OFF THE BEATEN PATH
JUST BLOCKS FROM ROBERTSON BOULEVARD’S BUSTLING FASHION AND DESIGN BOUTIQUES, THREE SMALL BUSINESSES THAT SHINE.
Byline: Marcy Medina
When Kelly Brown and her mother, Sugar Hare, decided to start a business together, they asked themselves, “What’s the one thing we hate to do?” The answer: getting their nails done. “You either have dives, or fancy spas that treat manicures as an afterthought,” said Brown.
So last August, L.A. Vie L’Orange was born, named for its own line of orange-infused hand-and-foot-care products. Hare, an interior designer, decorated the 2000-square-foot space with custom wicker nail stations, ceiling fans, sisal rugs and white slipcovered chairs that radiate a mix of Old Havana charm and modern California cool.
The place is no dive. With each manicure and pedicure ($25-$37), clients receive a take-home kit containing a nail buffer, brush, file, slippers and toe separators. Stainless steel tools are sterilized in an autoclave and sealed in airtight packets for each use.
In addition to nail treatments by the spa’s seven full-time aestheticians, there’s a “non-surgical hand-lift” for $50; and the most popular treatment, “Walk on the Beach” ($55), features a sand soak and seaweed thermal wrap. Clients can also opt for New Age services such as reflexology, energy work and clairvoyant readings.
And the pampering isn’t limited to women. Men often book corporate group meetings at the spa, where they receive head/neck/shoulder massages while eating lunch and working on a laptop. But it’s the details (fresh fruit, home-baked cookies, and customized aromatherapy blends) and the service (Brown or Hare are there every day) that make the spa special. The biggest compliment, according to Brown: “We can’t get people to leave.”
L.A. Vie L’Orange. 638 1/2 North Robertson Boulevard, (310) 289-2501. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Appointments required.
When gift givers have exhausted the Tiffany & Co. catalog, they turn to Bellacqua to find presents for the hard to please. Lynda Greene, owner of the nine-month-old shop and a former Prada boutique manager, wanted her place to reflect the design characteristics and artsy flavor of the surrounding neighborhood, in an upscale retail setting.
“And we wanted to be a little off the beaten path,” she added.
The store indeed seems like hidden treasure, yet it’s just blocks from trendy — and busy — clothing boutiques and interior design shops. It does not attract much foot traffic because many of its customers — Madonna and Demi Moore among them — simply phone in orders. Those shoppers that do step in are welcomed by Greene’s pomeranian, Shotzi.
Buyer Tanya Sanchez scours Europe and the U.S. for unique items ranging from silverplated spoon sets for $16 to one-of-a-kind hand-blown glass sculptures for $1,900. All purchases come with a description card and wrapped in printed tissue paper inside Bell Acqua’s signature pale blue trapezoid-shaped bags.
“These are things you may not buy for yourself, but would love to receive,” said Greene. Fabric-bound Venetian coffee table books ($240) please the armchair traveler, and tortoiseshell motif vases from Northern California are a treat for the eyes.
New shipments arrive each week. Sanchez and Greene tend to replace rather than reorder items, so customers know they’ve purchased something special. Other temptations include hand-painted etchings from Venice ($395 framed,) perfume bottles and crystal brandy snifters with platinum inlays ($190 a pair).
Bellacqua 638 North Robertson Boulevard, (310)659-5655. Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Diners looking for a little Paris in Los Angeles are often surprised to find it when they stumble upon Cafe de Paris. What gives the cafe its authentic flavor is owner Daisy La Porta. Born in Algeria, she comes from a family of Parisian restaurateurs and brings both French and Moroccan elements to her menu.
“Cherie, everything is authentic, and I do it all myself,” she explained. For the past six years she’s served up favorites like couscous royal ($15) and chicken Tangine ($13.75) and her fresh-baked bread and apple tart.
Inside, the terra-cotta walls covered with pictures of celebrity clients ranging from Sharon Stone to John Leguizamo attest to the cafe’s universal appeal. Outside, the patio’s green umbrellas shade against the sun but allow for casual people watching.
Even breakfast staples like the plain omelette Parisienne ($7.95), pain perdu (French toast made with homemade brioche, $6.95) or petit pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant, $2.25) take on appetizing new appeal in the colorful setting. Naturally, Orangina and Evian are on the beverage list, as well as beer and wine. On the way out, both customers and La Porta typically exchange the greeting, “A bientot,” meaning “see you soon.”
Cafe de Paris. 640 North Robertson Boulevard, (310) 358-0908. Monday to Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.