As Los Angeles rebounds from being a global hot spot of the COVID-19 pandemic in December to having one of the lowest case rates in the country now, brick-and-mortar retail regrowth is sprouting.
On May 1, after an eight-month delay, the 21,000-square-foot Free Market concept store will open at Runway Playa Vista, the residential, retail, restaurant and services center in West Los Angeles’ Silicon Beach tech epicenter that is owned by Invesco Real Estate and managed by DJM Capital Partners.
The next-gen marketplace combines indie shops and services curated by tastemakers Raan Parton and his wife, Lindsay Parton, alongside real estate investor Paolo Carini. (Raan’s father, also named Lindsay, is president of DJM Capital Partners.)
The first Free Market opened in downtown Denver’s Dairy Block in May 2019, and another 40,000-square-foot location is under construction in L.A.’s Arts District and is expected to open by the end of 2021.
Located at the corner of the outdoor Runway Playa Vista center, Free Market has a shop-in-shop format assembled with a locavore’s eye for discovery, similar to that of late retailer Fred Segal.
“The challenge to traditional commercial real estate is that independent specialty stores can’t speak the same language. We are trying to be the intermediary to make them comfortable coming to such a commercial location,” Raan said of Runway, which also has a Whole Foods, CVS and Starbucks. “We created a format that allows retail to win, because it allows for place making, it allows people to feel OK about being there multiple times a week or day.”
“With COVID-19, the customer appreciation of online retail is skyrocketing; it’s double if not triple in the last seven months, but we’re seeing brands are willing to go back to spend on brick-and-mortar because it’s the quickest way to acquire new customers,” Carini added.
Free Market Playa Vista is anchored by the Partons’ own multibrand store Alchemy Works which stocks clothing from the cult Minneapolis-based women’s clothing brand Mille, accessories from Clare V., jewelry from Gabriela Artigas and Lizzie Fortunato and furniture by L.A.’s mid-century specialist Lawson-Fenning.
Also in Free Market, C Magazine’s Studio C is a curation of luxury California designers Lisa Eisner, Nick Fouquet, Rosetta Getty, Hoorsenbuhs and more which previously popped up in Westfield Century City; Please Do Not Enter is the cult L.A.-based source for vintage jewelry and design collectibles; Teressa Foglia will sell her custom hats and partner with popular vintage marketplace A Current Affair on a residency; vintage motorsports-inspired apparel brand Period Correct will have a vintage Porsche in its selling space; and Urbanic Paper Boutique offers stylish gifts and cards.
Free Market also has several service and food and beverage options, including facials and beauty treatments from Heyday; floral arrangements from County Line Florals, a flower shop and subscription service from actress Abigail Spencer; and the Joliet Cafe and Bar from Ben Adams and Alex Meza, who launched the popular Know Where Bar in Hollywood.
“It’s a very unique and dense area for L.A., where people are mainly getting here by walking, and they are our best marketing tool,” said Lindsay, adding of the duo’s approach, “We are focusing on community and smaller footprints but impactful retail moments. And it’s been fun to see what our tenants can do with smaller spaces.”