San Marino

The city with an old-money legacy cultivates shopping and dining attractions for all ages

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens—the former estate of Henry Huntington that’s as lofty and expansive as its title—is what draws most people to this corner of the San Gabriel Valley. The surrounding residences are a gallery of great regional architecture, from Craftsman to Spanish colonial to postwar ranch, and compose one of the country’s most affluent communities. Locals shop along a tree-lined section of Mission Street or on sunstruck Huntington Drive. Mom-and-pop businesses are the norm and make for inviting spots to eat or browse in tandem with a visit to the Huntington.

1. The Frame Shop Ltd.
If you want to collect like a railroad baron, this is the place for you. An entire alcove is  dedicated to William Yeoward Crystal, and cases hold the latest in Hermès tableware, floral Anna Weatherley china, coveted Halcyon Days enamel boxes, and antique botanical and zoological prints. » 2659 Mission St., 626-441-3208. 


 2. Lexington Place
The Kentucky roots of owner Dinah Roberts are apparent in the Melmac plates embellished with racetrack scenes and the other horsey paraphernalia. But the additional assortment of handmade quilts, carved saints’ images, and bundt cake candles in the cozy gift shop could have come from any country cottage. The reasonable prices encourage picking up one more decorative item to enhance the family domicile. » 2557 Mission St., 626-441-5559. 

3. Julienne
Sue Campoy founded the bistro and gourmet market in 1985. Daughter Julie now heads the business, which includes an enchanting sidewalk patio. The adjoining store sells fresh and frozen takeout (lasagna, cookie dough), fine baked goods (chocolate truffle brownies, bread pudding), and artisanal condiments (herb aioli, garbanzo dip, caramel sauce). Cranberries soaked in Vin de Pays d’Oc and violet candies from Provence are among the esoteric imports that cover the shelves and tables.  » 2651 Mission St., 626-441-2299.


4. San Marino Seafood Market
Proprietor George Banks was an avid fisherman before he took over this former sandwich shop and started plying the fruits of the sea seven days a week. The bright space is also a restaurant, with lunch and dinner daily and breakfast on weekends. » 2150 Huntington Dr., 626-943-8862. 


5. San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe
All the charm at this toy emporium, housed in a former bank building, is inside. An extraordinary selection of children’s books is organized into sections such as science and nature, biography, and ethnic folklore. Toys that have stood the test of time, from Playmobils to Thomas trains, are featured along with such icons as Steiff stuffed animals. » 2424 Huntington Dr., 626-309-0222. 

6. A Stick in Time
Much like the vaunted Aristeia in Brentwood, this is a stitchery haven. Owner Alison Hodgkiss divided the onetime men’s store into a needlepoint and knitting operation and a gift shop. Classes are held throughout the week. To one side of the fireplace are hundreds of needlepoint patterns. On the other is a mezzanine full of yarns. » 2465 Huntington Dr., 626-793-5217. 


7. Single Stone
The owners create intricate vintage jewelry designs that are then hand fabricated—an alternative to costly antiques. But you just might fall for the Victorian gold mesh bracelet that’s  among the period pieces.  » 2527 Mission St., 626-799-3109. 

8. Alma B
While on vacation Alma Barraza fell in love with Hawaii’s Lappert brand ice cream, which she offers in her gourmet coffee and tea shop. The garrulous Barraza brews each cup of Klatch coffee—from the Upland family company that specializes in organic and fair trade beans—individually. » 2136 Huntington Dr., 626-458-8881.

9. San Marino Grill
Dependable coffee shop fare is on the menu at this neighborhood fixture, which has been around for nearly 50 years. Diners sit at a counter facing the grill, where cooks flip pancakes and bacon and eggs and burgers. Everyone else squeezes into banquettes from which you can see the chalkboard listing more contemporary dishes such as pumpkin oatmeal and corn chowder with sausage. » 2494 Huntington Dr., 626-286-2500.

Photographs by Jessica Sample