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Shopping the Neighborhood / STUDIO CITY

Prime Time on Ventura Blvd.

March 30, 2001|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Like almost no other place in Southern California, the San Fernando Valley has come to symbolize mall culture. But it is also home to many quirky shops, offering everything from imported French bath products to kachina dolls, resale Prada to Hawaiian shirts. For a taste, check out the lively eight-block stretch of Ventura Boulevard between Coldwater Canyon and Laurel Canyon avenues in Studio City.

Although much of Ventura Boulevard is crammed with car dealerships and fast-food restaurants, this 1.4-mile stretch has Gap and Banana Republic stores, as well as a cluster of trendy upscale shops.

"The area has come a really long way in the past few years," said Glenn Getman, shopping earlier this week at Lucky Brand Jeans, which opened on Ventura Boulevard last fall. Getman has lived in Studio City for 15 years.

But ample street parking, sidewalks for strolling and light traffic are now attracting shoppers from all over L.A. "It's just easier to come over here, and you can park on the street for a quarter," said Janey Lopaty, a stylist who travels from her home in Santa Monica to shop in Studio City. "There is no reason to drive over the hill to Fred Segal, because all the stores here carry what they have."

Many of the clothing stores favor young looks for the beanpole-shaped set, but a couple do feature hip looks in a larger range of sizes to suit even the more mature woman.

Studio City is also popular for resale clothing, and it's not unusual to find Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana for a fraction of its original price. On a recent swing through the area's resale establishments, Chanel pumps were on sale for $75, a Versace skirt for $46 and a Banana Republic cocktail dress for $25.

Long a hot spot for interior decorators, the area also features several high-end furniture, home accessories and lighting stores. In 1992, the Cranberry House opened, offering antiques from more than 100 dealers under one roof. Other stores offer vintage Fiesta ware, rare coins and British antiques.

Because of its proximity to television and film studios, the neighborhood feels like Hollywood's back lot. Just try having lunch at Jerry's Famous Deli on a weekday afternoon and not spotting a celebrity, or a writer toiling away on a script.

But Ventura Boulevard is also family-friendly. On weekends, the streets are crowded with young parents, baby carriages and Girl Scouts selling cookies. There are several toy stores and a kids' barbershop along the strip.

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So, rev up those shopping engines and step outside into the fresh air. Remember, Valley girls (and guys) can't live by shopping malls alone.

THE ROUTE

Start just west of Coldwater Canyon and work your way east to Laurel Canyon. Most shops are on the south side of Ventura.

A SAMPLING OF STORES

Stacey Todd, 13025 Ventura Blvd., (818) 981-7567. This recently opened shop stocks sophisticated clothes by hard-to-find designers such as Karen Walker (a camp shirt costs $329), Katyone Adeli (pants are $130) and Rozae Nichols (a butter-colored tank top is $230 and a pointelle lace cardigan costs $345).

Marlow, 12672 Ventura Blvd., (818) 753-3260. Beautiful but expensive home accessories, including a decorative pillow trimmed with peacock feathers ($288), a heart-shaped crystal-trimmed antique mirror ($313), vintage lamps, floral patterned sofas and hand-painted dressers. There are also gift items such as a miniature wire mannequin covered with dried flowers ($165), picture frames and Illume scented candles for less than $50 each.

Indian Art Center of California, 12666 Ventura Blvd., (818) 763-3430. Thirty-five years ago, this was one of the first stores in the L.A. area to sell Native American arts and crafts. Pottery, jewelry, sculpture, dolls and rugs from more than 60 tribes across the country, Southwest print note cards ($4.95), Edward Curtis posters ($12.95), pinon incense ($4.95), Minnetonka moccasins ($35), books about native cultures and more.

Gisele Tune, 12660 Ventura Blvd., (818) 980-1196. A well-edited collection of hipster wear, from Earl Jeans pants and skirts to western belts with rhinestone buckles, one-of-a-kind vintage hand-painted sweatshirts ($168) to Gisele house label items, including suede camouflage print pants ($403).

Emerald Forest, 12638 Ventura Blvd., (818) 509-8529. Gifts for all occasions, including baby blankets made from vintage fabrics ($59), custom-made, hand-painted ceramic baby shoes ($46), serving platters carved with fruit patterns ($100 and up), Eiffel Tower-shaped candles ($24), and a window box "culinary herb garden" ($22).

The Big Easy, 12604 Ventura Blvd., (818) 762-3279. This cigar smokers' hangout is called the "man cave" by regulars. There's a Cuban feel to the joint, which has vintage tobacco signs and baseball jerseys on the walls, a fireplace, well-worn seats and plenty of Smoke magazines. Tobacco is sold by the ounce in flavors such as "jambalaya," "bananas foster" and "cherries jubilee." Also for sale: cigar and pipe accessories.

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