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Shop ‘till you Drop in La Jolla
Ranch & Coast Magazine, July 2002


The village of La Jolla, as we all know, is a tremendously desirable place to do business, and while a few of the higher-end chains have managed to squeeze their way into the coveted space, the town’s family-run businesses and boutiques continue to thrive. Art galleries, antique shops, clothing stores, and jewelry boutiques line the village streets where, quite likely, behind the counter is either the owner or a family member, an individual with a personal interest in getting to know each of his customers.

Village Staples

A few village shops have been open for the better part of a century, and form part of a century, and form part of the village bedrock. Meanley and Sons, for example, has been providing top-quality hardware and hardware items for more than ~o years. “My father and grandfather started the shop. My father ran it for 17 years. My mother ran it for 10 years. Then my brother took over for another ~o years, and now I’ve been running it for some 15 years,” explains Bob Meanley. “Customers appreciate the family atmosphere. They like having a store where they can come in and feel recognized.” 

The Ascot Shop is another of these long-time residents, having first opened its doors in 1950. For three generations, it has been providing residents with quality clothing. The original owner, Jack Matzinger, moved to La Jolla from his job with a big department store in Chicago in attempt to lead a more simplified life. There was a lot of competition, but Matzinger had a unique niche— the classic Ivy League look— and his business succeeded.

“We’ve had a loyal following all these years,” says current owner Bill White. “My dad had always shopped here, so I started working here and eventually bought the shop. We are incredibly fortunate to have such great employees. Some have been here over 20 years, and now my son and daughter work here as well.”Adelaide’s flower shop is another family business with more than 5o years in La Jolla. The shop, which opened in La Jolla in 1949, actually moved from Encinitas, where it had started ten years earlier. After several decades, owner Adelaide Phillips passed the reign to her son Harry. The company has grown with La Jolla, and now has 45 employees. There is even an events business.

When it comes to the town stationer, Warwick’s, the story goes back to 1896 and Minnesota, where founder W.T. Warwick opened a shop selling books, writing paper, and writing instruments. He moved to California in the 1930 S and reopened his store in La Jolla. Warwick’s, which is now owned and operated by grand daughter Nancy Warwick, continues to offer office supplies, greeting cards, stationery, and custom printing as well as party supplies and a selection of gift items.

If the town has a General Store, it would have to be Burns Drugs, celebrating 5o years in La Jolla, where it is the only surviving independent drugstore. Though its primary focus remains health and medical supplies, it sells other fine merchandise as well—gifts, cosmetics, gourmet candy, luggage, and souvenirs. Established in 1952, the store has been regarded as one of La Jolla’s finest drugstores ever since.

There are a number of other stores also approaching this stature. John Cole’s Book Shop has been serving the community for 36 years, and its history doesn’t stop there. Wisteria Cottage, the house the bookstore now occupies, was built in 1904, and the following year it was purchased by Miss Ellen Browning Scripps, who used it as a guesthouse along with her sister Virginia. A registered historical site, the cottage is now also home to a very fine selection of books on subjects ranging from Mexico, architecture, and interiors, to gardening, cooking, and crafts.

The White Rabbit, which is one of the oldest and largest children’s bookstores in the country, has been a family owned business for more than 25 years.

Home-to a vast assortment of books and book-related toys, games, and puzzles, the shop also hosts author-signings, storybook character appearances, and story readings year-round.

Bob Davis Camera on Fay, started across the street before moving to its current location, where seven years ago it expanded to take over the space vacated by the electronics store next door. Like so many of these shops, customer service is primary. They offer instant prints and photo restoration, as well as a wide selection of all the major brands for both traditional and digital cameras. This includes everything needed to get your pictures onto your computer for printing, e-mailing, or whatever. If necessary, they will even come to your house.

Antiques And Home Furnishings

With its high density of decor and furniture shops, the 7400 block of Girard Avenue and vicinity has formed a district known as the Upper Girard Design District, a collection of shops that has become a destination for home shoppers and antique lovers around the globe.

Among these are the Corner Store, which was just featured in Country Living magazine for its eclectic mix of shabby-chic and English and French-style cottage furnishings at surprisingly reasonable prices. There is also Studio Veneto, which houses a treasury of European antiques and accessories, and From the Ground Up, which sells a selection of hand-painted tiles and natural-stone surfaces.

Bella Dimora, one of the more recent additions on Girard, understands both the practical needs and exotic tastes of its clientele. The store’s spacious showroom is filled with beautiful furnishings and household items, everything from coffee tables and sofas to chandeliers and mirrors. At the same time, “a big part of the business is going out to our customers’ homes and working with them to achieve just what they are looking for in their home,” says owner Thomas O’Neill. “We’re like a one-stop shop for people building and remodeling their homes.”

For antique lovers, there is a mapped route of more than a dozen antique shops between Prospect and Fay Avenue

“Antique collectors love to go where there’s a treasure hunt,” says Dee Dee Young Pagenhart, owner of DD Allen Antiques. “All of the stores have a different theme and the mixture is fabulous. The more shops there are, the better it is. People can make a whole day of it.” Pagenhart also noted that a number of local businesses had begun ordering antique gifts, and that there were even couples who had registered at their favorite antique shop for their wedding. Pagenhart’s own shop, another of town’s family businesses, sells fine objects d’art from around the world, including quilts and linens, and paintings from the last four centuries.

There are local businesses dedicated not simply to decorating, but renovating. In Place, a husband and wife team, designs and manufacturers custom kitchen and bath cabinetry. The crew of two architects and a cabinetmaker maintains a hands-on approach, designing and building cabinets in-house and allowing the client to be part of the project from start to finish.

Tasteful Dressing

Window-shopping is a safe way to walk through a mall, but it is nearly impossible to pass a boutique in La Jolla without being pulled inside. In designer fashion, Lissila rules the roost after more than a decade in the village. Owner Lissila began her business at age 20 in Thnisia with her husband, before moving her business to Europe, and finally to La Jolla. She and her husband (both former models), currently own three stores, one shoe and two clothing, that sell only the finest from Balenciaga, Lawrence Steele, Dolce, and others. Lissila has built a loyal following among local women — doctors, lawyers, writers, and businesswomen — but she’s also a favorite of celebrities including Madonna and Darryl Hannah. “A woman calls and I know exactly what she needs. I realize that her time is gold and that she has no time to go to a big department store. I even go to some women’s offices and bring the clothes with me — she’s trying on her shoes while talking on the phone.”

A newer arrival, Tina’s Boutique, which has been open for close to two years now, is the exclusive retailer for Liola, a very high-end Italian knit line. Tina also prides herself on her skill at altering St. Johns knits, something that is done entirely by hand.

Now in it’s third location on Girard Avenue, Rangoni Firenze Shoes is serving its third generation of La Jollans. For nearly four decades, the store has been known for its timeless styles, and for offering a large selection of extremely narrow sizes. “We do get customers coming from other parts of San Diego and Orange County, and we do get tourists, but primarily, we’re a community business,” says manager Frank Ibarra. “We offer the full spectrum, house slippers to salon style shoes. And in this town, there are families who at one time or another, require them all.”

Chasa Rae Swimwear has recently opened an expanded boutique that showcases owner Chasa Vollaro’s complete line of men’s, women’s, and children’s swimwear, sportswear, and surf wear. The boutique also includes a workshop where seamstresses do alterations and create new fashions from Vollaro’s custom patterns.

Other top fashion destinations include Melange, which imports very chic designs from Europe, New York, and Los Angeles.

Aphrodita carries suits and sportswear for men and women, as does Prada and Gucci.

Nicole Miller offers a selection of the designer’s signature dresses, sportswear, handbags and shoes. Eiffel handbags offers great finishing touches.

Island Hoppers’ Mark Romanofsky sees his store in the same tradition as Walter Clark, which many remember as a La Jolla standard for years. Island Hoppers, which opened more than six years ago, has one of he largest collections of tropical clothing for men and women in San Diego. Their lines, which come straight from Hawaii, attract vacationers and shoppers from all over the county.

Creative Gifts

One of the most difficult things to shop for are gifts. La Jolla gift shops can ease that burden, offering clever and original items from the far corners of the world.

Spirals Gift Shop features a contemporary mix of handmade creations from American craftspeople, including painted furniture called “Sticks.” Relatively inexpensive, “it is a very hip store,” says the owner, “a place where people feel comfortable and welcome. The theme is about having fun, along with fine artistic execution.”

La Jolla Fiber Arts is a one-of-a-kind gift shop and gallery, devoted completely to textile arts. Their collection includes art couture, woven and fiber adornments, jewelry, hand woven tapestries, quilts, baskets, and vessels.

Then there’s Martha Smith Fine Linens, named after owner Susan Martha Smith’s grandmother. Opened several years ago, the store sells fine linens from Italy, as well as bedding, tabletop and bath accessories, and gifts.


Loghman’s Jewelers earned the loyalty of both La Jollans and the town’s many visitors with personal service that includes a caring touch.

Run by the Loghman family, the shop offers the highest quality in design, rare and precious stones, South Sea pearls, as well as simple but elegant daily wear jewelry. It is also an authorized Rolex retailer.

For a century and a half, Cartier has also been making its name with service, sometimes even going to the customer’s home. It is precisely this sort of individual attention that patrons find at Cartier in La Jolla. The store, which moved from downtown some four-years ago, now draws the vast majority of its customers from the immediate vicinity. Among their many offerings, the well-known tricolor wedding band, featuring three interwoven rings of gold, one yellow, one white, and one rose, remains an extremely popular item according to store manager, Philip Lewis, as does the rest of the line, which includes earrings, bracelets, and even a handbag with a three-gold handle. For those looking for something a little more unique, among the store’s more spectacular items right now is a 13-carat, pear-shaped fancy yellow diamond.

When speaking of Cartier and fine jewelry, one can’t help but speak of Charriol as well. As many know, prior to striking out on his own, founder Phillippe Charriol was a longtime executive with Cartier, and in fact coined the phrase “Le must de Cartier.” It was with similar insight and consideration that Charriol Was first conceived. The Charriol boutiques, which now number more than 50 boutiques worldwide, are a place reserved exclusively for the Charriol brand, a place where one can genuinely encounter the understated elegance of its fine watches, leather goods, writing instruments, and jewelry.

The Symbolic Collection also has a fancy yellow diamond on hand, this one a five-carat stone of the very highest grade and the deepest intensity possible in a yellow diamond. Another strength of the Symbolic Collection is their watches, antique clocks, and other timepieces, including a Patek Philippe that will chime to the exact minute, an extraordinary rarity in a mechanical wristwatch. There is also more than $10 million in European art, estate jewelry, rare objects, French impressionists, and old masters.


As everyone knows, La Jolla attracts people from around the world, though it’s not every day that an established Dutch perfumer with several stores in Holland, decides to pick up stakes and head west. Twenty years ago, that’s just what Alexander and his wife Corry did. With the spirit of adventure, and a little bit of research, they packed up their daughter Saskia — who now manages the store — and left Europe to establish Alexander’s in La Jolla. The store has since expanded, and now offers one of the largest selections of fragrances, cosmetics, and skincare lines available.

In the end, though, what makes shopping in the village such a pleasure is the personal attention. A sign above the stairs at Eurochild reads, “Ring bell for stroller valet.” Press the button, and a friendly face promptly appears offering greetings and salutations. It is just that kind of atmosphere and the ability to find something special that makes La Jolla such a jewel for shopping.

Where To Shop:

Adelaide’s:  858 454-2292

Alexander Perfume:  858 454-2242

Aphrodita:  858 459-4459

Ascot Shop:  858 454-4222

Bella Dimora:  858 551-9600

Bob Davis Camera: 858 459-7355

Burns Drugs:  858 459-4285

Cartier:  858 729-0400

Charriol:  858 454-0011

Chasa Rae Swimwear:  858 729-0515

Corner Store:  858 456-7517

DD Allen:  858 454-8708

Eurochild:  858 459-0774

From The Ground Up:  858 551-9902

In Place:  858 454-7397


Island Hoppers:  858 459-6055

John Cole’s Book Store:  858 454-4766

La Jolla Fiber Arts:  858 454-6732

Li.ssila:  858 454-7601

Loghman Jewelers:  858 729-0999

Martha Smith Fine Linens:  858 459-8642

Meanley & Son Hardware:  858 454-6101

Melange:  858 551-4226

Nicole Miller:  858 454-3434

Ranqoni Shoes:  858 459-446 9

Spirals Gift Shop:  858/551-8199

Symbolic Collection 858 454-4600

Tina’s Boutique:  858 454-2239

Warwick:  858 454-0347

The White Rabbit:  858 454-3518


Ranch & Coast Magazine, July 2002
Julia Noran & Wiliam Abrams

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