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…
Lose weight, build muscle, freshen breath. Check.
On the second level of Pavilions Marketplace, fitness studio Burn 60 maximizes the space it has. There’s a small naturally lit reception area with shelves offering branded t-shirts and caps. There’s also an open-air patio for al fresco stretch sessions on red AstroTurf. Inside there is a polished wood floor exercise studio with treadmills, free weights, CrossCore suspension systems mounted to the ceiling and mirrored walls to check your form (as well as how you look). Yet the coup de grâce may be Burn’s “five-star bathrooms” stocked with “pre-moistened toothbrushes.”
“We’ve got something we believe is lightning in a bottle, and we want to let it out,” said Janet Crown, a Chicago native, Westwood resident, mother of five kids (ages 12 to 26) and the founder of Burn…
“I’m kind of a shopaholic. It’s great for me to own a store,” said Evan Hughes, with a smile that has surely stopped its share of traffic along Santa Monica Boulevard, where Hughes owns two clothing boutiques: Brick & Mortar and BAM. “I like things. And I like to buy them.”
Hughes, 41, then sells them to WeHo’s residents and tourists, and to the world online.
A tall drink of water from Huntington Beach, Hughes offers a combination of clothing brands, including his own, at his shops. His boyfriend of five years, Steve Fogg, 36, is a graphic artist and designs their house brand of t-shirts and accessories featuring the couple’s French Bulldogs, Maddie and Otto. Hughes feels WeHo is home in many respects. He came out and lived here for 20 years, but the couple now lives in a restored late 19th Century house L.A.’s…
Shi Jun Ng sees The Assembly, her coffee house on Robertson Boulevard, as a part of the WeHo neighborhood.
With Zellij Gallery, Faissel Farhi and his wife Ghizlane have created what may be “the” handmade Moroccan tile outlet in the United States, right in West Hollywood.