Long Beach shopping used to mean upscale 2nd Street in Belmont Shore or the vintage clothing and home décor on 4th Street’s Retro Row, but locals know the biggest surprise lies in Bixby Knolls. The neighborhood to the north has been quietly amassing a collection of interesting shops, galleries and restaurants.
Well, maybe not so quietly. On “First Fridays,” crowds take to Atlantic Avenue — on foot or by red double-decker bus — to listen to live music, dine on Thai or Lebanese cuisine, and browse stores for antiques and other home furnishings, toys, stationery, clothing and dog treats late into the evening. (That’s Paul Alicante, at right, with the letterpress at the Paper Crew.)
Atlantic Avenue is home to most of the action, but shops are popping up on nearby Long Beach Boulevard as well. Within the last year, Urban Cottage (home decor), Lucy’s Boudoir (retro-style lingerie) and Salvage Life (Taylor Swift wears its frocks) have opened. Bike lovers can go slightly farther south for the latest on two wheels at Long Beach Cyclery.
Bargain hunters take note: Many eateries and shops in Bixby Knolls participate in Bike Saturdays, a Long Beach program that includes discounts or deals to those who pedal in. Look for the Bike LB decal in the window. The Factory restaurant will give 20% off food any day you bike there. Here’s a sampling of what else is out there:
Bella Cosa: The work of local artists is a common thread in Bixby Knolls stores. That is especially true of this boutique, where you’ll find potted succulent arrangements, garden ornaments, lotions, jewelry and home décor. Bella Cosa also sells crafting supplies and runs classes in making soap, jewelry, terrariums and more. 3803 Atlantic Ave., (562) 426-2100, www.bellacosaboutique.com
Paper Crew: When you see the custom invitations and announcements, you may start dreaming up your own big event. Letterpress and eco-friendly invitations are popular, says designer Chanda Alicante, who owns the shop with her husband, Paul. Paper Crew soon will be carrying paper, envelopes, ribbons and other materials for do-it-yourselfers. 3920 Atlantic Ave., (562) 997-7832, www.papercrew.com
Pixie Toys: How can you not smile at a pink fork shaped like a forklift? A construction truck in bright green is made from milk jugs (but doesn’t look it). A wood snail on wheels wears red in a very fresh way. You just might find that you’re not too old for toys, including the adorable bunnies pictured at the top of the post. For owner Heather Daykin, toys are a family affair — her mom owned a toy store too. 3930 Atlantic Ave., (562) 490-0702, www.pixietoys.net
The Factory: Chef and owner Natalie Gutenkauf bases her menu on local and sustainable foods, with a Spanish twist. That explains the paella on the menu, and the manchego cheese on her Organic Happy Cow Burger, made with grass-fed beef, crispy onions, bacon and avocado. The restaurant hosts events with winemakers and brewers. Promotions include half-price dinners after 8 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday. 4020 Atlantic Ave., (562) 595-4020, www.thefactorylb.com
Long Beach Clothing Co.: A store devoted to a city? “Long Beach is unlike most cities. The sense of pride is overwhelming,” co-owner Jay Tilles says about those who buy “Defend Long Beach” T-shirts, “LB” beanies or “Long Beach” chrome car emblems. Snoop Dogg and members of Korn sport the gear, as do pro skateboarders and bicyclists, says Tilles, also known to KROQ listeners as Lightning. Many designs are by graffiti and tattoo artists. Speaking of which: Wear your Long Beach affection on your skin, you’ll get a 20% discount. 4218 Atlantic Ave., (562) 988-5900, www.longbeachclothing.com
The Workshop: This neighborhood shop specializes in two-wheelers fit for cruising. It aims to be a friendly hangout for kids and adults, says Graham Baden, resident bike guy. The Workshop also carries scooters and skateboards. Want to customize your ride? The shop carries seats, baskets, bells and neon-colored pedals and hand grips. 4242 Atlantic Ave., (562) 424-RIDE, www.theworkshoplb.com
Giltcomplex Antiques: First-edition “Moby Dick.” Torchiers from the estate of David Nivens. Vintage Japanese altar stick. You won’t find dusty tchotchkes from Grandma’s attic at this shop owned by Brent Baden and his wife, Patti Welker. The stuff here has some heft. 4270 Atlantic Ave., (562) 427-2299, www.giltcomplexantiques.com
Gallery Expo and Jones Studio Gallery: Two galleries are set up in a former furniture store. Gallery Expo focuses mainly on group shows. “A Pop of Color,” with glass, pottery, sculpture and mosaics, opens Friday. Jones Studio Gallery concentrates on one-person shows. Opening Saturday is “Airplane Nose Art” by Sant, who re-creates graphics from World War II-era bombers. 4321 Atlantic Ave.; Gallery Expo (562) 208-4226, www.galleryexpo.net; Jones Studio, (310) 895-9945, www.bigzinky.com
Urban Cottage: Owner Melissa Zambrano believes in mixing recycled goods with what you have. That’s why industrial lamps, burlap upholstered furniture and one-of-a-kind jewelry share space with vintage glassware and urns. The works of 15 local artists are exclusive to her shop. 4121 Long Beach Blvd., (562) 997-4121
— Jan Molen
Photos: Bob Chamberlain / Los Angeles Times