Talking about Shelter Half a while back, I noted the further development of L.A.’s La Brea Avenue as a new little area of interest for retailers. There have been great stores in this part town for a long time, Union and American Rag being probably the two best known and most widely respected. General Quarters is one of the newish shops to join the menswear fray on La Brea. The store got a lot of call outs when I was working on an update to the LA shopping map and it wasn’t until recently that I had a chance to stop by. While the store is not “just opened,” I think it was worth highlighting here for those that don’t spend much time in LA.
Out in L.A. last week, my buddy Nick Maggio took me on a little retail tour of a burgeoning stretch of South La Brea. First stop? The temporary retail spot Shelter Half which is organized by Environment furniture’s Davide Berruto (with some assistance from Mr. Maggio and others). The shop is a mix of clothing, objects, furniture, leather goods and vintage books — all under the concept of made in America. Brands like RTH and Save Khaki (among many others) are involved and have set-ups within the big open space that is loosely divided up between brands. The shop is an interesting mix of stuff and feels more crafty than heritage-y (not a word, I know), which is refreshing.
Before heading across the street for Mexican food from Tinga (which is sublime) Nick and I stopped in and chatted with Davide (who is a really engaging and nice guy) about the concept and how Shelter Half came to be. It’s an interesting play on things, especially because Davide is there most days to interact with customers or people that are just passing by. That’s one thing we love about the Pop Up Flea. It gives people a chance to really interact with the people behind the brands, the people that dream up the things they buy.
Out and about in Cleveland today, I spent the afternoon doing some last minute Christmas shopping (the last minute makes you the most productive — don’t forget it). Eventually I ventured over to Cuffs Clothing — one of my favorite shops. I was thinking just last week that stores like Cuffs in Chagrin Falls and O’Connell’s in Buffalo are two truly unique menswear shops that set the standard for specialty retail in America. When I go to Cuffs I can’t help but to think how the selection is both classic and modern at the same time, with an emphasis on quality. Cuff’s sells brands like Crockett & Jones, Brioni, Kiton, Charvet, Barbour, Southwick and Oxxford — among others. Also, Cuffs has what I think is the only remaining Hermès shop-in-shop in the United States. And all of this in a world where many specialty retailers are either painfully boring or going out of business.
Acquiring crushable felt Borsalinos can become borderline addictive. A few Saturdays ago my friend Randy Goldberg and I stopped into JJ Hat Center, a New York institution for hat buying. I was just going along for the ride because Randy wanted to go to replace a lost Borsalino (which was swallowed by an NYC taxi) not at all intending to buy anything. After about 45 minutes, I walked out with a simple Italian-made felt hat that will last a lifetime (if cared for properly).
That’s how things just seem to go at JJ Hat Center — once you are there it is hard to resist all of the finely made hats. Next time you are on Fifth Ave (between 31st & 32nd streets) stop in and see if you can avoid the lure of the Borsalino.
Convincing your best friend to drive you to downtown L.A. to check out a new shop isn’t always an easy thing. As someone that lives in New York I get the aversion to “downtown” — it’s a big commitment. Similarly for me, at times it is difficult to get me to leave my twenty block bubble in downtown New York. Luckily though, my friend didn’t mind making the trip and today we got to check out the new retail arm of maker Apolis for the first time.
The new shop, dubbed Apolis: Common Gallery is a minimal men’s retail store on East 3rd Street that stocks all of the complete line from the burgeoning menswear label, along with nearly all of the brand’s many collaborations. The simple space, true to its name, also serves as a gallery to showcase the content (film and otherwise) from the company’s many sourcing and humanitarian missions all over the world.
While out in San Francisco this past week, I stopped into Unionmade to see what the guys have been up to since I first profiled them on ACL two years ago. First of all, the SF store has grown considerably with a recent addition of the space next door, which in its former life was a dry cleaning shop. The addition more than doubles the selling space and houses a little book area, tons of Alden shoes and the shop’s new Indigo collection. On top of all of the happenings at the original shop, Unionmade is also about to open a new outpost at the Marin Country Mart, which will be the third store for the burgeoning Americana-loving outfitter.
It really is a remarkable thing what Todd Barket and the guys at Unionmade have done. The selection rivals any store in the world, corporately owned or private. In fact, there’s actually a rumor going around that Unionmade is owned by a certain preppy-cum-rugged East Coast retailer. A rumor that Todd says is totally untrue. In my mind that hearsay is easily dismissible because there’s no way a big company like that could actually get out of their own way long enough to make something as good as Unionmade actually see the light of day.
To help launch the brand in the fall of 2009, khaki outfitter Grown & Sewn opened a temporary shop in an art gallery on one of the best looking blocks of TriBeCa. With a few seasons under its belt and a good following with American-made khaki loving gents, the New York based label recently took up a more permanent residence on Franklin Street (again in TriBeCa) catty-corner from Steven Alan’s Annex shop and not far from the Liquor Store.