Hollywood Boulevard (between Gower St. and La Brea Ave.) -- One of Los Angeles's most famous streets is, for the most part, a cheesy tourist strip. But along the Walk of Fame, between the T-shirt shops and greasy pizza parlors, you'll find some excellent poster shops, souvenir stores, and Hollywood-memorabilia dealers worth getting out of your car for -- especially if there's a chance of getting your hands on that long-sought-after Ethel Merman autograph or 200 Motels poster.
Some long-standing purveyors of memorabilia include Book City Collectibles, which has more than 70,000 colour prints of past and present stars, along with a good selection of famous autographs. Hollywood Book and Poster Company has an excellent collection of posters (from about $15 each), strong in horror and exploitation flicks. Photocopies of about 5,000 movie and television scripts are sold for $10 to $15 each -- Pulp Fiction is just as good in print, by the way -- and the store carries music posters and photos. The Collector's Book Store is a movie buff's dream, with enough printed memorabilia for an afternoon of browsing; vintage copies of Photoplay and other fan mags cost $2 to $5, and the selection of biographies is outstanding.
Larchmont Boulevard (between Beverly Blvd. and 2nd St.) -- Neighbours congregate on this old-fashioned street just east of busy Vine Avenue. As the surrounding Hancock Park homes become increasingly popular with artists and young industry types, the shops and cafes lining Larchmont get more stylish. Sure, chains like Jamba Juice and The Coffee Bean are infiltrating this formerly mom-and-pop terrain, but plenty of unique shopping awaits amid charming elements like diagonal parking, shady trees, and sidewalk bistro tables.
One of L.A.'s landmark independent bookstores is Chevalier's Books, 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. (tel. 323/465-1334), a 60-year Larchmont tradition. If your walking shoes are letting you down, stop into Village Footwear, 240 N. Larchmont Blvd. (tel. 323/461-3619), which specialises in comfort lines like Josef Siebel.
Melrose Avenue (between Fairfax and La Brea aves.) -- It's showing some wear -- some stretches have become downright ugly -- but this is still one of the most exciting shopping streets in the country for cutting-edge fashions (and some eye-popping people-watching, to boot). Melrose is always an entertaining stroll, dotted with plenty of hip restaurants and funky shops selling the latest in clothes, gifts, jewelry, and accessories that are sure to shock. Where else could you find green patent-leather cowboy boots, a working 19th-century pocket watch, an inflatable girlfriend, and glow-in-the-dark condoms on the same block? From east to west, here are some highlights.
l.a. Eyeworks, 7407 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/653-8255), revolutionised eyeglass designs from medical supply to stylish accessory, and now their brand is nationwide. Retail s***, 7308 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/934-1339), is a rock-'n'-roll shop carrying new clothing and accessories for men and women. The unique designs are for a select crowd (the name says it all), so don't expect to find anything for your next PTA meeting here. Betsey Johnson Boutique is a favourite among the young and pencil-thin; the New York-based designer has brought to L.A. her brand of fashion: Trendy, cutesy, body-conscious women's wear in colourful prints and faddish fabrics. Across the street, Off the Wall is filled with neon-flashing, bells-and-whistles kitsch collectibles, from vintage Wurlitzer jukeboxes to life-size fiberglass cows. The L.A. branch of a Bay Area hipster hangout, Wasteland has an enormous steel-sculpted facade. There's a lot of leather and denim, and some classic vintage -- but mostly funky 1970s-style garb, both vintage and contemporary. More racks of vintage treasures (and trash) are found at Aardvark's Odd Ark, which stocks everything from suits and dresses to neckties, hats, handbags, and jewelry. This place also manages to anticipate some of the hottest new street fashions.
Every Sunday from 8:30am to 1pm, the Hollywood Farmers Market takes place on Ivar Avenue between Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. Along with fresh California-grown produce, there's plenty of live entertainment, an artisan and crafts fair, and ethnic food stalls. There's even free parking off Vine Street.
Pasadena & Environs
Compared to L.A.'s behemoth shopping malls, the streets of pretty, compact Pasadena are a breeze to stroll. As a general rule, stores are open daily from about 10am, and while some close at the standard 5 or 6pm, many stay open till 8 or 9pm to accommodate the before- and after-dinner/movie crowd.
Old Pasadena (centred on the intersection of Colorado Blvd. and Fair Oaks Ave.) -- Dating back to the 1880s, the 22-block-long Old Pasadena (tel. 626/666-4156; www.oldpasadena.com) district offers some of the best shopping in L.A. -- if it retains the mom-and-pop businesses currently being pushed out by the likes of Banana Republic and Crate & Barrel. As you move eastward, the mix begins to include more eclectic shops and galleries commingling with dusty, preyuppie relics.
Penny Lane, 12 W. Colorado Blvd. (tel. 626/564-0161), carries new and used CDs, plus a great selection of music magazines and kitschy postcards. The stock is less picked over here than at many record stores in Hollywood. Travelers also seem to find something they need at Distant Lands Bookstore and Outfitters, a duo of related stores. The bookstore has a terrific selection of maps, guides, and travel-related literature, while the outfitter two doors away offers everything from luggage and pith helmets to space-saving and convenient travel accessories. An Old Town mainstay is Rebecca's Dream, 16 S. Fair Oaks Ave. (tel. 626/796-1200), where both men and women can find vintage clothing treasures. The store is small and meticulously organised (by color scheme); be sure to look at the vintage hats adorning the walls.
In addition to Old Town Pasadena, there are numerous good hunting grounds in the surrounding area. Antiques hounds might want to head to the Green Street Antique Row, 985-1005 E. Green St. (east of Lake Ave.), or the Pasadena Antique Center, on South Fair Oaks Boulevard (south of Del Mar). Each has a rich concentration of collectibles that can captivate for hours.
You never know what you might find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, at the Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena (tel. 323/560-SHOW; www.rgcshows.com/rosebowl.asp). The horseshoe-shape Rose Bowl, built in 1922, is one of the world's most famous stadiums, home to UCLA's Bruins, the annual Rose Bowl Game, and an occasional Super Bowl. California's largest monthly swap meet, held here on the second Sunday of every month from 9am to 3pm rain or shine, is a favourite of Los Angeles antiques hounds (who know to arrive as early as 7am for the best finds). Antique furnishings, clothing, jewelry, and other collectibles are assembled in the parking area to the left of the entrance, while the rest of the flea market surrounds the exterior of the Bowl. Expect everything from used surfboards and car stereos to one-of-a-kind lawn statuary and bargain athletic shoes. Admission is $7 after 9am (early bird admission is $10 at 8am and $15 at 7am).
Anglophiles will enjoy Rose Tree Cottage, 828 E. California Blvd. (just west of Lake Ave.; tel. 626/793-3337; www.rosetreecottage.com), and its charming array of all things British. This cluster of historic Tudor cottages surrounded by traditional English gardens holds three gift shops and a tearoom, where a superb $28 high tea is served thrice daily among the knickknacks (and supervised by the resident cat, Miss Moffett). In addition to imported teas, linens, and silver trinkets, Rose Tree Cottage sells English delicacies like steak-and-kidney pies, hot cross buns, and shortbread. It's also the local representative of the British Tourist Authority and offers a comprehensive array of travel publications.
Santa Monica & the Beaches
Main Street (between Pacific St. and Rose Ave., and Santa Monica and Venice boulevards) -- An excellent street for strolling, Main Street is crammed with a combination of mall standards as well as upscale, left-of-centre individual boutiques. You can also find plenty of casually hip cafes and restaurants. The primary strip connecting Santa Monica and Venice, Main Street has a relaxed, beach-community vibe that sets it apart from similar strips. The stores here straddle the fashion fence between upscale trendy and beach-bum edgy. Highlights include Obsolete, 222 Main St. (near Rose Ave; tel. 310/399-0024), the most hip antiques store. Collectibles range from antique carnival curios to 19th-century anatomical charts from Belgium (you'd [spam word detected] at how much some of that junk in your attic is worth). CP Shades, 2937 Main St. (between Ashland and Pier sts.; tel. 310/392-0949), a San Francisco ladies' clothier whose loose and comfy cotton and linen line is carried by many department stores and boutiques. Horizons West, 2011 Main St. (south of Pico Blvd.; tel. 310/392-1122), sells brand-name surfboards, wet suits, leashes, magazines, waxes, lotions, and everything else you need to catch the perfect wave. If you're looking for some truly sophisticated, finely crafted eyewear, the friendly Optical Shop of Aspen, 2904 Main St. (between Ashland and Pier sts.; tel. 310/392-0633), is for you. Ask for frames by cutting-edge L.A. designers Bada and Koh Sakai. For aromatherapy nirvana, it's Cloud's, 2719 Main St., (tel. 310/399-2059), where Jill Cloud (happily assisted by her lovely mom) carries the most heavenly scented candles. Then there's Arts & Letters, 2665 Main St. (tel. 310/314-7345), a stationery haven that includes invitations by the owner herself, Marilyn Golin. Outdoors types will get lost in 5,600-square-foot Patagonia, 2936 Main St. (tel. 310/314-1776; www.patagonia.com), where climbers, surfers, skiers, and hikers can gear up in the functional, colourful duds that put this environmentally friendly firm on the map.
Montana Avenue (between 17th and 7th sts., Santa Monica; www.montanaave.com) -- This breezy stretch of slow-traffic Montana has gotten a lot more pricey than in the late 1970s, when tailors and laundromats ruled the roost, but the specialty shops still outnumber the chains. Look around and you can see upscale moms with strollers and cellphones shopping for designer fashions, country home decor, and gourmet takeout.
Montana is still original enough for residents from across town to make a special trip here, seeking out distinctive shops like Shabby Chic, 1013 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/394-1975), a much-copied purveyor of slipcovered sofas and flea-market furnishings, while clotheshorses shop for designer wear at minimalist Savannah, 706 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/458-2095); ultrahip Jill Roberts, 920 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/260-1966); and sleekly professional Weathervane, 1209 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/393-5344). For more grown-up style, head to Ponte Vecchio, 702 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/394-0989), which sells Italian hand-painted dishes and urns, or to Cinzia, 1129 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/393-7751), which features a smattering of both Tuscan and English home accessories. If Valentine's Day is approaching, duck into Only Hearts, 1407 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/393-3088), for heart-themed gifts and seductively comfortable intimate apparel. And don't forget the one-of-a-kind shops such as Sun Precautions, 1600 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/451-5858), specialising in 100% UV protection apparel, and the second largest Kiehl's store outside of NYC, 1515 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/255-0055). Enjoy a meal at the local favourite, CafÃƒÂ© Montana, 1534 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/829-3990), for great people-watching through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
Third Street Promenade -- Packed with those ubiquitous corporate chain stores, restaurants, and cafes (gee, another Starbucks), Santa Monica's pedestrians-only section of 3rd Street is the most popular shopping area in the city and, certainly, the least original (picture a suburban shopping mall without a roof and you've got it). The Promenade (3rd St. from Broadway to Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; www.downtownsm.com) bustles all day and well into the evening with a seemingly endless assortment of street performers, shoppers, bored teens, and homeless drifters.
There are, however, a few shopping gems squeezed between the Abercrombie & Fitches and Old Navys. You can easily browse for hours at Hennessey & Ingalls, 214 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/458-9074), a bookstore devoted to art and architecture. Midnight Special Bookstore, 1450 2nd St. (tel. 310/393-2923), is a medium-size general bookshop known for its good small-press selection and regular poetry readings. Restoration Hardware, 1221 Third Street Promenade (tel. 310/458-7992), is still the retro-current leader for reproduction home furnishings and accessories. Puzzle Zoo, 1413 Third Street Promenade (tel. 310/393-9201), voted "Best in L.A." by Los Angeles magazine, is where you'll find the double-sided World's Most Difficult Puzzle, the Puzzle in a Bottle, and many other brain-teasing challenges. Music lovers can get CDs and vinyl at Hear Music and Pyramid Music, then check out the rock-'n'-roll collectibles at Mayhem. Stores stay open late (often till 1 or 2am on the weekends) for the movie-going crowds, and there's plenty of metered parking in six structures along 2nd and 4th streets between Broadway and Wilshire Blvd., so bring lots of quarters.
Cinderella Complex: Custom Shoes-- If you're still searching for The Perfect Pair of Shoes, why not have them custom-made just for your feet? Stanners & Kent, a tiny shoe shop at 800 B 14th St. (at Montana Ave.; tel. 310/656-2720), creates custom-designed shoes in whatever style you desire. Prices start at about $200.
Celebrity Cloned Clothing-- If your dream is to dress like your favorite celebrity who may have stepped right off of the red carpet at one of Hollywood's numerous award shows, then a visit to A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz should be on your to-do list. As soon as one of these high-profile events is over (think Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Oscars), A.B.S. has already produced a knock-off version that is every bit as lovely, but also much more affordable. 1533 Montana Ave. (at 15th St.); tel. 310/393-8770.
Silver Lake & Los Feliz
Located at the eastern end of Hollywood and technically part of Los Angeles, these two communities have been rising steadily on the hipness meter. Silver Lake, named for the man-made Silver Lake reservoir at its centre, is a bohemian community of artists and ethnic families that's popular for nightclubbing and barhopping. Los Feliz is northwest of Silver Lake, centred on Vermont and Hillhurst avenues between Sunset and Los Feliz boulevards; it's slightly tamer and filled with 1920s and 1930s buildings. You'll find tons of unique businesses of all sorts, including artsy boutiques, music stores, and furniture dealers that have inspired some to compare the area with New York's SoHo.
Because so many alternative bands call Silver Lake home, it's not surprising to find cutting-edge music stores around every corner. A neighbourhood mainstay with lots of used CDs, collectible disks, and new releases is Rockaway Records, 2395 Glendale Blvd. (south of Silver Lake Blvd.; tel. 323/664-3232; www.rockaway.com).
Vintage clothing is another big draw in these parts. The most reliable yet eclectic selections to browse through are at Ozzie Dots, 4637 Hollywood Blvd. (west of Hillhurst; tel. 323/663-2867); Pull My Daisy, 3908 Sunset Blvd. (at Griffith Park Blvd.; tel. 323/663-0608); and Squaresville, 1800 N. Vermont Ave. (south of Franklin; tel. 323/669-8464).
For those in the know, The Circle has been that hidden jewel of a place where samples and overstock items including designer tops, pants, skirts, and on occasion, accessories. You'll score items from such designers including Rachel Pally, Magpie Rita, Harvey's, Mon Petit Oiseau, Alicia Lawhon, and Lockets at unbelievable prices. It's located at 2395 Glendale Blvd. in Silver Lake, within a minimall between Silver Lake Boulevard and Dean Street (tel. 323/665-5336). It's only open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 7pm.
Although the art of millinery often seems to have gone the way of white afternoon gloves for ladies, inventive Drea Kadilak bucks the trend with her reasonably priced hat shop called Clover, 2756 Rowena Ave. (at Glendale Blvd.; tel. 323/661-4142). Drea designs in straw, cotton duck, wool felt, and a number of more unusual fabrics. She does her own blocking, cheerfully takes measurements for custom ladies' head wear, and gives away signature hatboxes with your purchase. Handmade furniture and unique gift items are available as well.
Hollywood set designers know to prowl the vintage furniture stores of Silver Lake: The best for mid-20th-century gems are Edna Hart, 2945 Rowena Ave. (south of Hyperion; tel. 323/661-4070); and Rubbish, 1630 Silver Lake Blvd. (north of Sunset; tel. 323/661-5575). One not-to-be-missed highlight is the wacky and eclectic Soap Plant/Wacko/La Luz de Jesus Art Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd. (west of Hillhurst; tel. 323/663-0122), a three-in-one business with candles, art books, erotic toys, soap and bathing items, and a large selection of lava lamps. Local fixture Y-Que, 1770 N. Vermont Ave. (tel. 323/664-0021), almost defies description, selling a variety of stuff ranging from a knockoff Austin Powers penis pump to psychedelic lava lamps.
With a focus on small production, high quality, affordable wine from around the world, and a large selection of microbrew beer and sake, Silverlake Wine, 2395 Glendale Blvd. (tel. 323/662-9024; www.silverlakewine.com) is great place to visit. Get your friends together and check out any one of their weekly tastings: Sunday at 3pm, Blue Monday from 5 to 9pm, and Thursday Night Flights from 5 to 9pm (call ahead to confirm times). Also in the neighbourhood is The Cheese Store of Silverlake, 3926-28 W. Sunset Blvd. (tel. 323/644-7511), a purveyor of fine cheeses, wines, and gourmet products such as Revival confections, Latini pastas, Agrumato flavoured oils, and McQuade's chutneys. It's located in Sunset Junction at the southeast corner of Sanborn Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.
GR8 Finds in West L.A.'s J-Town-- What started off as a magazine has spawned two of L.A.'s most talked-about new stores: GR2, 2062 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/445-9276), and Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/478-1819). Located across the street from each other in West L.A.'s Japantown (at Sawtelle and Olympic boulevards), both specialise in a wide range of Asian-American pop-culture items including T-shirts, books, music, stationery, toys (you must get a Kubrick doll), art, and accessories (check out the Tadashi Murakami pins and felt pins by Saejean Oh). There are several other cool shops and restaurants along this 1 1/2-block stretch as well. If you're hungry, you can pop into Nijiya Market, 2130 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/575-3300), and grab a bento (Japanese boxed lunch) to go.
The Westside & Beverly Hills
Beverly Boulevard (from Robertson Blvd. to La Brea Ave.) -- Beverly is L.A.'s premier boulevard for mid-20th-century furnishings. Expensive showrooms line the street, but the one that started it all is Modernica, 7366 Beverly Blvd. (tel. 323/933-0383). You can still find vintage Stickley and Noguchi pieces, but Modernica has become best known for the authentic -- and more affordable -- replicas they offer (Eames storage units are one popular item).
Every Picture Tells a Story (7525 Beverly Blvd.; tel. 310/451-2700), a gallery devoted to the art of children's literature, displays antique children's books as well as the works of more than 100 illustrators, including lithos of Curious George, Eloise, and Charlotte's Web. Across the street from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Mysterious Bookshop (8763 Beverly Blvd., between Robertson and San Vicente boulevards; tel. 310/209-0415), carries more than 20,000 used, rare, and out-of-print titles in the field of mystery, espionage, detective stories, and thrillers. Author appearances and other special events are regularly scheduled. If you can name more than three tenors, then the pleasantly cluttered Opera Shop of Los Angeles, 8384 Beverly Blvd. (3 blocks east of La Cienega Blvd.; tel. 323/658-5811), is for you. Everything imaginable with an opera theme is available: musical motif jewelry, stationery, T-shirts, opera glasses, and tapes, videos, and CDs of your favourite productions.
If you complain that they just don't make 'em like they used to . . . well, they do at Re-Mix, 7605 1/2 Beverly Blvd. (between Fairfax and La Brea aves.; tel. 323/936-6210). This shop sells only vintage (1940s-70s) -- but brand-new (as in unworn) -- shoes for men and women, such as wingtips, Hush Puppies, Joan Crawford pumps, and 1970s platforms. It's more like a shoe-store museum. A rack of unworn vintage socks all display their original tags and stickers, and the prices are downright reasonable. Celebrity hipsters and hepcats from Madonna to Roseanne are often spotted here. Other vintage wares are found at Second Time Around Watch Co., 8840 Beverly Blvd. (west of Robertson Blvd.; tel. 310/271-6615). The city's best selection of collectible timepieces includes dozens of classic Tiffanys, Cartiers, Piagets, and Rolexes, plus rare pocket watches. Priced for collectors, but a fascinating browse for the Swatch crowd, too.
La Brea Avenue (north of Wilshire Blvd.) -- This is L.A.'s artiest shopping strip. La Brea is anchored by the giant American Rag, Cie alterna-complex, and is also home to lots of great urban antiques stores dealing in Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, 1950s modern, and the like. You'll also find vintage clothiers, furniture galleries, and other warehouse-size stores, as well as some of the city's hippest restaurants, such as Campanile.
Bargain hunters find flea-market furnishings at Nick Metropolis, 100 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/934-3700), while more upscale seekers of home decor head to Mortise & Tenon, 446 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/937-7654), where handcrafted heavy wood pieces sit next to overstuffed velvet-upholstered sofas and even vintage steel desks. The best place for a snack is Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery, 624 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/939-6813; www.labreabakery.com), which foodies know from gourmet markets and the attached Campanile restaurant.
Stuffed to the rafters with hardware and fixtures of the past 100 years, Liz's Antique Hardware, 453 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/939-4403; www.lahardware.com), thoughtfully keeps a canister of wet wipes at the register -- believe us, you'll need one after sifting through bags and crates of doorknobs, latches, finials, and any other home hardware you can imagine. Perfect sets of Bakelite drawer pulls and antique ceramic bathroom fixtures are some of the more intriguing items. Be prepared to browse for hours, whether you're redecorating or not. There's a respectable collection of coordinating trendy clothing for men and women, too. Hipsters also head up the street to Yellowstone for vintage duds, and souvenir seekers know to visit Moletown for studio merchandise featuring logo graphics from the hottest new movies.
Rodeo Drive & Beverly Hills's Golden Triangle (between Santa Monica Blvd., Wilshire Blvd., and Crescent Dr., Beverly Hills) -- Everyone knows about Rodeo Drive, the city's most famous shopping street. Couture shops from high fashion's Old Guard are located along these 3 hallowed blocks, along with plenty of newer high-end labels. And there are two examples of the Beverly Hills version of minimalls, albeit more insular and attractive: the Rodeo Collection, 421 N. Rodeo Dr, a contemporary centre with towering palms; and 2 Rodeo, a cobblestoned Italianate piazza at Wilshire Boulevard. The 16-square-block area surrounding Rodeo Drive is known as the Golden Triangle. Shops off Rodeo are generally not as name-conscious as those on the strip (and you might actually be able to afford something), but they're nevertheless plenty upscale. Little Santa Monica Boulevard has a particularly colourful line of specialty stores, and Brighton Way is as young and hip as relatively staid Beverly Hills gets. Parking is a bargain, with nine city-run lots offering 2 hours of free parking and a flat fee of $2 after 2pm.
The big names to look for here are Bvlgari, 201 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/858-9216); Giorgio Beverly Hills, 327 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 800/GIORGIO); Gucci, 347 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/278-3451); HermÃƒÂ¨s, 434 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/278-6440); Louis Vuitton, 295 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/859-0457); Polo/Ralph Lauren, 444 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/281-7200); and Tiffany & Co., 210 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/273-8880). The newest arrivals are the ultrachic clothiers Dolce & Gabbana, 312 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/888-8701), and Badgley Mischka, 202 Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/248-3750); British plaid palace Burberry Limited, 9560 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/550-4500); and NikeTown, on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive (tel. 310/275-9998), a behemoth shrine to the reigning athletic-gear king.
Wilshire Boulevard is also home to New York-style department stores (each in spectacular landmark buildings), like Saks Fifth Avenue, 9600 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/275-4211); Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/276-4400); and Neiman Marcus, 9700 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/550-5900).
The Sunset Strip (between La Cienega Blvd. and Doheny Dr., West Hollywood) -- The monster-size billboards advertising the latest rock god make it clear this is rock-'n'-roll territory. So it makes sense that you'll find legendary Tower Records in the heart of the action. Tower insists that it has L.A.'s largest selection of compact discs (more than 125,000 titles) -- despite the Virgin Megastore's contrary claim -- and it's open 365 days a year. At the east end of the strip sits the gigantic Virgin Megastore. Some 100 CD "listening posts" and an in-store "radio station" make this place a music-lover's paradise. Virgin claims to stock 150,000 titles, including an extensive collection of hard-to-find artists.
The Strip is lined with trendy restaurants, industry-oriented hotels, and dozens of shops offering outrageous fashions and stage accessories. One anomaly is Sunset Plaza, an upscale cluster of Georgian-style shops resembling Beverly Hills at its snootiest. You'll find Billy Martin's, 8605 Sunset Blvd. (tel. 310/289-5000), founded by the legendary Yankees manager in 1978. This chic men's Western shop -- complete with fireplace and leather sofa -- stocks hand-forged silver and gold belt buckles, Lucchese and Liberty boots, and stable staples like flannel shirts. Next door is the fine-jewelry store Philip Press, Inc., 8601 Sunset Blvd. (tel. 310/360-1180), which specialises in platinum and diamonds, handcrafted to evoke ornate estate jewelry. If you want to commemorate a special occasion or want the best selection, this is the place to go. Book Soup has long been one of L.A.'s most celebrated bookshops, selling mainstream and small-press books and hosting book signings and readings.
West 3rd Street (between Fairfax and Robertson boulevards) -- You can shop till you drop on this trendy strip, anchored on the east end by the Farmers Market & The Grove. Many of Melrose Avenue's shops have relocated here, along with terrific up-and-comers, several cafes, and the much-lauded restaurant Locanda Veneta. Fun is more the catchword here than funky, and the shops (including the vintage clothing stores) are a bit more refined than those along Melrose. The Cook's Library is where the city's top chefs find classic and offbeat cookbooks, wine guides, and other food-oriented tomes. Browsing is welcomed, even encouraged, with tea, tasty treats, and rocking chairs. Traveler's Bookcase is one of the best travel bookshops in the West, stocking a huge selection of guidebooks and travel literature, as well as maps and travel accessories. Nearby Memory Lane is filled with 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s collectibles.
There's lots more to see along this always-growing street. Refuel at Chado Tea Room, 8422 W. 3rd St. (tel. 323/655-2056), a temple for tea lovers. Chado is designed with a nod to Paris's renowned Mariage FrÃƒÂ¨res tea purveyor; one wall is lined with nooks whose recognizable brown tins are filled with more than 250 different varieties of tea from around the world. Among the choices are 15 kinds of Darjeeling, Indian teas blended with rose petals, and ceremonial Chinese and Japanese blends. You can also get tea meals here, featuring delightful sandwiches and individual pots of any loose tea in the store.
The gorgeous Bvlgari jewelry store at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard -- former home of the Brown Derby restaurant -- displays many of the priceless (literally) jewels worn by the stars at the big awards ceremonies. Look wealthy and they might even invite you upstairs for an espresso.
If you're a connoisseur of small bookstores, you'll definitely want to pay a visit to the new TASCHEN bookstore at 354 N. Beverly Dr., in Beverly Hills (tel. 310/274-4300; www.taschen.com). It's the German-based publishing house's first American store (the other two are in Cologne and Paris) and a fitting monument to the company's beautiful high-quality books. French designer cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre Philippe Starck was commissioned to create the long, narrow store's dramatic interiors -- glossy walnut woods, shimmering bronze bookshelves, purple mirrors and handmade glass walls. Befitting the world's leading art publisher, the artwork alone is worth the trip: Artist Albert Oehlen created 20 computer-generated collages for the walls and ceiling, inspired from the wide selection of TASCHEN's art, design, and erotic books. Prices range from a few dollars to several thousand for Helmut Newton's SUMO, the biggest and most expensive book produced in the 20th century. Truly, TASCHEN is unlike any other bookstore you've browsed. Open daily 10am to 8pm.
The Centres & Malls
LA's Westside & Beverly Hills
The Beverly Center -- When the eight-story Beverly Center opened on L.A.'s Westside, there was more than a bit of concern about the impending "mallification" of Los Angeles. Loved for its convenience and disdained for its penitentiary-style architecture (and the "no validations" parking fee), Beverly Center contains about 160 standard mall shops, including a few that are open by advance reservation only (so L.A.); it's anchored on opposite sides by Macy's and Bloomingdale's department stores. You can see it from blocks away, looking like a gigantic angular boulder with the Hard Rock Cafe's (America's first) roof-mounted Cadillac on one corner. 8500 Beverly Blvd. (at La Cienega Blvd.). tel. 310/854-0071. www.beverlycenter.com.
The Grove -- Located at the eastern end of the Farmers Market, this massive 575,000-square-foot Vegas-style retail complex is the newest addition to L.A.'s megamalls. 189 The Grove Dr. (W. 3rd St. at Fairfax Ave.), Hollywood. tel. 323/900-8000. www.thegrovela.com.
Pacific Design Center -- Something of an architectural and cultural landmark, the Pacific Design Center is the West Coast's largest facility for interior design goods and fine furnishings. It houses 200 showrooms filled with furniture, fabrics, flooring, wallcoverings, kitchen and bath fixtures, lighting, art, and accessories. Locals refer to the PDC as the Blue Whale in reference to its exterior, composed entirely of brilliant blue glass. Technically, businesses here sell to the trade only, and their wholesale prices reflect that. Tip: For a small fee the centre will provide a decorator-for-the-day to serve as official broker for your purchases. 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90069. tel. 310/657-0800. www.pacificdesigncenter.com.
Westfield Shoppingtown -- This open-air mall, anchored by Macy's and Bloomingdale's, is located on what was once a 20th Century Fox back lot, just west of Beverly Hills. Most of the 140 or so retailers here are upscale chain-store fare. Among the offerings are Pottery Barn, Ann Taylor, Joan & David, and Brentano's, as well as a giant Crate & Barrel, a 14-screen multiplex movie theatre, 22 restaurants, and specialty kiosks scattered throughout. If you have to "mall it" in the L.A. area, this is the most pleasant place to do it. 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Ave. of the Stars), Century City. tel. 310/277-3898. www.westfield.com.
Westside Pavilion -- Located at the intersection of Westwood and Pico boulevards on the west side of Los Angeles, this shopping centre has the only Nordstrom in the area and attracts a very fashion-conscious crowd with a taste for the finest in women's fashions, handbags, and shoes. It's within easy access of the I-405 and I-10 freeways, major arterials to the L.A. area. It boasts a roster of over 160 specialty shops, such as BCBG, Rampage, bebe, Aldo, Banana Republic, and Charles David, as well as a food court and its own Westside Pavilion Cinemas. This mall is big on community and kids events, and is host of the annual Night of Delight, a wine and food sampling. 10800 W. Pico Blvd. tel. 310/474-6255. www.westsidepavilion.com.
Hollywood & Highland -- A sure sign that this formerly seedy section of the city is on the fast track to recovery is the massive $615-million "entertainment complex" at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Street (hence the name). Surrounded by souvenir shops and tattoo parlors, the gleaming 8 3/4-acre centre contains all the top-end merchants -- Ann Taylor, Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Vuitton, bebe -- as well as studio broadcast facilities and the gorgeous Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards (really, you'll want to take a peek at this theatre). The mall's other centrepiece is Babylon Court; designed after a set from the 1916 film Intolerance, the open-air space attempts to recreate an over-the-top golden-age movie set, complete with giant pillars topped with 13,500-pound elephants and a colossal arch that frames the HOLLYWOOD sign in the distance. Parking isn't a problem, as the six-level underground lot can cram in 3,000 cars. 6834 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. tel. 323/467-6412. www.hollywoodandhighland.com.
Santa Monica & The Beaches
Santa Monica Place -- About 140 shops occupy these three bright stories, located a mere 2 blocks from the beach and anchored by Robinson's/May and Macy's department stores. The usual mall shops are augmented by more unusual finds, like a branch of Frederick's of Hollywood. The mall's food pavilion sells an array of fast foods, including several health-oriented ones. Broadway (at 3rd St.), Santa Monica. tel. 310/394-5451. www.santamonicaplace.com.
Paseo Colorado -- It seems a new shopping mall sprouts up every year in L.A., and one of the newest is this open-air mall in the heart of Pasadena. Anchored by Macy's, the two-level 3-block monolith houses about 140 retailers and restaurants (but few men's fashions), a Gelson's market, a fitness centre, and a 14-screen multiplex theatre. What's unique about the Paseo is the dozens of offices, apartments, and studios built atop the mall, which allows residents easy access to just about all the daily necessities a city boy needs to survive. 280 E. Colorado Blvd. (at Marengo Ave.), Pasadena. tel. 626/795-8891.
The San Fernando Valley
Universal Citywalk -- Designed to resemble an almost-cartoonish depiction of an urban street, Universal CityWalk gets a mention here because it's unique. Situated next door to Universal Studios -- you must walk through it if you use Universal City's main parking structure -- CityWalk is dominated by brightly coloured, surreal oversize storefronts. The heavily touristed faux street is home to a number of restaurants, including B. B. King's Blues Club, the newest Hard Rock Cafe, and a branch of the Hollywood Athletic Club featuring a restaurant and pool hall. It's been called the commercial equivalent to a gated community, a place where the fear-driven middle class can shop and dine in sanitized safety. In terms of shopping, CityWalk is not worth a special visit, but kids will love the carnival atmosphere and the Warner Brothers store. You can get an online preview at www.citywalkhollywood.com. Universal Center Dr., Universal City. tel. 818/622-9841.