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On Venice’s hip Abbot Kinney, there are signs of retail life after devastating coronavirus closures

Holly Boies, center, talks with longtime shoppers Enid Koffler, left, and her daughter Samara Koffler on Friday at the entrance of Boies’ store, Salt, on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice.
Holly Boies, 53, center, talks with longtime shoppers Enid Koffler, left, and her daughter Samara Koffler on Friday at the entrance of Boies’ women’s clothing store, Salt, on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice. Boies, who is planning to reopen her store for curbside pickup Saturday, said: “We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be here.”
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

On Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, the normally bustling shopping district that has been largely vacant amid the coronavirus, there were signs of life Friday as some retailers opened for curbside service.

Jennifer Angeles, 36, heard about Aviator Nation opening up for curbside pickup from its Instagram page so she decided to take her dog Reese out for a walk and buy a hat from the California retail store.

“I just want to support a brand I really love,” said the Santa Monica resident, who had been a fan of curbside service and typically avoided shopping malls. “Curbside is kind of nice because you don’t have to wait for shipping,” she added.

Entrepreneur Tina Wakino came to her store Bazar around 11 a.m. Friday, hopeful that she would get some curbside business after noticing foot traffic was picking up as the weather warmed.

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Wakino owns a concept store called Bazar, which opened in 1998, and the place next door, Le Pop-Up, a concept pop-up with rotating brands. Wakino said she was among those who had believed 2020 would be a great year, only to be disappointed at how sharply everything went downhill.

Bazar survived the 2008 financial crisis and other national events, but being forced to close its doors for an indefinite amount of time only meant uncertainty.

“This one feels different, for sure,” she said. Curbside pickup seemed similar to online shopping, with people more likely to buy drinking glasses than clothing from a brand they may not know their size in, she said.

“I think people may come by. I’m hopeful,” she said.

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The mood on the boulevard with high-scale shops felt different for Dr. Courtney Gillenwater, who stopped by Pressed Juicery.

On her walk, she noticed a plant store that had literally gone curbside, putting out a table full of plants on the sidewalk.

“Oh, my God, it made my day,” said Gillenwater, who volunteered in New York to help with the rising cases of COVID-19 before returning to Venice.

“The plants made me feel better.” Although she didn’t buy any, she said it was nice to see other people out and sensed that businesses were doing the best they could with curbside pickup.

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In nearby Santa Monica, Heather Hamilton said her business experienced more calls from customers as soon as the announcement came that toy stores were among those that could reopen for curbside service.

The pandemic marked the first time that the Acorn Store, which sells eco-friendly toys for children, had closed its doors in 18 years, said Hamilton, 48. So she was glad for the bump in business.

When the closures began, she said she reached out to local schools about delivering items to families for students who were stuck at home.

And as for curbside pickup, Hamilton said, her store already had a process. Customers would pay for items over the phone, pull up in their cars, and pop their trunks, where the toys would be deposited.

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To help pick out the right items for customers, she video chats or sends photos by text to help them find the right ones. “These are things I never considered, it never crossed my mind but have been incredibly effective,” she said.


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