Photograph courtesy Flickr/randysonofrobert
There’s the kind of party thrower who will scratch his head, scatter plastic plates and forks, put out a bowl ofchile con queso, and consider himself finis in the dine and decor departments. Then there are the hosts who seriously amp up their get-togethers by deploying streamers, balloons, disposable but exquisitely designed coffee cups and tablecloths, and bravura centerpieces capable of eliciting laughter—or tears. As a multicultural capital, L.A. celebrates more holidays than most nations do (and that’s not even counting the Oscars). With all this merrymaking it stands to reason we’ve got some rollicking party stores. Here we explore some of the finest (and a few unexpected) places to stock up.
Granted, the barren industrial park surrounding Concord doesn’t exactly scream “party,” and inside things don’t look much livelier. A cash-and-carry section overflows with what appears to be the entire contents of Guangdong Province, from off-brand laundry detergents to multipack pencil sets, while the wholesale area offers many of the same items in bulk. Amid this detritus, however, is an attractive selection of housewares, including dishes, stemware, and elegant votive candleholders, for about 50¢ to $1 apiece—cheaper, in some cases, than what you’d pay for their plastic throwaway equivalents. Don’t be afraid to bargain, especially if you’re buying a bunch; prices are negotiable. » 2957 E. 46th St., Vernon, 323-588-8888.
Tiki. The god of art, yes, but also a fabulous party theme. Robert Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz are the undisputed masters of Polynesian pop, having supplied the decor for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and the huts of Gilligan’s Island. Their shop, Oceanic Arts, has been exporting tiki statues, thatch, puffer fish, and luau party props worldwide since 1956. You can create your own full-fledged Trader Vic’s (a longtime customer) in your rec room or just pick up some torches and mugs to fuel your way to exotica. » 12414 Whittier Blvd., Whittier, 562-698-6960.
Those intent on pressing on with their revelry despite the harsh economic times should check out Vine American Party Store, which opened for business during the (last) Great Depression and is this year celebrating its 75th anniversary. The place induces true sensory overload: Plates, napkins, and plasticware come in 28 colors. Such is the depth of the year-round supply that on a single visit you can outfit your Christmas party in July or your backyard luau during the cold and flu season. Can’t figure out what might be appropriate for your Labrador’s sweet 16 or your best friend’s tantric bridal shower? No worries. Ask the staff—they’ll recommend something. » 5969 Melrose Ave.,
Hidden in an industrial center for more than 20 years, Topline Wine & Spirit combines the personal service and folksy wisdom of Trader Joe’s with the warehouse inventory and low prices of Costco. The store may look bare-bones, but the choices—wines, spirits, and loads of champagne in a French room—are well curated and not without delights: rare Serbian plum brandies, say, or 200-year-old Scotch labels. It also sells glassware, bar tools, and gift items like dog-shaped cognac bottles. The store describes the Santa Ema merlot here as a great value and real crowd-pleaser. The same can be said for Topline. » 4718 San Fernando Rd., Ste. A, Glendale, 818-500-9670.
Right about now, Stats Home Decorative Center will have transformed itself into something positively ghoulish. Giant spiders, stuffed black cats with glowing red eyes, myriad skeletons: All the elements of a well-appointed haunted house are not just for sale but jump out at every corner. As Thanksgiving approaches, the macabre yields to cardboard turkeys, pilgrim figurines, and silk autumnal garlands. Then comes the march of the Santas and Christmas elves, ranging in size from thumbnail to human scale. Many goods have quaint folk art touches, which means that the $12.95 carved-wood Mrs. Claus will look like you found it for $40 at a weekend crafts fair. » 120 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 626-795-9308.
We’ve often wondered whether the mural of Aztecs, Vikings, and the Starship Enterprise on the walls of LAX-C is shorthand for world peace or if it implies the panoply of foods within. This enormous commercial grocer is open to the public, and we swear it’s got to be the biggest Thai supermarket this side of Bangkok. We love the affordable paper goods and the cleanup supplies in addition to the endless variety and the insane prices (top sirloin for $2.09 a pound? carrots for $6.95 a case?). The adjacent marketplace is full of decorative art objects that can turn your dining room into a scene from The King and I. » 1100 N. Main St., Chinatown, 323-343-9000.