It's hard to imagine that pockets of small-town America exist in the spread and sprawl of Southern California. But they do here and there.
Montrose, a tiny community in Glendale snuggled in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains, offers that small-town spirit and ambience. It's a step back in time with its 1950s bowling alley, the 50-year-old independent Faye's Department Store, tree-lined streets, quaint shops, service-oriented merchants and a weekly farmers market.
The Montrose Shopping Park is a delightful destination, a change of pace from predictable malls and outlets. The mood is relaxed, friendly and welcoming. Shoppers may be taken aback by the old-fashioned one-on-one customer service. On one trip alone, three stores offered special ordering to fulfill requests.
Take a leisurely walk down Honolulu Avenue and discover boutiques and children's shops, shoe stores, discount stores, toy and hobby shops, cafes and three independent bookstores. It is also a haven for those into country collectibles and antiques.
The children's clothes are precious--just the place to find those outfits for holiday photos. And you can find Halloween costumes without stepping into a chain.
In line with the small-town setting, the adult clothes are, for the most part, fairly conservative, especially the menswear. But the women's boutiques offer outfits for the office or dressy affairs such as weddings. A few shops even provide on-site alterations.
Something about autumn can make one nostalgic for the embrace and coziness provided by the small-town atmosphere of Montrose. It's the perfect season to wander down tree-lined streets and linger at quaint little shops.
THE ROUTE: Start at Honolulu Avenue at Verdugo Road. Walk toward Orangedale Avenue, then cross the street and work your way back to the starting point. Some stores are on Ocean View Boulevard. Here are the stores we visited:
Bella, 2225 Honolulu Ave., (818) 957-6057. A small boutique of moderately priced women's clothes, candles, purses and accessories. The selection is an homage to what is in fashion--fringed skirts, ball gowns, Indian-print clam diggers. Most items are less than $100.
Kimmel-Meehan, 2227 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-5085. Men's clothing store that is fairly conservative, with a nice selection of casual clothes, if casual means a Saturday afternoon at the club.
Aladdin Rugs & Fine Art Gallery, 2237 Honolulu Ave., (818) 248-7844. A newly opened store with a wide selection of Oriental rugs and a smaller one with paintings and furniture.
Annie's Scandal, 2239 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-8095. A shop with very personable service, full of inexpensive to moderately priced women's clothes. A great collection of shoes from Chinese Laundry to Aerosole.
Walk This Way, 2253 Honolulu Ave., (818) 248-7206. European and U.S. brands of comfortable but modern shoes that still have a fashion edge. Brands are somewhat expensive.
Candle Tree, 2257 Honolulu Ave., (818) 248-1157. Bring mom, and stock up on all those knickknack and holiday candles.
The Paper Rabbit, 2269 Honolulu Ave., (818) 957-2848. Lots of stickers, memory book supplies and, of course, paper, paper, paper.
Landry's Sporting Goods, 2271 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-3444. For the serious baseball fan, memorabilia, jackets and good equipment like bats and gloves.
Critters, 2277 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-3777. This is where the locals shop for doodads, knickknacks and toys. Reportedly the first place in Montrose to get Pokemon cards, but don't hold that against them.
Tom's Toys, 2281 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-2178. A complete toy store without the frantic energy of a regular toy store. Brimming with Brio, Barbies, puppets, trucks and princess outfits.
Faye's Lingerie Store, 2295 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-3951. Think foundations, modest bras and panties, bedroom slippers and full-length cotton housedresses. It's not Victoria's Secret, but you can go stocking shopping with the kids.
Holiday Hats & Gowns, 2313 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-9183. A store that says what it means. Hats, gowns, cocktail outfits for the 25-to-90 crowd. This store has been in business for 54 years. It's not for the Gucci wearer, but almost everyone else can find something appropriate for a wedding, cocktail party or even the office.
Country Classics, 2317 Honolulu Ave., (818) 957-5156. Pine furniture, cottage collectibles, quilts, apple butter. If you live in Silver Lake but wish it were Nantucket, venture here. Closed today for Christmas decorating.
The Camellia, 2321 1/2 Honolulu Ave., (818) 248-9958. Beautiful selection of plus-size outfits for women, including a large inventory of sexy lace overlays that are hard to find in sizes 1X and 2X.
Montrose Bakery & Coffee Shop, 2325 1/2 Honolulu Ave., (818) 249-4925. Stop by for pumpkin cookies and coffee, or stay for a sandwich and soup.