Ojai, a scenic little agricultural city, has for the better part of a century lured individuals pursuing spiritual enlightenment and artists seeking inspiration and calm. Now a new crop of makers and merchants is traveling the 90 miles north of Los Angeles to bask in Ojai's groovy, quirky sensibility while introducing contemporary tastes and broader aesthetic points of view. Fortunately, this fresh retail mix meshes with Ojai's long-standing supportive community of art galleries and independent boutiques. Most of the shops are clustered on or near the main drag of Ojai Avenue.
Given that the town vibe can evoke a patchouli-soused era, it might not seem an obvious destination for an Italian-raised former model who starred in a Chanel No. 5 commercial directed by Ridley Scott in the 1980s. And yet Carolïna Gramm has felt at home in this city of 8,000 for 13 years. While managing the Regalo Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting Room, which she has filled with accessories culled from her own collecting and interior design work, she opened her own shop, Carolïna Gramm, in the historic Spanish Colonial Revival arcade on Ojai Avenue. "I can't let antiques go. I need to be surrounded by things," she explained.
Ojai's open-mindedness allows a range of styles to flourish. At P Space, graphic designer and former CalArts professor P. Lyn Middleton sells her one-of-a-kind serving platters, dishes and other ceramics that feel both earthy and modern. Master potter Larry Carnes completes Middleton's asymmetrical pieces in his high-fired gas kiln down the road. The bright storefront, shared with an architecture firm, is east of the arcade and in front of Hip Vegan Café, which makes wraps filled with tempeh, beans and vegetables; salads and bowls; and juices and teas.
Modern Folk Living
Also in the spirit of cooperation, Middleton's goods are mixed in among the irresistible displays at Modern Folk Living. Wanda Weller Sakai, previously director of design for Patagonia, creates what she describes as a "digestible" retail environment nestled within an erstwhile Buddhist center meditation room. Sakai's tastes favor eco-sensitive and domestically produced accessories, including boldly graphic hand-painted ceramics from Kat Hutter and Roger Lee of Los Angeles' Mount Washington neighborhood, candles from Le Feu de L'Eau, and pillows emblazoned with feather and arrow motifs from Coral & Tusk, along with clothing.
Tipple & Ramble
Around the corner on North Montgomery Street, Suné Goldsteen transformed a cooking school into Tipple & Ramble, a "hybrid space" stocked with household and food-oriented accouterments: flatware, Turkish towels, patterned virgin wool blankets from Mexico and oversize pillows covered in vintage Pendleton blankets and made by Goldsteen. Customers soon will be able to lounge in Acapulco chairs from Aniceto Polanco in Compton and dine at Granada Tile-topped tables that Grayson Beckner crafts in Ventura when Goldsteen launches wine-and-cheese service and pop-up dinners in the smartly appointed alfresco area.
Fig Curated Living
Back on the main drag across from the arcade, Fig Curated Living's outdoor corridor is filled with goods to spruce up any yard, such as mod-looking hanging air plant pods and birdhouses carved from gourds. The eclectic array continues indoors, where owner Victoria Johansen assembles rustic chic items including artist Cory Sipper's Ojai-themed sewn collages and Judy Jackson Stoneware. There also are Kei & Molly Textiles flour sack towels and Choisette table linens.
FOR THE RECORD:
Ojai shopping: An article in the Oct. 11 Saturday section incorrectly identified an Ojai ceramist as Karen Bernscott; her name is Karen Scott. Her shop is called Bernscott Pottery. —
At the west end of town, Michael and Rachel Graves adapted a 1959 gas station into their boutique and custom framing shop, Summer Camp. Think Silver Lake hipster meets Scoutmaster, with vintage camping gear placed alongside Sienne Josselin bandannas, mugs by Ojai ceramist Karen Scott, men's accessories and small-batch apothecary products. Summer Camp hosts hands-on creative workshops too.
Gravel & Gold Goods
In the lobby of the Ojai Rancho Inn, San Francisco's Gravel & Gold Goods maintains a satellite presence, thanks to the welcoming attitude of the motel's operators and arbiters of neo-bohemian cool, Kenny Osehan and Chris Sewell. Visitors often ask about how to purchase the artisan-made décor details the couple selected for guest rooms and the Chief's Peak bar, such as Eric Trine's wooden stools and Heather Levine's ceramic lamps. "Making that connection is what we love to do," Osehan said. It's no wonder the property is a hot spot for community events and live performances.
In the Field
And this new wave doesn't show signs of slowing. Next month, Channon and Bianca Roe will add their touch to the retail scene when they open In the Field, a 2,000-square-foot lifestyle boutique on East Ojai Avenue. "Ojai is going through a rebirth," Bianca Roe said, "and people are becoming aware of the change and the zeitgeist."
Fall events in Ojai
A calendar of Ojai events through the fall. For general tourist information, go to www.ojaivisitors.com.
Ojai Studio Artists Tour
Ojai Art Detour
Ojai Day festival
Oct. 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ojai Skate Contest at Ojai Skate Park
Oct. 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
International Ojai Yoga Crib 2014
Ojai Valley Green Coalition Green Living Home Tour & Show
Mount Washington Pottery and Cathy Callahan show
Oct. 25, 1 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Taste of Ojai at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
Summer Camp first anniversary party
Nov. 9, 4 to 7 p.m.
Ojai Certified Farmers Market
Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.