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A Sliver of Europe : On Tujunga Avenue in Studio City is a delightful row of shops with Old World charm and unusual wares.

July 02, 1993|KATHRYN BAKER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Kathryn Baker writes regularly for Valley Life

Tucked away on a one-block stretch of Tujunga Avenue, between Moorpark and Woodbridge streets in Studio City, is a tiny slice of European village life. Merchandise is displayed on the street. Many of the stores are hand-painted little bungalows, and the merchants all seem to know each other, adding to the Old World charm.

Watch out, however, for that ubiquitous intrusion of big city life--the one-hour parking meters along Tujunga Avenue.

11 to 11:15 a.m.: Before entering one of the quaint shops in Tujunga Village, as the area is known, make a foray into the more ordinary strip mall on the corner, at Moorpark and Tujunga, to seek out Little Village Records. This is a find, a rhythm-and-blues record store featuring new and used vinyl and CDs. The store offers reissues of classics, plus current blues and mainstream jazz. The walls are decorated with posters from old R & B shows, striking a nostalgic note. A sign behind the checkout counter makes no bones about the bias here: "Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Jimmy Reed, Rod Piazza," it says, adding: "Nirvana--NOT."

11:15 to 11:45 a.m.: Pretty As You Please, 4376 1/2 Tujunga Ave., is indeed a pretty store, its exterior decorated with hand-painted vines and flowers. Inside, it's stocked wall-to-wall with those soft, flowing, cool little rayon dresses that you never can seem to find in department stores. Alan Harris, who owns the shop with his wife, Debby, was putting a rack of sale dresses out on the sidewalk when we arrived. Harris says he used to pick out his wife's clothes when she was a professional dancer and decided he had a knack for buying. His customers, he says, can't believe that a guy who rides a motorcycle (and has the tattoo to go with it) buys for this ultra-feminine store. (It's easy to chat with the merchants in these small shops, but you can also browse anonymously without intrusion.) The top-of-the-line dresses are from designers Marika, Nakk and T. T. Marr and run $115 to $152. For a 15% surcharge, you can get something custom made. The less expensive line of dresses is a bargain at $49 to $98. Prints range from delicate florals to whimsical cowboy motifs, and the dresses come in various lengths. The store also has blouses and jewelry. It's open all week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Next door to Pretty As You Please is a small artisan's shop, James Thomas Staine & Leaded Glass, with samples of work hanging in the windows. Next, another touch of that village feel--the chiropractor's cottage office, with a porch and chairs out front, where other merchants sometimes sit with tea or coffee and watch the world pass by.

11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Taylor's Secret Garden, 4363 Tujunga Ave., is designer Suzy Schwartz's children's clothing hideaway, also set in a small house. Schwartz, a former designer for Guess?, says she uses many antique fabrics in her garments, which are sized for infants through 6X. The store has an open, country-garden feel, with floral prints everywhere and an overhanging loft. And it's no coincidence that many of these kiddie outfits match the prints in those dresses for mommies, just down the street at Pretty As You Please: Schwartz makes it a point to coordinate some of her stock.

A toddler's dress with leggings was $55, a silk dress, $90. An antique, floral-patterned romper for a 6-month-old was $42. The shop is closed Sundays.

Now you're really in a time warp as you pass jewelry and TV-repair shops that look as if they've been here since the '50s. And that 1940s-era Chrysler New Yorker parked at the curb only heightens the effect.

12:15 to 12:45 p.m.: Ann's Dutch Imports, 4357 Tujunga Ave., is a combination deli and gift shop featuring ceramic mugs and figurines, copper cookware and canned goods from Holland. Suzanne's Resale Boutique, 4355 Tujunga Ave., has used clothing, jewelry and accessories.

At the end of the block is Vitello's, an Italian restaurant that, according to the locals, is favored by director Garry Marshall. It's open only for dinner, though.

Across the street is a flower shop, then a tailor/cobbler, where the walls are covered with head shots of actors. Also on this block is the Two Roads Theater Co. and an Armenian and Mediterranean restaurant, El Nejme.

12:45 to 1:15 p.m.: Elizabeth's Place, 4356 Tujunga Ave., advertises "aged objects." Its hand-painted doors facing onto the street add to the French country atmosphere of the block. Enter the house from the side door on the driveway and step into a different time. The antique (19th Century to mostly 1920s and 1930s) furniture, lamps, dishes and glassware, rugs and draperies are displayed in appropriate rooms, creating the sensation of having wandered into a neighbor's house in a bygone era.

The kitchen even has dishes drying on a drain board and a bowl of cat food on the floor for the resident feline.

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