Whether you're looking for a gift for someone who loves a certain foreign city or you miss a specialty item you thought you could only find overseas, you may not have to travel far from home to get it. The San Fernando Valley has a range of specialty shops that offer everything from Argentine polo gear to English earthenware Brown Betty teapots.
In addition to selling typical gift items such as Chinese Peking glass bonsai trees or Finnish Kalevale jewelry, some shops have magazines, newspapers, cards and sundries. Some stock popular food items that go together nicely in baskets to make creative, fun-to-open presents.
Argentina, 533 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank (818) 848-9114. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Polo is the chic sport to play, and this shop carries everything one needs to look good on the field. In addition to offering a range of Argentine leather goods (including saddles, bridles, polo mallets, helmets, gloves, whips, purses and handbags), the store has Southwest furniture and accessories, pottery, candlesticks--all from South America. Says owner Alex Trigo: "It's true that more people are interested in polo than ever before, but most of our customers are looking for the Southwest look or accessories from Patagonia" in southern Argentina.
Jerusalem Fair, 14537 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818) 995-0116. Open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. More than 90% of the merchandise in the shop, which specializes in Judaica, is imported from Israel. There is handcrafted work by some of the new Israeli artists, including letter openers, paperweights, cards, address books, hand-painted glassware and jewelry. Most of the items have religious symbolism or significance. The store also carries Israeli books, tapes, records and some basic maps of Israel.
Scandia House, 14029 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (818) 981-0720. Open Monday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Scandinavians make wonderful, colorful wooden decorations at Christmas, from candlesticks and wooden Santas ( Tomte in Sweden and Nisse in Norway) to tree ornaments and bright aprons. Scandia House also carries Orrefors, Ittala and Kosta Boda glassware, iron candleholders from Sweden and Denmark, dinnerware from Sweden, Denmark and Finland (about $20 for a dinner plate), jewelry from Finland and Norway, linens and mohair blankets from Finland for $210. They also offer handmade Norwegian sweaters for between $135 and $155, wooden shoes, calendars, wind chimes and Dala horses, brightly colored hand-painted wood figures.
Kirstens of Copenhagen, 18663 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana (818) 996-2417. Open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m. A traditional Scandinavian shop, Kirsten's offers a range of crystal and flatware, handmade modern amber and silver jewelry ($15 to $200), real German nutcrackers, prints by Carl Larson and other Scandinavian artists, Christmas decorations, cards, tapes and some books.
Piccadilly, 2011 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank (818)842-2324. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday noon to 8 p.m., Monday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Celebrating its 26th year, Piccadilly sells everything from the popular Brown Betty earthenware teapots to kitchen aids--pastry blenders, tea infusers, small muffin tins--soccer and women's magazines, books, soaps, china, crystal, calendars and Irish linen. You'll find Christmas crackers (beautifully wrapped noisemakers for the Christmas table) and Christmas puddings and cakes. Piccadilly carries food and grocery items, which make nice gifts when packed into baskets or picnic hampers. A popular gift basket is a combination of teas and shortbreads with a tea cozy and a teapot, all neatly tied together. The shop is low on royal memorabilia, and Larry Vaughan says: "We need another marriage . . . or a divorce . . . before we'll see more royal-related items."
Tottenham Court, 12206 1/2 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818) 761-6560. Open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Open every night until 9 p.m. until Christmas.) With the ambiance of a quaint little shop in London, Tottenham Court offers a range of things English, from English silver ($24 to $300), perfume and crystal to Harrod's cookbooks, royal commemorative petit-point pillow kits, Floris and Woods of Windsor soap, a selection of English cards, handmade ornaments, music boxes, wooden Santa Claus pieces, Advent calendars and more than 48 items with the official royal warrant of excellence. You'll find English jam and chutney, candy bars, biscuits, teas, marmalades and a few British magazines and newspapers, such as British Weekly and U.K. Magazine. During the Christmas season, hot mulled cider is served free to customers.