Have more than a dozen new stores made La Brea Avenue a shopping magnet once again?
For more than two decades, a roughly 1.5-mile stretch of La Brea between Melrose Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard arguably has been the city's most diverse and densely packed district for Old World antiques, vintage furniture, contemporary décor and urban fashion. Other destinations (La Cienega, Beverly, Abbot Kinney) have challenged it, but La Brea keeps bouncing back.
Although much of the change this time centers on the burgeoning District La Brea development between 1st and 2nd Streets, stores have been opening, almost monthly, along the blocks to the north.
Enterprises here bring not only a renewed vitality to the street but also a fresh aesthetic: loft-inspired architecture, industrial and earth-friendly furniture, and artisanal goods.
New galleries focus on graffiti and street art (Lab Art, 217 S. La Brea) and contemporary L.A. painters (Wallspace, 607 N. La Brea). The year-old Kerson Gallery (152 N. La Brea) add to the street's formidable Midcentury Modern roster, as does Adesso Eclectic Imports (169 N. La Brea), which moved from Pasadena into the space formerly occupied by Barclay Butera.
Other new stores impart a sensibility in step with — and sometimes ahead of — design trends: Voila! (518 N. La Brea) and an offshoot of the downtown L.A. warehouse Cleveland Art (606 N. La Brea), which opened in May, embrace the boho-Victorian and steampunk aesthetics. Croft House (326 N. La Brea), whose opening we previously featured, and the year-old Shelter Half (161 S. La Brea) serve the urban rustic crowd with furnishings crafted from repurposed materials. Organic Modernism (315 N. La Brea), open just three months, mixes reproduction midcentury furniture with intriguing original designs in a groovy, retro hunting-lodge setting.
"The area is thriving and the rent was obviously much cheaper than on La Cienega or Melrose Place," JVB Interiors co-owner Damien Becksaid. "That's why things of the same quality on La Brea are at least 20% cheaper than on those other streets. It's a great place to shop and to launch a new business."
When Jeffrey Schuerholz moved Fat Chance from Melrose to La Brea in 1989, his neighbors were “car dealers, art galleries, film-related businesses, lighting stores and a temple or two,” he said. “Something interesting was always going on. It was never a boring street.”
American Rag Cie put La Brea on the vintage clothing map, and later Stussy, Undefeated and other street fashion emporiums inspired by music and sports set up shop. Now urban haberdasheries such as Unis and What Goes Around Comes Around are springing up. Kelly Cole, who opened a denim and rock T-shirt boutique this summer, said La Brea seemed "a little lost" for a while. But now? "There's a shared sensibility, and it's coming back strong."
For decorators and and do-it-yourselfers, La Brea has a range of prices and looks. They have long swarmed at the south end of the strip -- places such as Liz’s Antique Hardware (453 S. La Brea) and Diamond Foam & Fabric (611 S. La Brea). Modernist fans still haunt Fat Chance (162 N. La Brea), Little Paris Antiques (612 S. La Brea), Habité (169 N. La Brea) and the Scandinavian design store Svenska Möbler (154 N. La Brea). Then there is the permanent yard sale at Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture (100 S. La Brea), a Wonderland rabbit hole for bargain and oddity hunters.
And a word to the wise: If street spots are taken, you can find cheap validated parking in the Shepard Fairey-painted garage between 1st and 2nd. And if shopping turns into an all-day affair, take heart: Your food and java options include Tinga, the Sycamore Kitchen, Maison Midi and Graffiti, which serves vegan and gluten-free steamed Fonuts in a minimalist space populated with the fashionable, young laptop-toting bohemians who are changing the face of the neighborhood.