Cool Things For Southern Californians To Do 26: Specialty Gift Stores

  • Tuesday, October 4, 2022
  • Scott S. Smith, Sandra Wells, and Christian Smith

Ten Thousand Villages in Pasadena calls itself "more than a store, we're a global maker-to-market movement" because it carries handcrafted, ethically-produced (with consideration for sustainability) products that are also "fair trade" (the crafters are paid a decent wage and treated well). They rely both on customers who buy the products displayed and available on the site, as well as donations.

These include such items as glorious hand-knotted rugs from Pakistan, colorful baskets from Africa, saris sewn in India, Phoenician glass goblets imported from the West Bank, bronze bowls made in the Himalayas, Conscious Socks that benefit LGBTQ rights, vintage Latino CDs, toys from Kenya, and chairs from Bangladesh. Consider patronizing them year-round whenever there is a good excuse to give a gift and do good at the same time.


Barakat Gallery at La Cienega and Santa Monica Blvd. is part of a global group of the world's leading antiquities dealers which feature museum-quality treasures for those who want to be able to own a piece of ancient history, from Africa to Asia (mere antiques, by contrast, are typically less than 200 years old). During the first two years of the pandemic the local gallery thrived, despite minimal in-personal traffic, as discerning collectors and high-end interior decorators who previously were too busy to carefully study its vast and ever-changing catalogue could finally immerse themselves in its wonders. For those on your gift list who would be thrilled to have something that is one-of-a-kind, we found a nearly perfect Greek-style pottery crater, made in Italy,  from around the fifth Century B.C. for $30,000. There were a variety of Panamanian gold deities on pendants for $50,000-$100,000. The photo here is of gilt wooden Burmese standing Buddha from the 19th Century priced at $150,000. A silver coin of Alexander the Great on a gold necklace from the 4th Century B.C. was priced at a mere $10,000. If Santa says your giftee doesn't deserve an ancient lump of coal, but his budget is limited, there are plenty of jewelry choices in the $3,000-$5,000range.


House of Intuition has locations in Echo Park (its flagship), Highland Park, Pasadena, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Long Beach Belmont Shores, and Costa Mesa. An unusual chain of stores where an enlightened seeker can purchase unique ritual tools to amplify and draw in all she or he seeks. This work overthrows the negative subconscious that is so counterproductive and provides a clean slate to work miracles. Some of the most unusual are a large, new collection of rare books on real magic. Others include protective amulet jewelry; an aura cleaning spray gift set; and every gemstone and crystal in the form of pendants, bracelets, necklaces, and other kinds of jewelry. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful.  


Candle Delirium on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood notes that it has the largest candle selection of any store anywhere. These range from those whose fragrance are designed to put someone in touch with their higher self or angelic beings to those that will provide the right glow for a party. The True Grace line, handmade in England, includes No. 5 which evokes a garden at night, a blend of violets, jasmine, lily, bergamot, and vanilla. There are also diffusers, sprays, lotions, soaps, wedding sets, holiday and seasonal recommendations, and, if you're not sure you know the nose of the recipient, gift certificates that ensure wonderful browsing.


Tesoro has two locations, on Canon Dr. in Beverly Hills and the other in L.A. on Beverly Blvd. near La Cienega. You can start by gifting yourself the reading of 17 things founder Tara Riceberg believes in on their website under Our Story (and yes, that's the appropriate name of the site), including "Quality needs to make a comeback," "Playing is essential to being happy," and "Products have energy and are 3D memories." She says ever gift in her stall is purposeful, creative, educational, and/or inspirational (as well as fun). There are selections (many pre-wrapped) for all ages, starting with the Unicorn Rainbow Projector, a Dolls' House that any 6-10 year old can easily assemble, Stump the Grown-up: 1,246 Questions to Baffle Your Teacher, Stump Your Mom, Perplex Your Grandpa, and Confuse your Big Brother , and a roll-up electric piano powered by USB cord or batteries . For adults, there are Christian LaCroix Frivolities diecut notecards,  a black mango wood and aged bronze serving set, Snoop Dogg's From Crook to Cook, and Soled Out: The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising. Tesoro can also arrange for one-of-a-kind gifts to be made by legendary giftologist Keith Lipert (for occasions such as when the President of the United States wanted something special for Queen Elizabeth).


Books always make great gifts, showing that you know that the individuals receiving them will be delighted by what you have given (when in doubt, give a gift card, which not only makes sure the gift is loved, but supports the bookstore). In prior columns reported on some of the diverse and fascinating volumes we found at downtown Los Angeles' The Last Bookstore, West Hollywood's Book Soup, SideShow Books on La Cienega south of Pico, Hollywood's La Luz de Jesus, Pasadena's Vroman's, Glendale's Barnes and Noble, North Hollywood's Illiad Bookshop, Ventura's Timbre Books, and  Laguna Beach Books.

This month, we're highlighting Chevalier's Books in the Larchmont area south of Hollywood, the oldest independent bookstore in L.A. It hosts author events and you can buy signed copies, as well as sign up for one of the book clubs or buy audio books through the store. They have all the thoughtful nonfiction volumes you would expect at an independent, like Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubles Times, Metaphysical Answers: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life by Clare Mac Cumhall and Rachel Wiseman, and  A Primer for Forgetting by Lewis Hyde (from the biology of forgetfulness to the need for South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission).

We don't usually mention fiction because we don't have time to read much and the experience can be so subjective, but were intrigued by the reviews of the staff. Jasper Fforde's The Constant Rabbit is said to be "a Monty Python sketch on crack, a perfect bit of satire that hits all the right places (the footnotes alone make this book a gem!)." Another says of Sara Strindberg's Valerie, "I was stunned to find it to be one of the most delightfully odd books I've read, a fictional account of the life of Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol. There is no adequate way to describe this novel: it contains transcripts with psychiatrists, feminist manifestoes, conversations between Valerie and the book's narrator, and a desert in Georgia. Even with all this weirdness you will leave this book profoundly moved."

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