Past, Present & Future .... Holiday Shopper Goes All-Local

Downtown Long Beach used to be a shopping mecca. Can it still be the go-to place for holiday gifts when trying to please children and teens?

First, I must clarify. I am not a shopper. I do it because I must. But, having lived for so many decades, I do have some experience.

Christmas shopping, however, is special. It is tinged with lots of memories. Growing up in San Francisco, I relished taking the streetcar downtown (never in jeans, mind you), peeking at the festive windows, and marveling at the huge trees in the City of Paris and the Emporium. Union Square had another tree that was lit the day after Thanksgiving, during a ceremony that included caroling.

But, I digress. Shopping. So I’m trying to stay in Long Beach for all my shopping this year. The problem is, the majority of gifts we have to buy are for an assortment of nieces and nephews, ranging in age from 2 to 12. A quirky gift from Retro Row is nice, but not focused on the right age group. I always include a few books from Apostrophe, but really, do I want to be the book aunt? Well, yes I do, but my husband takes exception to his guilt by association.

So, I decided to take another look at our downtown. After all, historically, Pine Avenue was the mecca for shopping: Buffums, the Wise Building, Newberry’s, Kress, Rothbart’s Jewelers, Middough’s, Walker’s. Today, it is hard to believe that there were so many thriving department stores and specialty shops within a four-block radius.

My mission? Shop our downtown this Christmas.

The City Place mall is the first logical stop. I popped into Nordstrom Rack. Wow. I’m hesitant to share this, but this is the BEST Rack I’ve ever shopped. The clothes are orderly, selection great, and the staff friendly, helpful and plentiful. Next up – Claire’s with inexpensive items for all the tweeners on my list. Big 5 covers the sporty types and my brother. Some unique shops in City Place include Zizibeh and Fashion Island for trendy clothes and accessories. There is a perfume shop, an undergarments store and a couple really good shoe stores for sensible shoes (I AM a librarian, remember).

Venturing outside of City Place, one can head east a few blocks to Fingerprints on 4th and Elm. This shop is number one for music, books and a unique take on the music scene with clever gifts for my young hipster relatives and my crotchety siblings who are stuck in the past. While there, pop across the street to Lyon Art Supplies for some creative gifts for not only your artist friends and relatives, but those crafters and engineers.

Feeling peckish? Stop by District Wine for a quick glass and flatbread, or a fuller meal at the Zephyr Vegetarian Café.

Finally, I skipped down to the Aquarium to plunder their gift shop. Again, I can’t let those nieces and nephews get off scot-free. I excel at taking something fun and making it educational.

Holiday shopping? Nearly done and I didn’t have to venture into a mall or brave a freeway. Thank you, Long Beach. Who knew?

Disclaimer – for all my friends who own shops on Broadway, Retro Row, East 4th Street, Bixby Knolls and Belmont Shore, I apologize in advance. I felt our downtown needed a little love this year.

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