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What Is Melrose Avenue Known for?

October 26, 2021

There’s a lot to love about Los Angeles

The food, the sights, and the culture combine to create an incredible, ever-shifting entertainment destination of vibrant people. However, there’s one particular strip in the city that’s particularly special to us: Melrose Avenue.

Stretching six miles long, this street traverses multiple neighborhoods. It presents a variety of boutiques and restaurants as diverse as the city of Los Angeles.

Check your maps: Melrose Avenue begins with Santa Monica Boulevard (located between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills). Keep walking until you hit Silver Lake (Lucile Avenue, to be specific).

Melrose Avenue got its humble start over a century ago. In the roughly 112 years since then, it’s grown to become one of the most remarkable streets in the country. Before the street was made, the area was flanked by citrus groves evocative of the area’s natural beauty.

When Melrose Avenue was finally paved in 1909, it was named by a rancher who missed the small Massachusetts town of the same name. A century later, that humble former dirt path now holds its place as one of the coolest streets in Los Angeles. This strip is often called the "New Rodeo Drive" in recognition of the new wave of culture and status.  

The Neighborhoods 

Due to the length of the street and the tightness of metropolitan cities, Melrose Avenue crosses multiple neighborhoods throughout LA, including Hollywood, La Cienega Boulevard, and Fairfax Avenue

The eastern end of the street, between La Brea and Fairfax, is popularly known as the Melrose District, though the proximity of the area has some calling it the Fairfax District. While still upscale, this block of Melrose Avenue tends to be more affordable than the pricier east end.

Plenty of eateries, cafes, and vintage stores abound, making the east end a haven for those who love getting lost while finding their next favorite place. 

Start heading west, and you’ll run into Melrose Heights, whose lofty name belies the pedigree of the shops you’ll find. High-end fashion boutiques and upscale restaurants run as far as the eye can see. These make Melrose Heights a prime shopping district for those looking to grab the latest trends.

Just off of the intersection of Melrose Avenue and La Cienega is Melrose Place, tucked away in a few city blocks that are quiet by LA standards. It encompasses boutiques and restaurants more often frequented by locals and personal stylists than tourists. 

Whatever you’re looking for from the area, six miles is a lot of ground to cover. Meaning given enough time, whether you’re looking for food, fashion, entertainment, or something else, you’re certain to find an attraction or a few dozen attractions that pique your interest.

Spending the Night

If you’re visiting LA from out of town, you’ll need to find somewhere to lay your head. Fortunately, Melrose is full of hotels all along the area.

If you’re looking for somewhere intimate and personal, the Palihotel offers a 33-room space conveniently located within the Melrose Shopping District. Even if you don’t plan to spend the night, the boutique hotel restaurant offers a menu inspired by French and Canadian cuisine that’s perfect for either dinner or brunch.

If you’d rather grab a drink than grab a room, go down to the historic section of Melrose Avenue and embrace the classic cocktail experience with Melrose Umbrella Co. The bar features a periodically rotating drink menu and a cozy, post-prohibition style interior. This historic logo once served as a protest to the 1920s Prohibition laws.

Melrose in Fashion History

The 1980s saw LA gain international attention thanks to the 1984 Summer Olympics. The '80s also saw Melrose grow from being like any other street to becoming a major cultural hub in the city.

Distinct architecture became common, as with “The Burger That Ate LA,” a fast-food stand shaped like a massive burger. This burger joint has since been replaced with a Starbucks.

If you wanted to, you could go buy vintage gear at Cowboys and Poodles, with a storefront decked out to look like a 1950s-era car wash.

In the late '80s Olivia Newton-John, only a few years removed from noted musical films Grease and Xanadu, opened Koala Blue, an Australian import store that has since gone out of business.   

Melrose was also essential in the punk scene. Vinyl stores like Aron’s Records, Bleeker Bob’s, and Vinyl Fetish offered a range of labels only matched by their expertise. Flip of Hollywood, located in the relevant part of Melrose Avenue, was a massive second-hand store. It featured clothing and other knick-knacks that made it essential for a variety of subcultures popular in LA at the time.

While many of these businesses have since closed up shop, replaced by a slew of modern boutiques, some ‘80s staples still stand strong. Designer brand L.A. Eyeworks opened up a storefront during this time which decades later is still in operation.   

Food 

You can’t visit Melrose Avenue without grabbing a bite to eat. For those looking for Italian cuisine, there are countless places to visit, whether you prefer woodfired pizza or people watching the countless celebrities and well-dressed individuals. 

If you’re vegan, the Vegan A.F. food truck brings vegan street food to the forefront with a distinctive pink vehicle. Crossroads offers an upscale dining experience and a full bar that’s sure to impress anyone regardless of dietary restrictions.

If you find yourself traveling through Melrose, it also makes it the perfect opportunity to sample Pink’s Hot Dogs, an L.A. staple. Though it started out as a simple pushcart store, Pink’s has grown to become a nationally recognized brand, with the corner of Melrose and La Brea renamed “Pink’s Square” after the company's flagship location.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth that needs satisfying, there are plenty of local spots able to satisfy any need. La Chouquette seeks to reinvent classic French patisserie by introducing modern flavors and ingredients to traditional choux. As an added bonus, all their eclairs are gluten-free for health and accessibility.

If you want something more eclectic, Milk Bar LA is always serving up unique, tasty treats. Founded by Christina Tosi, the bakery has gone on to pop up in major locations in Los Angeles and Manhattan alike. Plus, with fall just around the corner, Milk Bar LA and many other local stores are bringing out seasonal offerings to match.

Art 

If you’re looking to take in some contemporary art, you’ve come to the right place. The street itself and the surrounding buildings serve as a massive attraction for graffiti artists to make their mark.

Take a look around, and without having to walk into a single gallery, you will see the works of artists who make the walls of the city their canvas.

When it comes to formal galleries, there are plenty of options available for you. Earlier this year, Melrose Avenue became the proud home to the expansion of the Nigerian-based Rele Gallery, the first international museum dedicated to contemporary African art.

After holding an exhibition in LA the previous year, founding director Adenrele Sonariwo was impacted by the powerful response from the community. She was inspired to open a permanent space beyond Rele Gallery’s original Lagos location.

Gallery 1988 also deserves a following, thanks to its extensive calendar filled with exhibitions and pop-ups alike. Their current exhibits feature a variety of pop culture iconography from current and classic sources. 

If you’re looking to take in a different type of art, the Pacific Design Center offers top-of-the-line attractions in the world of interior decorating. It was formerly a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art. 

The Pacific Design Center still maintains a 1.6 million square foot space where professional designers can examine all sorts of contemporary offerings. Some television shows like Westworld partly operate out of this location.

Regardless of whether or not you’re an entertainment or design professional, the PDC offers plenty of options for community members, with exhibitions and lectures available to the general public. 

Finally, the Greenway Arts Alliance is a nonprofit organization that uses funds from their local events to raise money for the FHS camps, Institute for the Arts at Greenway.

Theatre 

If you know much about LA’s theatre scene, you know it’s one of the country’s hotspots when it comes to improv comedy.

At 7307 Melrose Avenue, you can find arguably the most famous U.S. improvisational theatre troupe, The Groundlings. Formed in 1974, the group has launched the careers of numerous performers, writers, and directors across all mediums of performance. 

If you prefer your theatre scripted, there are also plenty of companies that operate on Melrose. The Zephyr Theatre is an intimate black box venue that showcases performers of all levels, from early-career artists to practitioners who have won the highest awards in their field. In addition to taking in a play, you can also take weekly classes offered by the theatre. 

Also of note is The Matrix Theatre, which presents socially relevant, highly acclaimed productions of both contemporary and classic works. This company has won dozens of local awards over its almost half-a-century history.  

Film 

If you go through the whole avenue, you’ll eventually come to a series of double arches above a gated fence. Above, at the peak of the entrance, you’ll see the gated building complex named: Paramount Pictures.

Paramount has an illustrious history going back to the earliest days of Hollywood that continue to this day. While studio tours are on hold presently, under regular conditions, it’s easy to book a tour and get a glimpse into what working at the studio is like.

Paramount doesn’t have exclusive rights to film history when it comes to Melrose. Along the street is Raleigh Studios, which in its early days worked with silent film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and has since produced a slew of Oscar-winning films.

Also of note is the accessibility the studios offer: Whether you need space to edit or table read your own film, looking to host a party, are interested in screening a movie, or trying to game on a cinema-sized screen, Raleigh Studios offers a wide array of screening rooms and post-production services that are available to the general public. 

If you head a little bit away from the core of the street, you can find one of Melrose Avenue’s big claims to fame when it comes to its representation in fictional media: The ‘90s soap opera Melrose Place.

This series was mostly filmed inside a studio, but used exterior shots on location at 4616 Melrose Place is in close proximity to the avenue. Despite being the namesake for the residence of one of its main characters, the real-life Melrose Place, which contains two street blocks, with virtually no residential addresses. Currently, storefronts call this block home. 

Specialty Shops 

If you’re looking to purchase something personal at an affordable price, you can support local artisans by visiting the Melrose Trading Post. Every Sunday, the Melrose Trading Post is filled with vendors selling their handcrafted wares, which include everything from clothing to art to other decor items. Because everything comes from the local community, you’re sure to find a few golden designs which couldn’t be found anywhere else. 

The downside of the Melrose Trading Post, of course, is that it’s only available on Sundays. If you’d rather visit a storefront with more regular hours, the Buffalo Exchange offers a curated selection of used vintage goods. You can seek out high-quality vintage fashions while reducing the environmental impact of buying pieces normally from fast-fashion retailers. 

Melrose Avenue also has its own well-stocked liquor store in the form of the storied Mel and Rose Wine, Spirits, and Gifts. Mel & Rose also has an extensive Italian deli if you’d like to stop in for a bite while considering the next addition to your liquor cabinet.

The West End: Modern Fashion Venue 

It’s impossible to have a high-powered shopping district without fashion boutiques to match. If you’re looking for a historic but still present staple of Melrose Avenue, Fred Segal has been in business since 1961 and has been influencing pop culture for six decades.

The founder revolutionized fashion with the first introduction of a denim bar, increasing the popularity of denim products and kickstarting a craze whose effects can still be felt to this day. The shop casts a long shadow as the storefront is also one of the earliest surviving Melrose Heights boutiques.

Each neighborhood has a good mix of upscale and vintage stores, but each specific stretch has its strengths. Melrose District, befitting its punk heritage, is excellent for a wide variety of vintage fashions.

Melrose Place is a secluded spot that’s ideal if you’re on the hunt for American or international haute couture brands such as Oscar De La Renta. Melrose Heights features the widest variety of clothing boutiques of the major street sections, including both flagship and branch stores of brands encompassing high fashion, streetwear, and other on-trend cultures. 

Last but not least, Melrose Heights is also home to Daniel Patrick’s flagship store.

Daniel Patrick 

Daniel Patrick has always held two cities close to our heart, each known for the spirit of the town and the massive influx of culture and people: New York and Los Angeles.

The East Coast and West Coast are unique and amazing in their own way. However, the West eventually won out thanks to the natural beauty of LA, the incredible weather of California, and the amazing community afforded to us here. 

We specialize in streetwear, leaning towards the practicality of sportswear while keeping style at a premium. After a decade in LA, we’ve redefined the basics, pushed boundaries, and collaborated with major brands such as Adidas in order to redefine what sportswear means in the 21st Century.

Daniel Patrick’s flagship location is at 7969 Melrose Avenue. This location allows us to show that our passion for design extends to interior decorating as well as fashion. White walls are subtly enhanced by champaign wood and textured stucco shelving. These choices create an overall minimalist approach to the interior that allows the real star of the show, our clothing, to shine. 

Showcasing our interests with price, we also included a whole wall of over 100 lights shining on distinctive white basketballs to add a complex highlight to the store without being over-designed. We’ve always been about combining a love of sports and a love of high-quality gear, and the storefront represents that. 

Melrose Avenue: Where we Stand Today

Everything has to start somewhere. From lush verdancy to a cultural melting pot, Melrose Avenue has historic ties to the earliest days of LA while still holding a modern relevance.

This avenue is worth visiting whether you’re a local or a tourist, no matter where your interests may lie. Cultural tastes change, and storefronts come and go.

But, there’s a reason why Melrose Avenue has been and continues to be a major catalyst when it comes to worldwide style. Where artists converge from all walks of life and in all stages of their careers, innovation is bound to happen.

 

Sources:

Know Your Streets: Melrose Avenue I Los Angeles Magazine

First International African Contemporary Art Gallery Opens on Melrose I Beverly Hills Courier

Gallery1988

Paramount Pictures | History, Credits, & Facts | Britannica 


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