A lot of people come to Los Angeles and end up shopping — for clothes, souvenirs, or whatever — in bland, overpriced places like Hollywood tourist shops or Rodeo Drive. If that’s your thing, then fine. But if you want a unique, not-expensive shopping experience in a sometimes-weird and always-interesting atmosphere, try these alternatives:
1. Jet Rag
Jet Rag is a sprawling vintage clothing shop on La Brea, just south of Hollywood. Every Sunday the store has a $1 sale, with piles of clothes filling up the parking lot. If you have a lot of patience but almost no money, the Sunday sale is a great way to find something cool.
My favorite part about Jet Rag, however, is not the Sunday sales but rather the rest of the store. It checks all the vintage boxes — old sweaters, leather jackets, hats, graphic tees, Hawaiian shirts, etc. etc. —in abundance, plus it has things like two baskets full of random patches and a wall for wigs.
2. The Last Bookstore
This venerable bookstore fills an old bank space in downtown. The ground level is where you’ll find the newer books and somewhat more traditional organization. But it’s the upstairs “labyrinth” that gets a lot of attention — and rightly so.
The labyrinth winds through a series of rooms, with dollar books — sometimes sorted by color — forming walls and tunnels. There are also art galleries and shops. I have two degrees in English and have consequently been to a lot of bookstores, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that was as fun to explore as The Last Bookstore.
3. Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture
Have you ever needed an illuminated, 15-foot replica of the Hollywood sign? How about an old street light? Or maybe a life-sized power ranger mannequin?
If so — or if you just love digging around for strange stuff — Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture is a must-visit. I’ve never actually bought anything here, but I keep coming back to rummage through old street signs, giant colorful letters, and weird things like a lawnmower bike.
Located just down the street from Jet Rag, this is probably the funnest, most pop-culture-y of La Brea’s many antique shops.
4. Melrose Trading Post
This flee market-type event takes place each Sunday at Fairfax High School, on the corner of Fairfax and Melrose. It’s an eclectic mix; there are old clothes, old and new furniture, ceramics, art, records, food, and more than I can list here.
It’s a great place to browse the work of local artisans, and people watch.
— Jim Dalrymple II