The Best Specialty Shops In Los Angeles
Sometimes you just don't want to go to big box stores like Target or Costco to get what you need. Maybe what you're looking for is something so specific that only hardcore enthusiasts and collectors would carry it. We're talking about that darkwave vinyl you can't get on eBay, stinky cheeses Ralph's doesn't have and a place where you can get a Harry Potter wand like a real nerd. Here are our favorite specialty shops, and as always, leave your favorites in the comments section.
People wait in line outside of Vidiots for an event with David O. Russell (via Facebook)
Video Stores For Cinephiles
The video store is, sadly, a dying breed. Streaming and piracy—in other words, The Internet—are at the roots of its demise, but the last remaining holdouts are an important part of L.A. cinephile culture. While true film lovers will continue going to the movies as much as they can, sometimes they have to rent, or even buy, to fill the holes in the gap of their personal filmographies. West L.A.'s CineFile has a selection catered to the peculiarities of the cult movie crowd, while the classic Hollywood aficionado will likely opt for Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee. Looking to get started on a deep dive into movie history? Let the knowledgable staff and enormous selection at the beloved Vidiots in Santa Monica be your guide. Don't let Netflix recommend movies for you—support your local video store! —Carman Tse
CineFile Video is located at 11280 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 312-8836; Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee is located at 5006 Vineland Ave. in North Hollywood, (818) 506-4242; Vidiots is located at 302 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, (310) 392-8508
Necromance, for all your taxidermy needs (Photo via Facebook)
Macabre And Creepy Goods
Looking for something macabre or for a gift for a horror lover? Los Angeles has a number of stores where you can embrace Halloween all year long. First up, try Dapper Cadaver in Sun Valley. Here, you can find all manner of horror props for sale or rent. They've got skeletons and body parts (realistic but not real, of course), masks, laboratory equipment, fake weaponry, tombstones and all sorts of gore. You can rent this stuff for that PoV horror movie you've always wanted to make, or put it in your house to sketch out your guests. It's up to you! For something a little more nuanced, check out Necromance on Melrose. At this witchy boutique, you'll find gothy jewelry, animal bones and pelt, vials, taxidermy, quirky gifts, T-shirts and other curiosities. This place is always fun to browse, and isn't quite so gory. For horror with a side of cheese, there's Skeletons in the Closet. This gift shop is located in the L.A. County Coroner's Office and specializes in death-related but not too serious merchandise. There are mugs, shirts and bags with the Coroner's seal, plus chalk outline beach towels, books, toe tags and other novelties to be found here. How long this shop will stay open is anybody's guess: the office's new management is reconsidering how appropriate it is to have the tongue-in-cheek gift shop so close to where people deal with actual deaths. For horror books, magazines and movies, check out Dark Delicacies in Burbank. This spooky bookstore specializes in horror and fantasy, and often features signings and readings from the top authors in the genre. —Juliet Bennett Rylah
Necromance is located at 7220 Melrose Ave. in Hollywood, (323)934-8684; Dapper Cadaver is located at 7648 San Fernando Rd. in Sun Valley, (818)771-0818; Skeletons in the Closet is located in the L.A. Coroner's Office at 1104 N. Mission Rd. in Lincoln Heights, 323-343-0760.; Dark Delicacies is located at 3512 W. Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank, 818-556-6660.
Cheese Store of Silver Lake (Photo via Facebook)
Don't judge us: we consider eating a wheel of cheese as a satisfying meal. Triple cream? Count us in. The stinkier the better, too. Luckily, in Los Angeles, we have plenty of specialty shops to get our insatiable fromage fix. The Cheesestore of Silverlake is one of our go-to spots for gourmet cheeses. It may be intimidating since they have such a big selection, but their friendly staff can help you pick out a good wedge for wine night. While you're there, you can also grab some fixins to go along with your cheese, like wine, dried meets, jams and crackers as a one-stop shop. It may be a bit pricier than what you can get at your average Trader Joe's, but you'll be getting some higher-quality selections: think brands like Cowgirl Creamery and Dutch Girl. If you're feeling extra bougie, head on over to the the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills where you can get some rare finds and try cheeses from all over the world. Andrew's Cheese Shop in Santa Monica, whose motto is "this store stinks" (we approve), is popularly known for their monthly grilled cheese and beer pairing nights and educational courses on cheese, so these guys know their stuff. Plus, they're cool with you sampling from their massive selection. And don't think we forgot about the vegans and the lactose-intolerant folk. Nestled in West Hollywood is Vromage (get it??), a tiny shop that vegans go ga-ga over (though carnivores also enjoy this shop's vegan cheeses as well). You can get artisanal nut cheeses of the brie, Gorgonzola, and Camberbert varieties.
The Cheesestore of Silverlake is located at 3926 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 644-7511; The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills is located at 419 N Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 278-2855; Andrew's Cheese Shop is located at 728 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 393-3308; Vromage is located at 7988 W Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 745-0157
Vacation Vinyl (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Sure, you can listen to iTunes or Spotify nowadays, but nothing can replace the feeling of putting a 12-inch on a record player and hearing that beautiful crackling sound right before the first track begins. Los Angeles is a music mecca, which means there are plenty of record stores, each with their own charm (and some that even carry new cassettes!). While we do enjoy sifting through the records at Amoeba, it can be overwhelming at times since it's like the Costco of music, and we like to turn to smaller specialty shops. If you want to go dark, Highland Park's Mount Analog is the way to go. These guys specialize in the goth, industrial, darkwave and minimal wave. In addition, they have a great selection of occult books and oddities. Silver Lake's Vacation Vinyl is a finely-curated store with some of the best noise and metal in town. Their employees know the music scene like the back of their hand, and they're great with recommendations. For the hardcore vinyl collectors, Atomic Records in Burbank is the spot where you can find collectibles at affordable prices. You might just come out with Diana Ross, Pink Floyd and David Bowie and Pink Floyd albums at the end of your visit. For more record stores, check out our Best Record Stores in Los Angeles round-up.
Mount Analog is located at 5906 1/2 N Figueroa St., Highland Park, (323) 474-6649; Vacation Vinyl is located at 3815 W Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, (323) 666-2111; Origami Vinyl is located at 1816 West Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, (213) 413-3030; Atomic Records is located at 3812 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 848-7090
'Game of Thrones' poster? Check. 'Doctor Who' telephone booth? Check. You're at Whimsic Alley. (Photo via Facebook)
There are more than plenty of comic book and video game stores in Los Angeles for the geeks, but about the more refined and, er, whimsical geek crowd? Miracle Mile's Whimsic Alley is your one-stop-shop for everything related to Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Game Of Thrones, and Twilight. Merch, ranging from books to wooden magic wands (including their own published guide to spells!) are sold here. The store's interior is even designed to resemble a magical, Olde English world, and appropriately sometimes hosts tea parties, craft faires, and masquerade parties. —Carman Tse
Whimsic Alley is located at 5464 Wilshire Boulevard in Miracle Mile, (310) 453-2570.
McCall's Meat and Fish Co. (Photo via Facebook)
We've shed many a tear after the beloved Lindy & Grundy's closed down last September, but fortunately there are some serious purveyors in town that offer the same level of quality meats. Ever since Belcampo Meat Co. opened up in downtown's Grand Central Market last year, it's gained a fervent following. (They recently just opened shop in Santa Monica, too.) They're known for their organic, grass-fed meats that they process humanely on their own farm, and their custom cuts that you can find behind their glass counter. While you wait, make sure to grab some beef tallow fries that they cook up fresh. McCall's Meat & Fish Co. in Los Feliz may be pricier than your average supermarket, but it's worth it to get organic meats that don't have growth hormones or antibiotics in them. Plus, they make a point to only work with farms that practice humane slaughtering methods. Even their fish is wild caught or at least farm-raised responsibly.
Belcampo Meat Co. is located at Grand Central Market at 317 S. Broadway, downtown L.A., (213) 625-0304; 8053 West 3rd., Beverly Grove, (323) 937-0170; and 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (424) 744-8008; McCall's Meat & Fish Co. is located at 2117 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 667-0674
RIF Los Angeles (Photo via Facebook)
Kicks for Sneaker Heads
We take sneakers very seriously here, and it's not uncommon to see sneaker heads line up outside of L.A. stores in the wee hours to grab new kicks being released like they're the new iPhones. Sportie LA is a mainstay on Melrose Avenue—after all, they've been in the sneaker biz since 1985. Their collection is huge—carrying everything from Air Jordans to Pumas and Nikes—so you might feel a little overwhelmed. But you can always turn to their friendly staff to give you some tips. For the hardcore sneaker collectors, stop by downtown L.A.'s consignment shop, Holy Grail. Their selection isn't the largest, but they carry rare, hard-to-find Nikes and Jordans that you may have been scouring the internet for. Little Tokyo's RIF Los Angeles is another one of those sneaker stores where you can find pre-owned rarities. Their walls are covered with kicks made of every color of the rainbow. Since they carry unique sneakers, just know they don't come or cheap. Even celebs like Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean stop by RIF for sneaks.
Sportie LA is located at 7753 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District, (323) 651-1553; Holy Grail is located at 604 W Pico Blvd., downtown L.A., (213) 746-6405; RIF Los Angeles is located at 334-A E 2nd St., Little Tokyo, (213) 617-0252
Victrola Coffee Roasters sold at Cafe Commissary (Photo via Facebook)
Unique Coffee Beans
We have plenty of high-quality roasters scattered throughout the city—from Verve to Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle, but sometimes you just want to go to a shop where you can peruse through a variety of choices that you can't normally get everywhere else. Coffee Commissary is one of those gems where the owners pride themselves in bringing in seasonal beans from gourmet roasters. Think Portland's Coava Coffee Roasters, San Jose's Chromatic Coffee, Seattle's Victrola Coffee Roasters, and then some. Their staff is extremely knowledgeable and great at giving recommendations for new roasts to try. We also love the selection at Larchmont Village's Go Get Em Tiger. We've seen bags of fresh coffee beans line their shelves, carrying the likes of Vancouver's 49th Parallel to Portland's Heart Coffee Roasters and San Francisco's Ritual Coffee.
Coffee Commissary has several locations in Burbank, Culver City, Hollywood and West Hollywood. Find more info here. Go Get Em Tiger is located at 230 N Larchmont Blvd., Larchmont Village, (323) 380-5359
Moxi Roller Skate Shop (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
Roller skating is alive and well, my friends whether you like to skate along the Venice boardwalk or crush skulls at the roller derby. Nestled in Long Beach is the kitschy and adorable Moxi Roller Skate Shop. It's a spot where you can get some high-quality roller skates, either for beginners or for those who love to roller derby. The vibrant shop has awesome skates in all different designs and colors, from retro to cool Hello Kitty skates. However, it's the people who run the store that make it really special, as they're passionate about roller skating, and they can give you lots of wonderful advice on what type of skates to get to fit your needs. They're so into skating that they even offer free lessons on Saturday, and sponsor the coed Beach Cities Roller Derby league.
Moxi Roller Skate Shop is located at 2132 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8488
Playclothes (Photo via Playclothes)
Curated Vintage Clothing
While you can sift through racks and piles of vintage clothes at thrift stores, sometimes what we really want is someone to already pick the best out for us. We have some great vintage stores in Los Angeles that each have their own je ne sais quoi. Take Echo Park's Tavin Boutique: it's our go-to place for vintage bohemian threads, while Chuck's Vintage is where serious denim collectors spend their time getting their vintage 501s. For well-curated finds, Playclothes will make you feel like you're traveling back in time—anywhere from the '30s to the '90s. It's the spot where you can grab enough clothes so it looks like you stepped out of Mad Men. Check out our 9 Favorite Shops To Buy Vintage Clothes In Los Angeles list for more ideas.
Tavin Boutique is located at 1543 Echo Park Avenue in Echo Park; (213) 482-5832; Chuck's Vintage is located at 8012 Melrose Ave in Fairfax, (323) 653-5386; Playclothes is located at 3100 W. Magnolia in Burbank, (818) 557-8447
Need some spice in your life? (Photo via Spice Station's Facebook)
Time to ditch those stale, bland spices that you bought at the Ralph’s who-knows-how-many-years ago. Using fresh herbs and spices in your cooking—no matter how simple or elaborate your meals are—adds a huge boost in flavor that those supermarket jars can’t touch. Fortunately, L.A. offers several places where you can stock up on fresh, flavorful and hard to find spices that will improve your culinary creativity—even if you’re just making mac 'n’ cheese out of the box. Tucked away at the end of a shaded brick alley in Silver Lake, Spice Station is a treasure trove of colorfully-hued and thoughtfully-selected herbs, spices, salts and teas. From fiery Berbere blends to bright orange turmeric, this charming shop will help you navigate their extensive offerings, grind your spice selections and also hosts spice-related workshops. And in Santa Monica and Torrance, renowned online spice purveyor Penzeys offers two locations where you can get a close look—and smell—at their extensive selection of single spices, blends, extracts and other fun flourishes for your cooking and baking needs. From the common, everyday herbs and spices, to the more unusual (looking for ajwain seeds or za’atar), Penzeys has your kitchen covered. —Danny Jensen
Spice Station is located at 3819 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 660-2565; Penzeys is located at 1347 4th St., Santa Monica, (310) 917-5577, and Village Del Amo Shopping Center at 21301 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 406-3877