Over the weekend, we were passing through Silver Lake to see some friends. On the way, we popped into a few stores to see what was going on in the area. There are still only OK eating places and OK stores. However, going into these stores we noticed something: there are a lot of “art and design” stores in the area, a new wave of store that is becoming the new bodega. They are these little cubby holes of goods in and around art and design that–while great–are becoming overly abundant. Yes, we are all for art getting out to everyone–but how many stores in Los Angeles do we need selling Ashkahn prints and Pantone mugs? We certainly do not need anymore.
In our heads, the best “art and design” stores in Los Angeles are OK, Ooga Booga, Lost & Found, A+R, and the very newly opened Poketo. The stores all have a very specific sense of curation and art not to mention experience to them. Each have their own personality, from Ooga Booga’s young, alternative air to A+R’s high end, heady sophistication. Sure, they all carry a few similar items like cast iron bottle opener/wrenches and Oji Masanori’s brasswares. Those are all overlooked as each of them have a personality and detail, each of them presenting unique finds that they have unearthed by hand. They’re all raw and conduct programming to engage and give back to the community, almost proving, “See? We know what we are talking about.”
These places have this concept executed perfectly. They’ve made it their own and made them uniquely Los Angeles, places that almost define the areas that they are within. The new stores we’ve popped into excited to share on LAIY have met reactions similar to “Oh.” or simply :| They are not bad by any means: they are just common. These stores need to be defined. As the hipster and design and art minded culture has risen, this audience has been easier to catch as things like Pantone and Ashkahn have become so popular locally. Don’t get us wrong: Pantone is an institution and Ashkahn is an amazingly talented local artist. Their goods have become too abundant, though. In a sense, it is a huge win for everyone. On the other side of the coin, it’s almost like lots of little Urban Outfitters are popping up, things that are “cool” but not necessarily cared for. These places have in effect become predictable and designed to be the same old, same old.
Now, if there is in fact a need for every neighborhood to have a place that sells metal gumball candles, Edison lightbulbs, Jonas Damon clocks and tools, Plumen light bulbs, Brendan Ravenhill bottle openers, ABC3D, Harry Allen’s Pig Bank, or anything with anlters, a whale, fox, or saucy 1950s women on them, we take all of this back. But, for now, let’s try to diversify and be less predictable than these products. A retail store–especially an “art and design” retail store–should be an experience. It should not be “Meh.” Los Angeles is a place of experimentation and newness, where people can be weird, innovative, and embraced for that. Retail stores need to reflect that, elevating the retail experience and their goods to another level.