Shopping the Larchmont Way

 

Sheila Lane

Online shopping is most likely here to stay, but a stroll down Larchmont Boulevard reveals the pleasures of shopping in a relaxed, yet vibrant atmosphere where personalized customer service is still alive and well.

Alex, a visitor on business from London, sat on a boulevard bench taking in the scene.  He said he purposely chose accommodations nearby because of a friend’s suggestion.

“My friend said it was a really great street, unlike any other in Los Angeles, and that it was one of the only places where people walked,” said Alex.  “It’s got a nice friendly atmosphere.  It feels like a community rather than just a busy Los Angeles area.”

That sense of community is something Chevalier’s Books actively tries to build by listening carefully to its customers.

“Instead of typing into Google, ‘I liked this book, what should I read next?’ we get a sense of your taste and try our best to find what you’re looking for,” said Drew Cole of Chevalier’s. “You’re going to get a personalized experience coming in here.”

By working together with their customers, Cole said, the selection of books at Chevalier’s not only reflects the expertise of their staff, but the personality of the community.”

The locally owned store offers a diverse range of events as well. Book signings have brought in noted authors and can include readings, samples of a chef’s handiwork or even a song. Monthly book clubs meet to discuss fiction as well as middle grade works. For the even younger set, free story hours are held in a cozy nook on Saturday and Sunday mornings. In addition, music classes, for a small fee, are held every Tuesday.

“Overall, we take pride in being an intellectual hub,” said Cole. “People get excited to have us here and we are excited that they’re excited about it.” 

Flicka, a children’s clothing boutique that’s just a few doors up from Chevalier’s, has been drawing in shoppers with its distinctive window displays for 25 years. Inside, customers are presented with an array of children’s clothing, sprinkled with charming accessories and gifts, all within a cottage-like setting.

According to store owner Kristen Sato, Flicka appeals to a multi-generational clientele. Many shoppers at Flicka are long-time customers who once walked into Flicka to buy for their own children and now are coming in to buy for their grandchildren.

“I think what makes our store special is that we’re really part of the community,” said Sato. “We know most of our customers on a first name basis.”

And some of the youngest customers can be very enthusiastic.  Recently, when a 10-year-old girl at the store learned that Sato was the owner, she screamed in excitement as if Sato were a pop star.

“These little girls and boys who come to this store,” said Sato, “there’s a certain magic in it for them and they know that they are in their spot.”

Sato said that she and her employees know their merchandise well and enjoy helping their customers, especially those who aren’t sure what they want to get.

“The biggest fun is that we can be like magicians,” said Sato. “Just tell us a couple of things about the little girl or the little boy or the parents who just had the baby and like a light bulb goes on and we’ll come up with the perfect gift.”

Flicka allows offers cards, gift-wrapping, and shipping making it a convenient one-stop shop.

“We had one woman who came in and she said, ‘Boom, boom, done!’” said Sato. “We got all this praise from her saying that she just loves to pop in, get exactly what she needs gift-wrapped and then can walk down the street to get her nails done.”

This proximity of so many quality stores, as well as restaurants along Larchmont Boulevard draws many shoppers looking for a convenient as well as enjoyable experience.

Whitney and Patrick were spotted walking on the sidewalk with one bag from the boutique Pickett Fences and another from the Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits and Cheese store.

“Pickett Fences has the best stuff,” said Whitney “I go there quite often because they have what I need and the wine store is awesome.”

The couple said they lived nearby and had walked to the boulevard to pick out a birthday gift that they needed for that day.  Both agreed that the convenience and the ambiance of the street, plus the likely possibility of running into friends and neighbors, keeps them returning time and time again.

“We’re down here every day,” said Patrick.

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