Best of the Beach 2018 Retail
Best photo store
“Running stores offer runs, nurseries offer planting classes. We offer classroom photo instruction and photo excursions,” said Mark Comon, co-owner with his dad Paul, who founded Paul’s Photo in 1961. Over the years, the father and son team have made their store the hub of the South Bay photograph community. A visit to the large, well stocked store is part provisioning, part socializing.
Classes range from the general (bootcamp) to the specific (lighting), night photography). Photo excursions range from Madrona Marsh to Kilimanjaro and places in between, including Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Death Valley, Monterey and Alaska.
Last year MSNBC aired a special about Paul’s popularity in an era of online shopping. “A good retailer creates and customer experience with every sale. A UPS driver can’t do that,” retail consultant Bill McCurry told MSNBC.
To view MSNBC’s report on Paul’s Photo visit msnbc.com/your-business/watch/getting-the-picture-saving-a-camera-store-607940675568
23845 S. Hawthorne Blvd.
Runner-Up: Silvio’s Camera & Digital
22409 Hawthorne Blvd.
Riviera Village is a treasure to Beach Cities residents, and Nils Nehrenheim, the Redondo Beach City Council Member representing the area, gladly gushes about it.
“It’s a very walkable area that has everything; you can go there in the morning for a dentist appointment, grab lunch after, go to the store, then stop off at the accountant for your taxes,” Nehrenheim said. “It has everything for everyone on a day-to-day basis.”
New restaurants are regularly being introduced to the area, including the latest edition of The Rockefeller, a sidewalk dining program is growing, and the Sunday Farmer’s Market is coming into its own.
“The Village is where you can go to get everything done,” Nehrenheim said.
1799 S. Catalina Ave.
Runner-Up: Metlox LLC
451 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
The flowery little world within the Growing Wild shop on Highland Avenue in downtown Manhattan Beach has become nothing short of a dynasty in the annual Best of the Beach votes. This year marks the seventh straight that Growing Wild has been awarded BOB, and that’s likely because its owners, twins Lisa Hoven Gallien and Lee Hoven Bakos, have deep local roots in this community. The duo worked at a flower shop as Mira Costa High School students, when already they harbored a dream of running their own business, a dream that came true 27 years ago.
“All of our employees have worked here a long time, and we’ve been here a long time, so we are able to really know our customers and what they like,” said Hoven Gallien. “We have a small town feel here, so we really get to know people, and how to take care of them.”
The shop is also both wonderfully artisan and inventive — everything is handcrafted, with many designs that use sea shells and wood and other unconventional materials to create uniquely local settings for Growing Wild’s arrangements. The shop is also dynamic, both as a go-to service for events, delivery, and as place for innovative home decoration ideas.
“They make beautiful arrangements and are always on the cutting edge of design,” said customer Suzanne Kretschmer in a Google review. “Whether you are looking for a gift, a centerpiece for a party, or a beautiful piece for your home, you will be able to find it here.”
“Growing Wild is hands — down the best quality florist I have ever come across, a total class act,” said customer Kim Martin. “Their arrangements and wreaths are the most original and beautiful…they are elegant pieces that stand the test of time. Still hanging is a shell wreath I was given as a house warming present 13 years ago that makes the room. The owners are incredibly generous to the community as well. I co-founded a nonprofit and Growing Wild has, without exception, answered the call for every single event we have ever thrown. They are true community partners, and for that we in this tiny beach town are grateful. ”
1201 Highland Ave.
Runner-Up: Lily Pad Floral Design
901 Hermosa Ave.
Best Men’s Clothing
Best Surf Shop
Spyder owner Dennis Jarvis has been in the industry long enough to understand the intricacies of running a surf shop in the South Bay. Spend any time talking to him, and it becomes apparent that he has the customer experience thought out down to the last square foot.
The result is a trio of stores that cater to different surfers, or perhaps the surfer on a different day. Spyder’s original location on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach carries the “hard goods”: surfboards, leashes, fins and anything else you might need to get wet, along with an assortment of boardshorts and wetsuits. The Pier Plaza location has a wide assortment of apparel for men and women, while the downtown Manhattan Beach location is where you can find higher-end surfwear like button-ups.
Jarvis, a former pro surfer who has shaped boards for many of the sport’s top pros, is one of South Bay surfing’s biggest boosters. His pride in the place where he grew up and continues to call home is apparent in the way he constantly touts the South Bay as the heart and soul of surfboard manufacturing. And, at 35 years in business, Spyder Surfboards is undeniably part of that story.
1116 Manhattan Ave.
2461 Pacific Coast Hwy.
65 Pier Ave.
Runner-up: Men’s clothing
Manhattan Village, Manhattan Beach
Runner-up: Surf shop
904 Aviation Boulevard
Best skate shop
ET Surf may have been founded on ocean sports, but step inside the Aviation Boulevard storefront, and the first thing you see is a wall of skateboard decks. Over its history, ET has become part of the concerte history of Hermosa Beach and the South Bay by equipping and sponsoring some of the South Bay’s best skaters, including Cindy Whitehead, one the first women vert skaters and a member of the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.
Skate manager Kevin “Worm” Anderson has been working at ET since he was 15 years old. He helped the South Bay become part of the vibrant skate scene that developed in Southern California in the 1970s, which took after economic downturns and eminent domain by LAX created a large number of condemned homes with empty pools for skaters to explore. Today, the store continues to connect with homegrown talent like Chris Russell and Bryan Torrellas.
904 Aviation Blvd.
2461 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Best independent fashion retailer
Wright’s is celebrating 30 years in Downtown Manhattan Beach this year, but the name celebrates a tradition far older. When long-time Manhattan residents Nancy and Dana McFarland founded the store, they decided to name it in honor of Dana’s great-grandfather, who founded Wright’s Trading Post in Albuquerque, New Mexico almost a century before.
Today, Navajo blankets and stiff denim have given way to a modern bohemian assortment of clothes more appropriate for a night out on the town than a trip in a covered wagon. But the artisanal spirit endures.
“There’s things for everybody. It’s classy but fun, not really too traditional,” said store manager Thassia Voigt.
Voigt credited the store’s eclecticism to Nancy. McFarland, she said, has a “great eye” and finds clothes that suit all body types. She also casts a wide net: Some of the store’s clothes come from domestic lines, but many come from France, Italy and elsewhere abroad.
232 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
1809 S. Catalina Ave.
Best gift shop
Gum Tree is the place to turn for gifts for the hard-to-please. It has a mix of home decorations, jewelry and cook books. Parents looking for something for a kid but hesitant to plunk down money for a video game can find youthful gifts that are designed to please and stimulate the mind, from puzzles to coloring books. The Hermosa Beach location sits inside an early 20th-century bungalow on Pier Avenue, and features a cafe with an Australian-inspired menu. (For thousands of years, Australian aborigines have used gum trees, known as Eucalyptus stateside, for their medicinal properties.) The Manhattan Beach location sits in the heart of downtown, and has a constantly rotating selection of gifts for parties and events.
238 Pier Ave.
324 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
128 Pier Ave.
Best Jewelry Store
Melissa Varon Weinberg has felt the weight of the Morgan name, which carries back over 70 years, and sees it in the customers she sees come into the local chain’s Torrance location every day.
“We recently had a couple who were 91 and 92 years old, who began shopping with us when my grandparents started the company back in Del Amo; they had fond memories of dealing with them then, and they wanted to shop with someone they can trust,” Weinberg said. “When you find someone like that, you know what you’re getting.”
Morgan’s name, she believes, comes from building relationships and selling the kind of quality that keeps parents, friends, children and grandchildren oohing and ahhing for years and years.
“We want our customers to feel really proud with what they are purchasing,” Weinberg said. “To have every piece feel like an heirloom piece, that you can pass on to your family.”
222 Hawthorne Blvd.
Runner-Up: Seymour Jewelry
1212 Hermosa Ave.
Stars Antique Market
There’s always a pot of coffee for customers near the entrance of Star’s Antiques in Hermosa Beach. Step inside, and you’ll start to see why: once you begin browsing, you might be here a while.
A recent visit to the store revealed treasures and wonderful: an apron featuring long-demolished hotel-casinos of Las Vegas like the Sands and the Silver Slipper; a copy of the single “Have a Marijuana” by forgotten New York hippie-rockers David Peel and the Lower East Side; marbles of every shade and variety stored in glass jars as though they were volatile compounds; a poster advertising Howlin’ Wolf at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco on Sept. 23-24, year unknown.
The store takes on a mixture of direct and consignment sales. And despite the huge inventory of the Pier Avenue storefront — two floors and and a rear area open to the outdoors — employees can often look at an item and know instantly to whom it belongs. What brings it all together is less a sense that one has found something secretly valuable than a feeling of being surrounded by things that have been loved.
Stars Antique Market
526 Pier Ave.
Runner-up: Antique Corral
145 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Best Car Wash
Rock n’ Roll Car Wash
A statue of Elvis overlooks cars as they pass through the final stages of a wash cycle at Rock n’ Roll Car Wash in Hermosa Beach. It’s a nod to the store’s name, but also a hint that the place does things the old-fashioned way.
The car washing system may be computerized, but there are still plenty of people running around the storefront at the convenient intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Aviation Boulevard. On a recent Saturday, customers were soaking up rays on the patio, and listening to groovy tunes from the store’s speakers, while Rock n’ Roll professionals finished off their cars.
The musical theme carries over to options for customers, who can order everything from just “vocals” to the “whole band,” which represent increasing levels of care and work for a car. Along with washing, the shop also offers interior and exterior detailing services, with a package of services culminating in “the Stadium Gig” for those really wanting to show off their ride.
Rock n’ Roll Car Wash
1000 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Runner-up: Red Carpet Car Wash
2412 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
South Bay Gold
One of the highest-paying gold and diamond buyers in the nation, South Bay Gold prides itself on living up to the Golden Rule, screening employees for honesty, integrity and commitment to customer service. SBG sets its prices each day, based on the London Bullion Metals Association. “We list our buy price and our sell price,” said General Manager Samuel Kaoud. “We tell our customer how much we’re making.” SBG specializes in buying and selling gold and diamonds, custom designed jewelry and engagement rings, retail jewelry, gold and silver bullion, rare coins, estate jewelry, luxury watches, and collectibles. Customer testimonials praise SBG’s quality of work, honesty and customer service.
South Bay Gold
3804 Sepulveda Blvd., #C
Runner-Up: Meridian Coin
22330 Hawthorne Blvd.
“We treat everyone like family,” said acting manager Tony Gomez. “Our employees are pet parents, and we like to share our experience of what works and what doesn’t work with our community. It’s not just about selling, it’s about building that relationship with the customer.” In addition to an admirable selection of pet foods and products, Petco will groom your pet, protect it with vaccines, and provide services such as full-service grooming by qualified stylists. Petco also offers training classes in which customers learn proficiency in potty training, loose-leash training and obedience training.
537 N. Pacific Coast Hwy.
3901 Inglewood Ave.
Runner-Up: Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies
413 N. Pacific Coast Hwy.