What’s Checking in Long Beach: Boutiquing for the Boom
Approximately 25 miles south of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Calif., has been experiencing an uptick in construction that will remake the town, which is the seventh largest city in the state.
A keystone of the Long Beach revival is a new civic center that was unveiled on June 30. The $520-million project replaced the old city hall and will provide new offices for the Port of Long Beach.Parts of this sprawling new development, which are currently under construction, will include a hotel, residences and retail additions to the civic-center area.
In addition to the civic center, the retail development Long Beach Exchange was unveiled in 2018. Located by the Long Beach airport, the 26-acre retail development includes a T.J. Maxx and a Nordstrom Rack. An outdoor shopping center, 2nd + PCH, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. The open-air retail center will house an Urban Outfitters and a Free People, according to the retail center’s website.
Along with the new developments, Long Beach also is the home of boutique neighborhoods such as Retro Row, which is anchored by the independent cinema Art Theater. There’s also 2nd street on Belmont Shore, which has been a mix of independent shops and nationally known specialty shops, while the East Village Arts District offers restaurants, bars, art galleries and independent fashion boutiques.
The developments will bring in new people, but it will remain a place with its own identity, said Katie Hectus. She owns the boutique And Then LB and is a member of a local family with deep retail roots in Long Beach. Her great grandfather ran a tuxedo shop in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood where she currently runs her business.
“We’re not Los Angeles. We’re not Orange County,” she said. “It’s a big city, but it feels like a small town. It’s such a unique place to live.”
And Then LB
3803 Atlantic Ave.
Katie Hectus opened And Then LB, formerly called Sister LB, in 2017 with a vision of designing the more than 2,000-square-foot space to serve as something of a department store. Different rooms in the shop would serve as home, gift or apparel sections. She also wanted her shop to serve as a point of difference.
“Before I opened, boutiques in Long Beach were predominately bohemian,” she said. “It’s a very specific kind of look. I wanted something with more of a mix.”
But with apparel, there’s no getting around bohemian in Long Beach, where vintage boutiques are a big deal. Big sellers are vintage tie-dye T-shirts, which Hectus gets from a rag house. After she and her staff wash the shirts, they are sold at And Then LB for $34.
Another big seller for Hectus is her satin slipdresses. A top-selling brand making them is Los Angeles label Etophé, and they retail for $64. Tops with puff sleeves from Etophé are also big sellers, as are puff-sleeve tops from the Los Angeles brand Cotton Candy. Retail price points for these styles range from $40 to $48.
406 Termino Ave.
In 2013, Dayna Mance opened her Prism Boutique in a 650-square-foot space on Termino Avenue in Belmont Heights, which is adjacent to the prominent Belmont Shores section of Long Beach. Then she took over adjacent storefronts, and currently Prism measures 2,000 square feet. The shop has been remodeled a couple of times into a space that Mance described as having a lot of natural light, with white walls, and a lot of plants.
“The products bring a lot of color to it,” Mance said. “It is always evolving with what is in fashion.”
Top-selling items include high-waisted denim from the Rollas label, an Australian brand whose Everworn Blue Original straight jean retails for $99.
Orange County, Calif.–headquartered brand Amuse Society’s Allegra blouses have been popular at Prism, with retail pricing set at $56. The floral prints come in black and gold, and they bring out a soft, feminine look, Mance said.
Customers are also buying up Mate the Label brand’s Logan button-up shirt, which retails for $148. “It’s an easy button-up, with short sleeves and one pocket,” Mance said. “It’s something you’d wear every summer.”
Since opening the first Prism location, Dayna Mance has opened a second location and is celebrating the first anniversary of that store in The Lab specialty center in Costa Mesa, Calif.
509 E. Broadway
Tommy Kerns, the owner and founder of ButterScotch, said that some might consider items in his 2-year-old shop pricy, but the inspiration for the shop’s name comes from the anticipation of saving up and waiting a while to get something.
“Every piece in the shop could be a butterscotch or another treat,” Kerns said.
ButterScotch has West Coast—and even worldwide—exclusives on some of the most popular items in the shop, which is located in Long Beach’s East Village Arts District.
Popular items include collaboration pieces made by Kerns, Left Field NYC and leather-jacket label Vanson, which is based in Fall River, Mass.
The Left Field NYC x ButterScotch x Vanson Commando S jacket retails for $975. The biker jacket features unique dead-stock fabric in the lining. A sold-out version of the jacket, the Aloha commando, featured lining made from dead-stock Aloha fabrics.
Motorcycle culture is a theme of the 1,000-square-foot shop. Along with biker jackets, T-shirts and jeans are popular items. The Greaser jean from Left Field has been popular, attracting customers with a straight-leg jean and slight taper. Reminiscent of jeans made in the 1950s, the Greasers are made from different kinds of high-end denim fabrics such as textiles from Cone Mills. Retail price points for the jeans range from $125 to $220.
ButterScotch-brand tees, which include blank styles with a pocket, retail for $35, and designs bearing the graphic of the shop retail for $40.
402 St. Louis Ave.
Jim Leatherman started his career in marketing and selling footwear and clothes for action-sports brands. In 2011, he opened Port in Long Beach’s Retro Row district to sell a clothing brand of the same name as his footwear line, Broken Homme, which he founded with Josh Johnson. They also looked for clothes with a distinct Long Beach flavor.
“We were very focused on hyperlocal product that goes to our community,” Leatherman said. “It also resonates with people outside the community.”
Case in point: One of Port’s top-selling items is a twill baseball cap that bears the felt letters “LB,” for Long Beach. The caps retail for $39, said Anthony Fernandez, who works in Port’s product development and in its bricks-and-mortar shop.
“It has a cult following,” Fernandez said of the caps. “It’s a way to keep representing the city when you are traveling.”
Other popular items are Port T-shirts, which honor Long Beach’s history. The brand’s Souvenir Map tee features graphics of oil derricks, which bear testimony to the Long Beach oil boom of the 1920s.
There also are $28 T-shirts to honor Long Beach’s architectural past, specifically the mid-20th-century architecture known as the Case Study homes, which were built in Long Beach by influential architect Edward Killingsworth.
T-shirts aren’t the only hot item at Port. Short-sleeve, button-down woven shirts from the Long Beach–headquartered brand Polymer are available for $58, while denim pants from Encinitas, Calif., Lone Flag retail for $148.