Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Located in Long Beach's nearly hidden Parkview Village Triangle, Once Read Books seems to be going strong even as other local used-book stores are going the way of . . . well, functional literacy in general. Anaheim's Book Baron is closing its doors, and Long Beach's historic Acres of Books is next on the list, if the developers have their say (and it's looking like they will unless Acres can convince some activists to lie down in front of the bulldozers). Yet Once Read Books still stands, a testament to the enduring power of recycled culture. With Once Read's selection of more than 35,000 used, out-of-print and rare books, you'll have no problem finding something worth your time. They even keep the fancy ones in a genuine vault, a remnant of the building's previous life as a jewelry store in the '40s. Best of all, during open hours, they roll out the bargain cart, which generally contains a lot of old manuals and encyclopedias, chock-full of pictures you can cut out for scrapbooking. And for those of you who are over the whole reading thing, they'll even buy your old books if they can use them, giving you valuable cash you can then use to pay for TiVo.
Do yourself and your car a favor and say no to the mechanical drive-in car wash at the gas station. Sitting in line doesn't do much for sanity, and the rotating buffers will almost always scratch up your ride. The hand car wash is definitely the place to go for quality, and the ultimate hand wash experience can be found at Checkered Flag Hand Car Wash. The inside-out treatment on your car runs $13.99 and lasts around 10 minutes. Spend that time inside the lounge area, where free fancy-pants coffee (French vanilla cappuccinos, espressos, mochaccinos and more) or hot chocolate is available, as is free Internet access.
Enter Red Cloud's walk-in humidor, perpetually set at a balmy 70-percent humidity, and your pores will open and inhale the earthen nuance. In other words, you'll soon smell like a stogie. But that's not a bad thing, especially if you're a fan of $60 Partagas 160s or the Fuente Fuente OpusX, which are only occasionally available and sell for around $30 a pop. If you don't know a Cohiba from a coat hanger, don't worry: Red Cloud's employees are knowledgeable and will recommend the best cigar for your lack of taste and wallet-to-fat ratio. If you're a heavy hitter, consider a year's membership ($250) to the cigar lounge. There you can puff freely, sip scotch, and indulge in a variety of leisure activities such as cards, darts, pool, or a ridiculously oversized game of chess.
The 99 Cents Only chain may have outlets around OC, but the best sits right next to OC Weekly Headquarters on Main Street in downtown Santa Ana. The long lines that greet the counter clerks daily (even at noon, when folks should be having lunch) stand as testament to the small fact that the locals know it, too. The massive store carries everything from milk to condoms to "LA's Totally Awesome All Purpose Cleaner." Fresh fruit, batteries, massive rolls of toilet paperyou name it. Even, bizarrely enough, pregnancy tests.
Let's face it, men, most modern-day malls are not for you. If they have stores specializing in anything other than female fashion, it tends toward the blah, metrosexual style. Remember how awesome malls used to be, when you could buy videos (what a concept, huh?) and cool man-stuff ranging from an obscenely shaped beer mug to a talking Freddy Krueger action figure? Well, good news: The Westminster Mall is still cool like that. Spencer Gifts, Suncoast Movies and K-B Toys may have closed down most of their locations elsewhere, but they're still alive and well here. By the time you read this, a massive two-story Target will be open for business, and you can slake your thirst with an old-fashioned Orange Julius! That's not to say there's nothing for the ladies. The clothing stores so popular at other malls exist here, but just not to the exclusion of everything else. And any food court that has both a Wendy's and a gourmet gelato stand is good for the whole family. Need a tall cold beer? There's an Outback Steakhouse just outside with Foster's on tap. Shopping trips need no longer be feared, dudes.
If you can get past the strange medieval architecture that characterizes the Old World Village shopping center in Huntington Beach, you're in for an unusual treat at the Living Temple, where you can munch on gogi berries or raw cacao while thumbing through the eclectic book and DVD collection maintained by owner and health guru Robin Arthur Jones. He's usually there to answer any and all questions, and he also hosts movie nights and monthly raw-foods festivals.
There's an old saying that goes, "If it ain't been in a pawn shop, it can't play the blues." If a horn or a guitar is in a pawn shop, that instrument has likely followed one of two paths: It was either purchased for a child who simply grew tired of the pursuit and gave it up, or it once belonged to a broke, starving, junkie musician whose heart has been breaking ever since he had to pawn his only love. That, or everything in there was stolen. Any way it got there, a pawnshop is a great way to pick up something on the cheap, and why not keep it in the family? Go to Uncle Bob's Pawnshop, and peruse the garden of sadness and great deals. That it's in a shabby part of town and looks shabby just adds to its charm.
Well, let's face it: eBay is slowly putting everyone out of business. And that includes specialty music equipment shops. But really: You can't test out that '59 Fender Tweed Amp, or see if that Gibson Ripper really doessound like Rick Danko's online. And why is it going for a $2,000 Buy It Now price anyway? Meet Gogo Guitars, the Orange County/Long Beach area's only answer to finding boutique pedals, amps and higher-end/vintage guitars that you'd have to normally make the journey to LA for. It's the type of place you go to when you want to seek refuge from the 12-year-olds showing off their skillz and often-too-helpful sales people with curtain haircuts who populate your local Guitar Center.
Bashing people's brains out with your fists, knees and elbows isn't just a hobby for assholes and short guys with an unscientifically diagnosed "syndrome" anymore; it's gone mainstream. And whenever something goes from underground to mainstream, you can bet there's an entrepreneur ready to capitalize. Nowhere is this more evident than at OTM Fight Shop, a retail store dedicated to nothing but fight supplies. What once had to be purchased from catalogs with Chuck Norris on the cover now can be bought quickly and in-person. Gone are the breathless nights waiting for your shiny yellow "Nack Suk Cao" Muay Thai trunks to be shipped from overseas, as OTM carries several colors and sizes. Don't worry if you don't have a training partner: If you have $115, you can purchase OTM's life-sized, more-than-100-pound throwing dummy. No more sleeping alone!
The Cyber Cafe Express doesn't actually have coffee, but it does serve up a huge bank of gaming computers, all of them with high-speed connections and loaded with the hottest, geekiest video games on the market. Bring some friends, then gun them down in the Star Wars universe or team up for some hot wizard-on-orc action in World of Warcraft. If you believe simulated fictional war on other planets or casting spells on goblins is the unofficial national pastime of undersexed, acne-scarred teens, you can simply hang out and balance your checkbook, or whatever other boring crap serious people do on-line. Membership is free, and computer time costs only $2 per hour ($5 per hour for nonmembers).
In this dire age of freeloading downloaders, crap major-label product (okay, some things never change) and clueless RIAA machinations (suing potential customers = bad policy, generally speaking), massive respect must go to any independent record shop that's still in business. Since 2003, about 2,700 music emporia have become defunct. So it is especially heartening to visit Fingerprints, which seems to be thriving in its hip little corner of Long Beach's Belmont Shore district. Selling both new and used vinyl and CDs, as well as books, mags, band T-shirts, collectible figurines and other cool accouterments of the music-freak lifestyle, Fingerprints caters to folks with deep, exceptional taste (to thank them, it often holds in-store concerts). This shop is really tailored for folks who like to get their fingers dusty riffling through moldy vinyl, people who consider WaxPoetics their bible, DJs who have gigs in small venues, obsessives who take notes while they read music blogs. Fingerprints stocks a wide range of genres, and its staff seems to know a lot more than most record-store clerks (stellar DJ/musicians such as Elvin "Nobody" Estrela and Dennis Owens work there). You can satisfy your indie-rock fix, of course, but Fingerprints will also attend to your more esoteric needs, like vintage funk and soul, psychedelia, dub, reggae, jazz, experimental, electronic, and underground hip-hop. Tons of interesting releases from tiny indie labels crowd Fingerprints' shelves. It's a bit overwhelming to spend an afternoon browsing there, but ultimately rewarding for your music collection and education. When the White Stripes wanted to open their own temporary, SoCal-based record store to hype the release of the new Icky Thump album in July, Fingerprints received the call to set up and operate the makeshift establishment in the old Tower Records Sunset location. That's respect, brothers and sisters.
Established in San Clemente by Jay "Sparky" Longley, Rainbow Sandals stands proud on its own two huaraches. Rainbow's flip-flops are guaranteed to last for life, and they are so freakin' comfortable you might just wear them forever. Longley started Rainbow sandals by assembling 15 pairs of the sandals per day out of his garage, bringing his creations to the 1974 Sawdust Festival. The shoes became so popular that he soon opened a factory in San Clemente. Today, they are so big that the sandal manufacturing is outsourced to China. Each sandal is hand-made, complete with a non-skid leather surface that molds to the foot, ensuring the perfect fit for everybody. Even people with bunions.