Did you know you’ve been able to shop for car sunshades at the L.A. County Coroner’s Office since ’93? It just goes to show that a good gift store can pop up anywhere. We rounded up the best and most unexpected boutiques around town that are definitely worth a visit.
L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner – Boyle Heights
The gift shop in the offices of the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, adorably (or maybe weirdly) dubbed Skeletons in the Closet, is housed in the original Los Angeles County General Hospital building (which was built in the 1900s). Visitor parking is free, and when you go inside the offices, there is a sign urging you to be respectful of people there on business. The gift shop carries everything from chalk body outline beach towels (there’s a new version), beanies, sweatshirts, t-shirts, mugs, lanyards, police tape, caps, cutting boards, books, DVDs, and then some. Are we the only county where the Coroner’s Office sports a gift shop? Nope. Las Vegas has one, too.
1104 N. Mission Road, (323) 343-0760, lacoroner.com
Malibu Feed Bin – Malibu
You’ve seen the red barn on the corner of PCH and Topanga Canyon Road for decades. They sell all manner of livestock and pet food and creatively-priced outdoor furniture. This month, there’s also an impressive pumpkin patch out front. When you stop to coo at the newly hatched chicks out back, be sure to step inside the barn and hit the store’s back room gift shop where you can find scads of rustic home accessories. If it’s got a cow or a rooster stamped on it, there’s a pretty good chance it’s in there—including hen-shaped handbags and coin purses. Also, it’s good to check in around the holidays, as their seasonal stuff mixed in amongst the feeds is adorable. Right now the sparkly candy corn cloth totes are pretty sweet.
3931 S. Topanga Blvd., (310) 456-2044, @Malibufeedbin
BONUS: Another feed store with great gifts? Wachter Hay & Grain. There is a clever gift section between the bunnies and the bridles that includes slow-cooker recipe books, dishes, candles, and chicken salt and pepper shakers.
114 S. Montgomery St, Ojai, (805) 646-4581, wachtershayandgrain.com
Postalworks – Los Feliz
Not only can you buy a clever gift in this mailbox rental/shipping/packing store between Magpies SoftServe and Crossroads Trading Co., they will gift-wrap and send it for you, too. The large (and packed) gift shop side is worth a stop on its own for essentials like wooden spoon/drumstick sets, food truck birdfeeders, water bottles with flavor infusers, and rows and rows of books and non-dumb greeting cards. You pay a bit more for convenience ($17 for how many holiday cards…?!) but if you need a good gift in a pinch, this is the joint. Pro tip: The parking lot is dent-your-car small, so park on Hyperion or Griffith Park Blvd.
2658 Griffith Park Blvd., (323) 664-0043, Postalworks
The LA Phil Store in Disney Hall – Downtown
If you’re lucky enough to be around Disney Hall when their gift shop is open (leave some time before or after a concert), pop in. They are also open each day from 10 a.m. — 5 p.m. There are coffee table books on architect Frank Gehry (hey, he designed the place) along with Gehry-designed Wiggle Chairs, counters full of jewelry, and artsy eyeglasses (think: Steve Martin). There are also need-in-your-house mod mobiles and vases (which you should probably buy after the concert—not much legroom in the concert hall). Proceeds support the LA Phil and its programs.
131 South Grand Avenue, (213) 972-3440, laphilstore.com
Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain – South Pasadena
You’ve been able to pick up your prescription at this corner drugstore since 1915. Now the pharmacy and retro soda fountain is filled with all sorts of gifts that spill into an adjoining room. You can literally shop while you eat lunch without even getting up. There are candies, vintage purses, Curious George lunch pails, novelties, toys, jewelry, and lots of lotions and candles. There are also stacks of greeting cards and boxed notecards. Their assortment of wedding cake toppers will give you a laugh. While shopping, you can usually spot people trying to accomplish the soda fountain’s Kitchen Sink Challenge (eight scoops of ice cream, eight toppings, one can of whipped cream). If you finish it in 30 minutes or less, it’s free and t-shirts are involved.
1526 Mission Street, (626) 799-1414, fairoakspharmacy.net
The Cathedral Of Our Lady of the Angels – Downtown
Naturally you can pick up a little bit of the Sacrament at this gift shop associated with the impressive cathedral. They sell a Cathedral Cab, a Chardonnay, and a White Zin (from DTLA’s San Antonio Winery—the grapes were grown in Paso Robles) along with glasses that urge you to give thanks. There are also plenty of rosaries, Saint magnets, crosses, Pope Francis merch, gorgeous folk art from around the globe, and artwork made in Monasteries and Convents. The Serenity Prayer abounds on everything from mugs to placards. They have a bit of fun with soap dispensers that gently remind you to “Wash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere.” Amen.
555 West Temple Street, (213) 680-5200, olacatheralgifts.com
Body Factory – Hollywood
We all wander through the juice/smoothie/snack/gift bar next to the ArcLight after a movie, but we prefer getting our gifts at the Sunset Strip location at Crescent Heights. If you want home décor with antlers, wings, or skulls, they’ve got it here in a section of the store just behind all the health supplements and super foods. They also have a definite fondness for naughty décor by Jonathan Adler. Their curated candle selection is top notch, with Voluspa and DL & Company amongst the wall of scents. Black polyresin chimp candelabras? R-rated greeting cards? Check and check.
8000 Sunset Blvd., (888) 263-9322 x 5, bodyfactory.com
Cedars-Sinai Helping Hand Gift Shop – Beverly Grove
Okay, so you expect every hospital to have a gift shop. But there’s wee medical center sundry shops, and then there’s Cedars-Sinai’s Helping Hand Gift Shop. When you buy a life-sized stuffed baby giraffe or box of See’s Candies for someone in Cedars, you are being doubly nice—the proceeds benefit the hospital’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You can shop online for a patient (they have someone at a little desk in-store fulfilling orders), or hit the shop itself on the Plaza Level of the North Tower next to the Lobby. There are walls of enormous stuffed animals, fluffy slippers shaped like owls, rows and rows of snacks and magazines, jewelry, soaps and lotions, sweets, vases, plants, Menorahs, cozy sweaters, and…pink tutus. And that is just one side of the shop. We feel better just thinking about it.
8700 Beverly Blvd., (310) 423-5241, giftshop.csmc.edu
Kari Mozena is the Special Projects Manager at Los Angeles magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karimozena. She loves an afternoon meal with friends, but her last story was on 8 Things To Do In L.A. Instead Of Basic Brunch.