Just as one might enjoy gawking at vases once owned by King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette in the 1700s at The Getty, others like to walk about town adorned with remnants of the past. Well, perhaps not of the 18th century, but a pair of ‘60s Chelsea boots will do.
Wearing vintage of a certain era or furnishing your home with such is just another way to observe history, much like taking up film photography or collecting vinyl records (the snobs will say “original pressings, please”).
Long Beach happens to be a well of places to rummage through racks, and sometimes piles, of vintage fashion. We even have a whole block dedicated to the sport.
Chris Reece, former drummer of Social Distortion, has earmarked over a dozen of these shops in Long Beach. He has maintained his quarterly Reece’s Antique & Retro Shoppers Map since 1997. When a cluster of vintage shops started appearing along a section of Fourth Street, he dubbed the area “Retro Row,” where he opened Pike Restaurant and Bar in 2002.
After the map’s success, he expanded it to much of Southern California. Check it out here.
His interest in antiques spans back three decades, he said, adding that he learned the art of antique dealing at a young age by watching his parents run antique shops in San Francisco.
Below we’ve compiled a supplementary list. It doesn’t exactly include shops that offer upcycled clothing or retro styles stitched last year—but shops whose owners are dedicated to collecting and identifying treasures from the last 100 years. Kathleen Schaaf is one of them.
She’s been running Meow Vintage since 1986 and has witnessed a revolving trend of vintage fads over the years. In the 1970s, when she was shopping vintage as a teenager, it was a revival of 1920s style clothing (think Annie Hall). Now—millennials cover your ears—the kids are scouring her shop for relics of the ’90s and early 2000s.
Schaaf says vintage has been a big part of Long Beach street fashion for decades.
In the 1980s, “There were all sorts of music clubs here…so people would dress ’70s, ’60s or ’50s—just whatever they were into and everybody hung out together—the mods would hang out with the rockabillies and so I stocked mostly true vintage from all those eras.”
As for Schaaf, who has worn the gamut of eras, she’s partial to a good pair of ‘50s jeans. But lately, she said she’s still working on her fashion comeback, post pandemic.
“I have been dressing like a sea hag for the last two years like I live on a boat,” she laughs. “But give me 20 minutes and I’m deadly.”
So, without further meandering, here’s a list of just seven fantastic Long Beach vintage shops in no particular order. Some are drawn from Reece’s suggestions, others are our own.
Leslie’s Antiques & Consignment Shop – 1345 E. Broadway
It should be hard to miss this little shop on Broadway, open since 1996, with its gold bordered red sign bearing the name Leslie’s in old English scrawl—yet people do. It’s not on Reece’s list, but this place is a goldmine of mid-century furnishings, funky light fixtures, wall hangings, nostalgic oddities, patterned rugs and two sections of vintage clothing and accessories.
Last week, yours truly was able to snag a brown suede 1970s trench coat for $35—you won’t find deals like this in Silverlake.
Meow Vintage – 2210 E. Fourth St.
Obviously, Schaaf’s Meow was going to make the list. She specializes in “dead stock,” untouched or unworn vintage clothing. In her shop, you can certainly find baubles, bangles and threads of a spectrum of styles from the ‘20s and up in pristine condition.
Schaaf’s shop was the first of its kind to open on what we now call Retro Row. She also regularly works with set designers in the film industry, helping to dress productions such as “Mad Men” and “Stranger Things.” So, you’d be lucky to have her pick your britches.
Assistance League of Long Beach Thrift & Vintage Shop – 2100 E. Fourth St.
If you’re willing to spend the time, this is the spot to find trinkets, housewares, clothes and shoes at a much lower price. I’m not sure if this counts, but I once bought a gorgeous 1980s amber crockpot there. She still works.
La Bomba – 2222 E. Fourth St.
Dee Hayes has been working at La Bomba on Retro Row for 22 years, so she knows a thing or two about what her customers are after. Recently, vintage sunglasses, cut-off shorts, Pendletons, cowboy boots, Carhartt pants, bell bottoms, mom jeans and vests have been hot commodities.
The shop, which opened in 1996, has garments from the ‘60s up to the ‘90s available to try on. Hayes says the younger folk were pulling ‘20s sleeves on like yoga pants, so earlier eras are now reserved for the online store.
Plus, if you ever feel like swimming through a pile of clothing like Scrooge McDuck (no, really), the shop hosts its pile sale on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. You can find dresses, T-shirts, leather jackets and more for reduced prices.
“It’s pretty inexpensive but you have to do the work,” Hayes said.
I myself did the work and clinched a purple 1960s gown for $12. It’s one of my closet staples.
Long Beach Vintage Etc. – 737 Pine Ave.
Nestled in the heart of Downtown, this is an emporium you could really get lost in, so be sure to arrive with plenty of time on your hands. The 7000-square-foot shop is brimming with rhinestone jewelry, mid-century modern furnishings, clothing and kitsch, “for good measure,” according to its website.
Far Outfit – 2020 E. Fourth St.
If you’re scouring Retro Row for dresses of the long, loud and frilly sort, you won’t have to look far (sorry). Far Outfit, boasts an assortment of kooky-sparkly-you-name-it garments fit to own the stage or better yet, to strut the sidewalk. Plus, the staff is always friendly and willing to give you feedback on whichever style you decide to brave that day.
Belmont Shore Discovery Shop – 5235 Second St.
This one is another one of those sleeper shops and what I mean by that is: It’s routinely bustling but not necessarily with people hunting for vintage. If you’re on the hunt for reasonably priced garments you can usually find some real treasures here, especially if you’re looking for ‘90s garb. But you’ll more easily find vintage housewares, including cloth napkins, lamps, furniture and knick-knacks here.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify when Leslie’s opened.