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Friday, July 31, 2009

Eastside Shopper & Diner

When a Dodger Dog won't do. The Allston Yacht Club's game-night special includes a glass of beer or wine and an appetizer (pictured) for $10 during home games in August and September.

You could make these yourself but they wouldn't look as good: $8 beer can planter boxes at the Silver Lake Art Craft & Vintage flea market.

Sweat and save: $100 buys new members a month of unlimited exercise classes at Anatomy Fitness in Highland Park.

What's not to like about a Pomegranate or Key Lime frozen yogurt at the new Yogurt Haven in Eagle Rock.

When one sip won't do: Join the City Sip Wine Club in Echo Park and get 2 wines a month for $25 plus a 10% discount on retail sales.

More than just meat on the menu at Silver Lake's new Gobi Mongolian BBQ House.

Boyle Heights gets a taste of coffeehouse living with the opening of Primera Taza.

Because you can never do enough yoga: New evening Kundalini yoga and meditation class at Echo Park Yoga and pay-what-you-can classes at Echo Park Lake.

Photo from Allston Yacht Club

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Echo Park Vons is getting a new lifestyle

The Vons in Echo Park has always seemed out of place, a 1960s-era suburban supermarket surrounded by a mostly empty parking lot, caravans of RVs occupied by homeless people and flaming taco trucks. It seemed as if the owners of Vons, a division of Safeway Corp., had lost track of this urban outpost in their giant supermarket empire. How else to explain why this "Marina-style" store, beloved by architecture fans for its sweeping parabolic roof, had never been remodeled even as nearly every other Vons nearby has been supersized or postmodernized. Many Echo Park residents have long complained about the dingy and tree-less parking lot, crusty shopping carts and locked-up wine and liquor cabinets. It has been derided as a "ghetto" Vons by some shoppers and, by at least one employee, as the "7-Eleven" Vons because of its small size. Well, change is finally coming to the Vons at Alvarado and Montana.

* * *
Crews have been working for several weeks to convert the store into the chain's Lifestyle format, which has been making its way across the company for the last four years. The site has been the home of a supermarket since 1952, when Safeway opened a store. It's not clear when the existing store was built but architecture fans will be happy to hear that the building will not be demolished or enlarged and will retain its distinctive arched roof and large windows.

"The architecture of this store is unique and offers a good platform for our Lifestyle Program," said company spokesman Carlos Illingworth in an email. "We have completed remodels in several of these stores to great results."

The only other visible exterior changes, besides a new shade of sage green paint, is that the parking lot will be resurfaced and the chain link fence along Alvarado will be removed. There are no plans, however, to add trees or landscaping, he said.

Most of the change will take place inside, where the 24,000-square foot store is getting repainted in Starbucks-like shades of sage, bronze and amber, with fake wood floors, dark shelving and rows of spot lights completing the look. A new bakery and self-serve deli- selling soups, sandwiches, pasta salads and other prepared meals - are taking the place of the check cashing booth near the entrance. Illingworth would not say how much the company is spending on the remodel, which is expected to be finished next month.

The upgraded Echo Park Vons will most likely become fodder for those opposed to the forces of gentrification - looks like those bins of dried chilies and Mexican spices are never coming back - and those who fear the G-Force has taken a detour - sorry, no in-store sushi bar of Starbucks here.

Maybe the Taco Zone truck can start serving lattes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another Sunset Boulevard vintage store closes

Now / Again, the Silver Lake vintage furniture and accessory store, has closed its doors. The Sunset Boulevard shop, located next to Secret Headquarters comics near Hyperion Avenue, and owner, Dan Jordan, has been a mainstay of Silver Lake for several years, drawing praise from publications like the New York Times.

Now / Again joins two other Sunset Boulevard vintage shops, Perons Antiques and Kohlmann Quinn in Echo Park, that have closed this year. It's not clear what lead Jordan to shutter his shop, which was being emptied of its last remaining items earlier this week. Jordan could not be reached for comment. But his phone message said appointments were being scheduled but the retail location "was now closed."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Eastside Shopper & Diner

Ducks are back in style: Wacko is once again selling Ech0 Park Ducks t-shirts starting at $13.

Primera Taza coffee house in Boyle Heights expected to open (finally) next week, says owner Juan Romero.

Beyond coffee: The former Han Cholo space in Echo Park will become Lola Mora, a gallery and yerba mate bar operated by Stella Brandan.

The beer starts flowing in mid September at the Eagle Rock Brewery (in Glassell Park)

People still rent videos? The future of Silver Lake Video in Atwater is uncertain.

Echo Park's new vintage and more store, Tavin, holds an opening party tonight.

The "free" shuttle ride home from the Echo Park Save A Lot will cost more starting July 14, with the minimum purchase rising to $50 from $25.

Why drink alone? Bring your dog to the City Sip-K9 Loft Yappy Hour in Echo Park

Last weekend to shop the Silver Lake Panty Raid before it moves to Los Feliz.

Echo Park French: Celebrate Bastille Day with a $59, five-course, wine tasting menu at Taix.

Photo from Wacko

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Anyone can join this parade

The biggest challenge Dan Koeppel faces in promoting his upcoming The Big Parade from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood is that it's not as scary as it sounds. The free community event on July 18 & 19 involves walking 38 miles of city streets, climbing more than 100 public stairways, pedaling a boat across Echo Park Lake and an overnight camp out in Silver Lake. You can do all or just part of it.

"We are keeping a particularly slow pace of 2 to 2-1/2 miles an hour," said Koeppel, a Silver Lake writer and outdoor enthusiast who leads stairway tours of the area. "I emphasizing that this is doable. You can come for only 5 minutes. It's not an extreme sports event."

Instead, this weekend of walking, climbing and boating is intended to showcase the beauty, history and walkability of the city better known for driving. Koeppel spent seven months creating the route that starts at Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles and then weaves its way up the public stairways of Beachwood Canyon below the Hollywood sign. Participants can sign up for the whole thing or join the parade for only a short segment. "The fun park was walking, especially walking places I have never been," said Koeppel. "This shows how beautiful this city is. How diverse it is."

While Koeppel has walked every stretch of the parade, he will find out what it's like to cover the entire route with the rest of the people who join him. "I want it to be the first time for me as for everyone else."

Photo by Anna Majkowska via Flickr

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Poetic moments at the Echo Park pool

Poet Steve Abee grew up in Santa Monica, but Echo Park and other nearby neighborhoods have served as the setting for many of his poems and books. The El Sereno resident, who also teaches at the magnet program at King Middle School, will read work from his most recent book, "Great Balls of Flowers," at Skylight Books in Los Feliz on Wednesday night. Here's an excerpt from one of the poems in the book set at the Echo Park indoor pool:

I’m at the Echo Park Indoor Swimming Pool,
thinking about sonnets, watching my daughter, Penelope, swim.
She’s learning how to do the free style.
She lifts her arm up out of the water. Then the other one. She lifts
her head out of the water to breathe. She stops and stands
and starts
again. It’s a lot to do.

There are a bunch of kids splashing in the pool all around her.
She swims around them.
A woman in blue swims in the deep part of the pool.
She comes to the wall, flips around, and glides the other way.
The life guard is a cute girl, small, with dark hair, and soft smile.

The pool is blue. The water looks blue
but I know it is not. It is water, clear and the color
of your hand.

My daughter makes fun of other kids.
What can I say.
I am sitting on cement steps, looking at the pool
and I am sad because I am reading poetry
and that’s what poetry does to me and I like it.

Read the rest of Echo Park Pool and other poems.

Photo by Comparator via Flickr

East LA College goes after the art crowd

Perhaps the biggest annual event at East Los Angeles College is the East Los Angeles Classic, which draws thousands to watch the Garfield and Roosevelt high school football teams face off in the campus stadium. But college leaders want to attract a new type of fan to campus, the art lover and culture vulture, and they are spending big to attract them. ELAC is building a new $65 million Fine Art Complex that includes not only classrooms but a new 335-seat recital hall, a 167-seat drama theater and a new home for the Vincent Price Art Museum that features three floors of galleries and exhibit space. The hope is that this trio of buildings rising on the southeastern corner of the campus will emerge as a new cultural hub east of downtown Los Angeles.

But will people come to ELAC for fine art as well as football? And how will the district's budget crunch affect the complex, conceived a decade ago, when it is scheduled to open in the fall of next year? It's not clear but college officials remain confident about the complex.

"It will serve as the arts center for the community," said Richard Anderson, assistant to the president. "It will be stunning."

The arts center, designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica, is part of a burst of new construction that is remaking the Monterey Park campus. The new buildings will replace facilities that are considered too cramped or, in the case of 2,000-seat Ingalls Auditorium, too big for the campus' arts and performance programs. Theater arts, for example, operated for decades out of a cluster of World War I bungalows, said Anderson. The school's dance program often has to rehearse or perform off campus. The Vincent Price Museum, which recently closed for a year until its new building is ready, has never had enough space to showcase its 2,000 piece permanent collection as well as other rotating exhibits. The arts department is currently working out of some temporary bungalows near the baseball field.

The 167,000-square-foot, three building complex in many ways fulfills decades old promises to expand the college's arts offerings. Anderson, who is also chair of the theater department, recalls that as a new hire he was told not to store too many materials in those World War I bungalows because they would soon be replaced with a new building. That was back in 1973.

While the staff and students are looking forward to the new arts compound, there are nagging concerns about how much money will be available to operate the place, in particular those spaces and programs used by the public. Karen Rapp, director of the Vincent Price Museum, for example, is part of a full-time staff of two who will be supervising 9,000-square feet of exhibition space spread over three floors. "We will be juggling a lot of balls. I don't know what the reality will be given the economy."

But Rapp said forming stronger partnerships with nearby arts and cultural groups will help. For example, she is scheduled to meet soon with officials at Self Help Graphics in East Los Angeles as part of what she hopes will be a closer working relationship. At the very least, she said, it would help if the Vincent Price Museum, Self Help Graphics and the gallery at nearby Cal State LA could could coordinate art events so visitors could take advantage of the three relatively close locations.

"To galvanize this as an arts district would make a lot of sense."

Images from East Los Angeles College

Friday, July 3, 2009

When a dark bar and a cool drink alone won't do

Many bar hoppers are satisfied with the basics: a cool, dark room with perhaps a few comfy booths, a TV on mute and some Happy Hour specials. But some people want more. Like giant antlers, neon skunks and drinks with names like Count Choc-ula. Oh, don't forget the merchandise, like t-shirts and caps. If this is more your style, then you should thank the kings of the Eastside Theme Scene: Dimitri Komarov, Bobby Green and Dmitry Liberman, who are celebrating a decade together in the bar business.

It was 10 years ago last month that they opened The Big Foot Lodge in Atwater Village, the beginning of a bar empire that has expanded beyond the Eastside. Since then, the trio have applied their love for nightlife as well as marketing and business savvy to open Little Cave in Highland Park and, most recently, the truck-stop inspired Stinkers in Silver Lake. Now, after opening a Big Foot Lodge in San Francisco, the group is preparing to open a Big Foot West in Culver City.

Green gets the credit or blame for the over-the-top and popular bar motifs, according to a company press release heralding the group's 10th anniversary:

"A childhood fondness for themed establishments had a far-reaching effect on his life pursuits. He is a hot rod enthusiast and has a deep understanding of American culture. With a bit of art education picked up at various city colleges and a lot of passion and drive, Green has created some of Los Angeles' hippest themed nightclubs."

Photo by Remabulous via Flickr

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eastside Shopper & Diner: Start your day at yoga bootcamp

I thought yoga was supposed to be relaxing? 10 morning sessions of Kundalini Yoga Bootcamp in Echo Park for $120.

Tired of fireworks? Celebrate the 4th at a roof-top barbecue & t-shirt screen-printing party at the Feeding Birds Boutique in Echo Park.

No one closes on the 4th anymore: 15% off on nearly all merchandise at All 'Aboard! Boutique in Atwater.

Kumquat Outlet opens on Eagle Rock's Toddler Row. (h/t to Franklin Avenue)

While it lasts: A bottle of GrĂ¼ner Veltliner and a Bistro 5-cheese pizza ($30 for two people) at Masa of Echo Park.

4th of July Native-American basket sale at Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park.

Photo from Kudalini Yoga Bootcamp web site