Redondo Beach, California
You won’t find a GAP among the unique stores and restaurants of Riviera Village
Riviera Village encourages visitors to “think outside the mall.” That’s its appeal. The village offers six blocks of unique shops and restaurants that offer items you haven’t seen a thousand times in the big daddy corporate brand-name shops. In any given mall, I’d be surprised if more than five percent of the stores were not chains. In Riviera Village, it’s the opposite. (There is a Starbucks, but, let’s face it, they’re everywhere.)
When I’m low on money and want to go shopping, I like to imagine the stores as museums. There are lots of neat things to look at, but you can’t take the exhibits home. Some of them are interactive—you can read parts of books, try on clothes, and play with toys. You can have hours of fun without an admission charge!
There are countless salons eager to pamper you. In addition to the usual services—hairstyling, manicures, and facials—Riviera Village has shops boasting air brushed makeup and Botox injections.
The shops sell second-hand clothes, antiques, lingerie, wine, gifts… It’s a great place for mellow recreational shopping.
Warning: This is not an ideal guy hangout unless they’re at one of the restaurants, or shopping for women in their life. Most of the clothing stores sell exclusively women’s items. Just a couple of my favorite places were:
Harmony: The combination of the mild smell of incense, the calming music and the site of items like pillows, books and other knicknacks covered with inspirational sayings made me instantly walk a little slower and breathe a little deeper. It’s a good place to go for a touch of inspiration or to pick up something to delight a friend.
Card de A: There is nothing you need in this store, but there may be things you want. It’s a good place to find a fun gift for your girlfriends. For example, there’s the “Book of Love,” which is like a Magic 8 ball, but has hundreds of pages of answers. I asked if I should give an old flame another chance and then opened the book to a random page: “start something new.” Simply brilliant.
Creative Cakery: This shop scores high on originality, but low on standing a chance that I’ll ever spend money there. It sells decorated cakes for all occasions, but all the cakes are bundt cakes, and most of the decorations look like they should be on top of a gift instead of a cake. There are elaborate bows, streamers, toys and flowers bursting from the top of each cake. I was amazed to learn that not only does this company manage to pay rent in Redondo Beach, there are five other Creative Cakery locations in California. If you can’t make it to Redondo Beach today, you can see, and order, cakes at www.mycreativecakery.com.
Redondo Beach Brewing Co.
To celebrate my first week at a new job, I took my brother to lunch at the Redondo Beach Brewing Co. We chose a table on the patio—there is indoor and outdoor seating on two floors—and opened our menus to a wide selection of meals. Most of the items fell into what I call the best-served-with-beer category: greasy appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and dishes prepared on a grill. There was also a wide assortment of salads, pastas and desserts. I enjoyed the chicken adobo sandwich, which is a thin chicken breast on a French roll covered with onions, feta cheese, mozzarella, garlic butter and a spicy chipotle adobo sauce. Between the onions and the garlic, this is not a meal to enjoy on a date. (But who needs a date when the servers are so cute?) I tried two beers—oatmeal stout and blonde—and judging by those, this brewery knows beer.
Riviera Village hosts special events throughout the year, including an arts festival in the spring and evening store hours the third Thursday of every month. But, if you’re touring L.A., I recommend seeing the Riviera on a quiet day. It’s an escape from the crowds at the usual hot spots.
Riviera Village is located 20 miles south of Los Angeles in Redondo Beach. Short-term free and metered parking is available. If you’re headed south from Hermosa Beach on Pacific Coast Highway, turn right onto Avenue E and left onto Catalina Avenue.
For more information about Riviera Village, including a listing of the shops and businesses, check out www.rivieravillage.org.