The pirate with the knife in his teeth perched in the palm tree beside the store isn't real. Neither is the armed buccaneer greeting visitors inside the front door.
But the booty is. True to its name, Hidden Treasures is an amazing discovery for motorists passing through Topanga Canyon.
Located at a crossroads where the '60s never ended, this vintage store has lured shoppers all the way from Japan and has been featured in publications ranging from Playboy to Vogue.
Kate Moss has said she shops for vintage here. So has Lenny Kravitz. A producer for an international rock star was sitting in a comfortable chair out front on a recent Sunday while his wife shopped for shoes. Students from Pepperdine University make shopping here an extracurricular activity.
Entire families stream in on weekends. Mothers direct their daughters to the outdoor trunk, where, on a recent Monday, one thirtysomething sorted through evening dresses, jean jackets, halter jumpsuits, baby clothes and a pile of other items to select two shirts at the unbeatable price of $1.75 each (limit of three to a customer). Inevitably, young girls are more interested in the colorful rack of tutus on the front walk that seem to serve as beacons for travelers.
The exquisite dresses lining the upper walls tempt the imagination, as do the fancy women's hats on painted mannequin heads commanding the shelves below.
Owner Darrell Hazen, a passionate collector who carved the Tiki statues on the threshold, has an eye for vintage. He managed Aardvarks in Venice before transforming a former dentist's office into Hidden Treasures in the late 1980s.
Luring the mind as well as the passions into a space that seems to exist outside of time, his layout integrates racks of clothing with objets d'art and unexpected elements such as an aquarium, record player and a deep-sea diver mannequin. This creates such a cohesive environment that visitors can forget what they came for and experience the pleasure of being lost in a surrealist maze.
The best approach to shopping the store is following one's gaze. One discovery leads to another. Display items include model ships, old Beatles records, a silk-screen surfboard, signed Elvis photos, decorative clocks and statues, a bowl of marbles, rows of cowboy boots, pails of minerals and baskets of fishnet stockings, fur stoles, patches and aprons.
And, of course, the clothes. On a recent Sunday, a stylish customer seemed thrilled with her purchase of three cashmere sweaters. There are also racks of leather and fringe suede jackets, wool and fur coats, slips, dresses from the 1950s onward, an earring corner and chests of jewelry.
The only thing the boutique doesn't offer in abundance is designer product. And yet, when the goods can be found they are a steal, such as a Nippon beaded cocktail dress for $19 or the Gucci sunglasses for $45 that were snapped up by a local.
Hazen, holding a sheer 19th century beaded vest that looks like it belongs in a museum, says the turnover is high because the store constantly puts out new merchandise, changing stock with the seasons. Dresses range from $12 to $24, topping out at $180 for 1920s and 1930s items. Blouses range from $12 to $20; cashmere sweaters are $12 to $15; and blouses sell for less than $20.
"I love this place," says Anna Vittoria, a yogi and artist who works at the nearby Tribal Oasis Retreat and Healing Center. She contemplates Topanga authenticity while modeling her day's loot, a flawless Indian silk tunic that adds a refined element to her rustic attire. "Everyone here has their own style."
Hidden Treasures, located at 154 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Make an appointment if you have vintage to sell. (310) 455-2998