More than 80 stainless steel Italian fusti containers line the walls at Amphora Nueva, ready to dispense samples and full bottles of aged balsamic vinegar and single-varietal, extra-virgin olive oil harvested from farms in both hemispheres. The shop’s globe-spanning selection process isn’t just for variety—it also ensures freshness year-round, in accordance with the old saying “It’s always olive-oil season somewhere.” The curators of this bounty select Italian white and dark balsamic vinegar as well as unique specialty oils, including roasted butternut squash, pumpkin and Italian truffle.
Once they’ve added them to the casks, they post harvest dates, acidity levels, and polyphenol counts for each product to give an idea of its antioxidant content and flavor strength. Each staff member touts a comprehensive understanding of the chemistry and uses of olive oil and vinegar, always happy to share recipe ideas to jazz up everyday dinners or science fair volcanoes. They’ll also help put together gift sets and wrap any bottle for free.
The business, whose retail shop stands on a sloping street lined with trees and cottage-like storefronts across from the Claremont Hotel, has been in business for nearly a century. Beneath its high ceilings, however, the atmosphere harkens back to far more ancient times, with a marble tasting counter and oil containers balanced atop the rough clay of the giant, authentic amphorae that give the company its name. Guests stop in not just to do some shopping but to take in a laidback learning experience—the San Francisco Chronicle found a visit to the shop “as much fun as it is educational,” and manager Nate Bradley reported to Diablo Magazine that they’ve occasionally “had people spend two hours in here just exploring.”
Erica Varize of Evarize Fashion Café & Sewing Center greets each client to her tailor-made clothing boutique with a menu of her latest designs, described by Diablo magazine as "urban chic yet retro." The fashion entrepreneur—apprenticed by her grandmother and honored with Bank of America's 2008 local hero award—presents new designs seasonally on mannequins that play freeze tag throughout the studio. After clients select styles, Varize unrolls spools of fabric sourced from independent stores in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Africa, and invites clients to pick their favorite colors. Clipping patterns to fit each client's measurements, Varize proceeds to sew the garments and finesse them for pickup within about 10 days. Aside from designing, Varize leads a five-day summer camp for aspiring fashionistas called Sew What, which edifies pupils in patternmaking, design fundamentals and thimble-wearing technique. Summarizing the fashion-café experience, Diablo says women "from all walks of life frequent this warm, artistic space where one can get an outfit designed especially for them, or bring their children to learn an art form as well as tools to become self-sufficient." In addition to giving back to the community with classes, Varize donates a portion of MeasuRED line profits to support Uganda.
Just like the organism from which it takes its name, Amoeba Music’s stock of tunes has no definite form. At each location, expert music gurus amass thousands of new and used CDs and LPs from the most mainstream artists to the most obscure underground bands around. LPs, posters, and memorabilia surround the musical inventory, which, like Ringo Starr’s pants, changes every day. Amoeba buys goods from customers, meaning that on any given day the store might usher in a rare vinyl LP, DVD, VHS, or even LaserDisc. Visitors can sign up for any number of contests while admiring Amoeba’s enduring dedication to its green practices and community outreach. Amoeba couples its huge selection of entertainment with visits from the artists themselves, welcoming past guests such as Paul McCartney, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, and Elvis Costello to play in-store.
The brand American Apparel, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, conjures up images of stylish and well-fitting fashion basics. It also likely brings to mind sassy advertisements featuring long-haired beauties in natural makeup posing in skin-bearing bodysuits and loungewear.
But what many don't know about the brand—despite its name and the slice of apple pie that comes with every purchase—is that all of its clothes are made in America. Everything from sewing and cutting to accounting and marketing happens in one building in downtown Los Angeles, and the rest occurs within a 30-mile radius. Not only that, every slim-fitting pair of pants, spandex bodysuit, and v-neck T-shirt is made in a sweatshop-free environment.
Plus, keeping everything in house means the company eliminates unnecessary and wasteful factors, such as shipping fuel and packing materials, as well as provides jobs to Angelenos, instead of outsourcing them.
Since it first opened in 1926, the nursery has covered more than half a city block with its sprawling tangles of fruit trees, exotic botanicals, shrubs, and grasses. When carefully curating their collection of accessories, the green-thumbed team selects products they too would use in their gardens. As a result, most insecticides and fertilizers at the nursery are organic, and the lawn gnomes are raised cage-free. Imported pottery from Europe and the Pacific Rim is also available to house new plants and add decorative touches in interiors and exteriors.
Come Thanksgiving time, the nursery becomes a forest of fresh-cut Christmas trees. Adding to the seasonal whimsy is a variety of blown-glass ornaments made with vintage molds available to spangle the center’s silver tips, noble firs, and douglas firs with the shiny shapes of yesteryear
For Books Inc., it's been a long road, and if you trace the lines back to its origins, it's California's oldest bookstore. After striking gold—literally—back in 1851, Anton Roman set up shop as a bookseller. Although the shop moved, was sold, burned down, changed hands again, and was rebuilt, the spirit remained intact, and today, multiple locations of the indie bookstore have sprouted up across The Golden State. Staff members keep the shelves lined with classic and contemporary tomes in all genres, and a myriad of book clubs help keep the love of literature alive. They also run a vibrant event program featuring author events and readings where patrons can enjoy an experience they can't download.