Los Angeles County Store

Dara Bankole

First things first: Los Angeles County Store is not, as I mistakenly believed when I first moved back to LA, a government outpost in the heart of Silver Lake. Something about the word county threw me off I guess? Frequenting Sunset Plaza (the east side version) which is tucked into the intersection of Sunset Blvd and Fountain Avenue in Silver Lake, I somehow just never made my way inside. Simultaneously, I was following their instagram — which is 20K strong and always growing — wondering why I could never find this adorable local store as I explored my neighborhood. Given the usual tenants for an LA strip mall include a nail salon, a yoga studio, a bar, ramen shop, and a water store, it makes sense that a gift shop would thrive, too.

And by the time I finally made my way inside late last year, I was a little sheepish about the fact that I had never been there, and didn’t know that aside from being a gift shop, all the goods are locally sourced from creators based in and around Los Angeles, and that the business is also woman-owned. This is important, because as tchotchke culture grows more and more prevalent, the wares are so often cheaply made or completely disconnected from local workers, and presented in stores that aren’t part of their communities or concerned with promoting artists, but simply looking to make the most profit possible.

That couldn’t be farther from the ethos of MaryAnne LoVerme, who founded her store over six years ago in May of 2014. LoVerme’s goal was to create a gift shop full of souvenirs that actually reflected Los Angeles and supported the people who live here. Considering how tough it is to keep afloat as an independent business with a storefront in the age of ecommerce and social media, she’s definitely doing something right. When I stopped by for the first time on a recent Saturday, the store had partnered with an animal adoption agency, and the store was full of mewling kittens, along with all its regular beautiful goods.

Dara Bankole

There’s such a sense of peacefulness in the store, set back in the middle of a shopping center at a busy intersection, with a wall of windows at the front that let in sheets of light even well into the afternoon. Lots of light wood and well-place tables and shelves make browsing easy and accessible, but everything is organized with so much care that shopping doesn’t get overwhelming, even with such a wide selection. On the day I visited, LoVerme was there herself, but understandably distracted by the presence of kittens. And unlike some small gift shops, neither the owner nor the other shopgirls felt the need to shadow me or upsell, confident enough in their own offerings to let me browse by myself.

A short list of my favorite items, in no particular order: a handmade wooden cutting board in the shape of a cactus, by Gary Silk, who also does them in the shape of California, Pure + Native’s eucalyptus shower melts that are basically bath bombs for showers, colorful neighborhood maps by LA’s resident map expert, Tom Lamb (in fact if you’re shopping for my birthday I’m lusting after the Silverlake one), bright blue felt pillows by Billy Kheel honoring the iconic and now-defunct happy/sad Foot Clinic sign, sticks of Palo Santo with encouraging words etched into them, and absolutely beautiful silkscreen calendars by Long Beach artist, Kathie Chan.

Later, when it came time to research some of the things I fell in love with at the shop, I discovered that while visiting LA County Store is an unparalleled experience, all of their products are available on their website, too. This is a smart move, and assuredly part of why they’re able to stay afloat when so many other stores like them go under. Seeing everything laid out online also helped me realize why the spot resonated with me so much — all the local curation and goal of honoring other creators reminds me of what spurred me to start Cinnamon. There’s definitely a shared ethos there, and it isn’t just LoVerme’s taste that sets her apart, but also her knowledge of local artisans.

Next time you’re in the market for a gift for a coworker, friend or family member, or when an out-of-town visitor is on the prowl for souvenirs to remember their trip by, I can’t recommend LA County Store enough as a place that is admirable for its ethical and sustainable local sourcing, and also for exquisite tastemaking and selection.

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