LOS ANGELES — Lisa Kline opened her first namesake specialty store on Robertson Boulevard here in 1995, when the street was a sleepy extension of the city's interior design district.
That was long before Lindsay, Paris, Kirsten, Nicole and their pals helped turn the street into a fashion/celebrity happening.
"It was just a bunch of decorators' stores and a couple of single-brand clothing boutiques," Kline recalled. "It was only on instinct that I wanted to be there."
Twelve years later, national retailers such as Coach and Intermix are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy leases from the independent retailers that helped turn Robertson Boulevard into a famed shopping district and a playing field for ubiquitous paparazzi jostling to get the latest picture of a starlet shopping the two blocks between Beverly Boulevard and Third Street.
Retailers who pioneered Robertson Boulevard said the influx of national companies, including Chanel, Seven For All Mankind, Sunglass Hut, Reiss and Parasuco, along with Coach and Intermix, was transforming the strip from a haven for independent merchants into a conventional shopping destination more in line with Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.
"I don't like what the street has become," said Kline, who has two other boutiques on Robertson, Lisa Kline Men and Lisa Kline Kids. "It's gotten really corporate. It's not the same feeling.'' However, she added, "I live for Robertson. I'm not going to let anyone run me out."
Prices per square foot have soared from around $5 to $15 to $19 in the last three years, because of the big names eager to become a part of the celebrity fishbowl environment.
Real estate agent Jay Luchs, who brokered Intermix's deal, said many of the quirky, small retailers that helped cultivate the street's independent vibe might eventually be priced out.
"The stores...with old leases are most likely going to have to find other places to go when their leases come up," he said.
Vacancies are rare, and most recent deals have been buyouts to landlords and existing tenants to vacate the space before lease terms are up, Luchs said. Should a space become available, typically there are several serious offers from major retailers.
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"It's really hard sometimes. I think I have a reputation for being really tough and aggressive and pushy but I really am a very shy person who wants to be liked, and that's the conflict constantly. There's something that takes hold - I want people to like me, I don't want to be mean - but if I see something that just cries out to be answered, I go for it," says renowned NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell. (📷: @axeldupeux)