If you arrive at Anawalt Lumber early on a Friday morning, you are likely to see general manager Basil Alexander, 50, making sure his customers enjoy free donuts and coffee. If they’ve run out, he will tell you: “Well, don’t get here after ten.” (Note: Anawalt opens at 6:30 a.m.)
Alexander has been with Anawalt for 10 years and in the lumber/hardware business since he was a wee tyke of 22. “Went by fast, man,” Alexander said to me as we stand in the middle of the nursery section. “It’s like Noah’s Ark. We got two of everything,” he said, referring to the plants around us. Woe to the customer who needs more. “This guy said he needs nine. I’m, like, I gotta order those for you.”
And before you think your commute is tough, Alexander travels every day from Placentia, a suburban city in north Orange County…
Any thoughts on what a fair rent increase might be for a retail space in WeHo these days? Would you say 4%? Maybe 7%?
Try ten times that amount, and you will learn what true South African grit, honest-to-goodness real entrepreneurial spirit, looks like.
“Our landlord raised the rent, our rent, 70%,” said Jeffrey Apter, co-owner of Hedley’s Restaurant, which is on the eastern side of Robertson Boulevard, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, told me recently.
“Seven-zero?” I ask.
“Seven. Zero,” Apter replied. “Yes.”
Apter, 55, is from Johannesburg, and every time he says the word “yes,” which is quite often, usually to emphasize a point, it has a unique, cozy Down Under ring to it: “Yiss” – soft “i” with a slight hiss at the end.
Jason Scott, the 43-year-old entrepreneur who owns J. Michael Scott Interiors on the west side of La Cienega Boulevard, half a block south of Melrose Avenue, surprised me during our recent interview. In telling me his story, he mentioned nouns, terms and phrases I would never have thought to string together in an article: Barbie – pepper trees – oil fields – working class – Baldwin Hills – husband – baby – candles.
These words tell you much about the past, present and future of the WeHo retailer, who grew up in Brea (north Orange County) and earned his professional credentials at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in downtown L.A.
“When I was a kid my younger sister wanted to play Barbies, so I played Barbies,” Scott said. Before his sister knew it, the plastic princess with an unattainable…
“You know the Hitchcock movie ‘The Birds’?” That’s what Erez Mizrahi asks me as we sit at a table in the year-and-half-new rear addition of Taste on Melrose.
Not a question I expected to hear. But when a rock star handsome Israeli with a killer smile and a deep, masculine accent says, well, anything at all to me, really, I pay attention.
At 43, Mizrahi is regional director of EG Hospitality Group, the company that owns Taste, a WeHo institution for 13 years now. Add to that Taste Pacific Palisades and both locations of Tortilla Republic (WeHo and Laguna Beach), and he oversees four restaurants in all.
Tippi Hedren doesn’t figure into this story one bit. But “a big name” star-director with racial hang-ups, who detests having his photo taken, does. Poor thing. If only he
John Arakaki, 44, co-owner of Saint Felix, sits on a black leather banquet against an exposed brick wall – not far from a black light painting of Billy Dee Williams (circa “Empire Strikes Back”) fondling a can of Colt 45. “I just remember being a longhaired half-Asian playing in a punk band in Cleveland,” Arakaki said. Keeping his emotions in check, he continued, “And hearing a spikey-haired punk rock guy calling me a ‘longhaired, chink faggot.’”
In the second of a two-part series, WEHOville concludes its interview with the Pleasure Chest’s Brian Robinson, owner, and Sarah Tomchesson, head of business operations. WEHOville: Last week I teased readers with names of celebrities who have mentioned the Pleasure Chest, such as Freddie Mercury. Which Queen song is your brand mentioned in? Sarah Tomchesson: […]
You know you’ve made it when Freddie Mercury, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe know your name.
In this first of two parts, WEHOville sits down with Brian Robinson, 48, and Sarah Tomchesson, 35, owner/visionary and the head of operations, respectively, of the WeHo institution The Pleasure Chest. (It’s currently #16 on Trip Advisor for WeHo attractions.)
Our discussion ranges from the sex emporium’s long history and top-selling products to sex education, job satisfaction and how Trump becoming president has affected our libidos.
First, some basics. The Pleasure Chest opened in 1971 in the West Village of New York City. Five stores do business in New York, Chicago and WeHo, the latter being the top revenue-producing locations, employing two dozen people. Over 75% of their business occurs in-store, with the remainder being…
“I’ve got a lot of stories, honey,” Kathy Skiles told me on a recent Tuesday morning. “Good thing you’re not with the National Enquirer or you’d be paying the big bucks!”
It may be worth shelling out some dough anyway. In one of her tales she drinks tequila with Slim Pickens, the old-time rodeo performer turned TV star. “He was funny,” Skiles recalled. Then there was Burt Reynolds, whom she shot Semi-Tough with, and comedian Jerry Lewis. They all figure into her professional past as a film and TV director in a career that spanned nearly three decades. “I actually worked with O.J. Simpson, but I hate to say that.”
At 67, Skiles emanates a youthful energy with a Julianne Moore vibe. She has bright auburn hair and a high-pitched, contagious chuckle. “We laugh a lot here,“ Skiles said. “I used to write…
Why did you open up in this alley?” That’s what friends of Jay Wolf, the longtime WeHo clothier, asked in 1989 when he started his business at 517 N. Robertson Blvd.
“That was Morton’s,” he said, pointing across that alley. “And across the street was Trumps.” The former spot is now John Varvatos, and the latter (nothing to do with the man in the White House) is now Cecconi’s. “They were the two hottest restaurants in L.A.,” Wolf said. Fine diners waited for valeted cars and “looked at my windows. You got a nice little Hollywood business.”
Twenty-eight years later, now with 3,700 square feet of retail space carrying both men’s and women’s lines, Wolf and his wife of 25 years, Jackie, don’t regret it. “That’s how we started,” he admitted. “Yeah, it was in an alley, but you could see it from the…
“Kinda industrial, kinda like Alice in Wonderland,” I am told.
Okay, yeah. I get it.
Maybe also kind of Stevie Nicks with the large number of sparkly products in rich, deep colors of wine, gold and black. Toss in the pot den/man cave feel, a large “tree” made out of distressed metal wrapped in twinkly lights and, if you can believe it, some of the most renowned fragrance brands in the world: Diptyque, Trapp, Lladró, Molton Brown, Byredo and more. Rhiannon would so dig this place.
Nope. Not a perfumery.
“I call it the largest candle store in the world until somebody tells me otherwise,” Anthony Carro, 51, owner of Candle Delirium, tells me with a hearty, infectious laugh. To hear how he began, and still grows, his unique business is to understand that, in selling wax with wicks, it’s not just the flame of…