BEVERLY BOULEVARD’S TIME HAS COME
THIS SHOPPING DISTRICT HAS FINALLY FOUND ITS IDENTITY, DRAWING SHOPPERS FROM ALL OVER THE CITY.
Byline: MICHAEL MARLOW
LOS ANGELES — Beverly Boulevard has come of age.
After years of struggling with a changing store mix, the shopping district on this busy city thoroughfare has forged an identity as the home of smaller, independent retailers. It has become an upscale option to touristy Melrose Avenue and a bohemian alternative to pricy Rodeo Drive.
The street will get a designer boost in February, when Todd Oldham opens his first West Coast store at Beverly and Martel Avenue. Oldham said it is the area’s hip, eclectic mix of retail and restaurants that attracted him to the street. The store will sell all of Oldham’s merchandise, including fragrance, ready-to-wear and his new jeans line.
Beverly’s prime shopping is found just east of La Brea Avenue, along a several block stretch that includes hip cafes, clothing boutiques, coffee houses, antique shops and furniture stores. It’s a mix that is almost as bohemian as the customers who frequent it — many of them former Melrose Avenue regulars who tired of that street’s move to T-shirts and cards.
Part of the success comes from the street’s central location. It attracts the mid-city population that lives nearby. It is also a 20-minute car drive from Silverlake to the east and West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills to the west.
While vacancies are few these days, the street’s emergence as a place people enjoy began slowly in 1989, when Richard Tyler opened Tyler-Trafficante at the corner of Formosa Avenue. The designer was looking for an offbeat place for his clientele, which included many Hollywood and recording stars.
Tyler, during his stint as designer at Anne Klein, looked at space on Rodeo Drive for a possible Beverly Hills store for his signature collection, but he decided instead to keep Beverly as his sole retail store.
Since Tyler’s arrival, a series of small retailers have set up shop, replacing the discount electronic stores and camera shops that had populated the street in the Eighties. Beverly was given a boost earlier this year with the opening of Red, a cafe that quickly attracted the hip set. This fall, Red opened a small intimate bar, called Red Eye in a small space adjacent to the restaurant.
Also new this year: shops from women’s designer Gregory Parkinson and accessories designer Elisabetta Rogiani, who has designed her store around a European-style garden patio.
In 1992, designer Elaine Kim opened a small boutique in the heart of the retail district called Product. It began more as an atelier than a store, but as her designs gained popularity the emphasis switched to selling. Kim said she chose Beverly because of its unique position as a home for the small, independent retailer.
“We have an opportunity to showcase and design something that is cool and indigenous,” she said. “Now, my only fear is that the big, big chains are going to move in and turn it into Melrose.”
Kim said her business has more than doubled each year, although she expected that rate to slow in 1996 as her volume now is more substantial, estimated at $1 million. She pointed out that unlike a mall, which can control which tenants lease space, the mix of Beverly retail is up to the whim of property owners and the tenants they choose. Beverly could be a victim of its own success as major chains move in to capitalize on the street’s eclectic atmosphere.