Fern’s Garden in Belmont Shore to close after 17 years

The last blossoms are falling for Fern’s Garden, the 17-year crafts shop selling the works of local and fair-trade artisans and a must-stop location at gift-giving times on Belmont Shore’s Second Street. The store will close shortly after the new year, its owner has announced.

“I’m good, but a little sad after such a nice long run in Long Beach, but I think we made the best decision for our future,” said the shop’s owner, Fern Solomon.

Fern and her husband Sam moved to Berkeley about five years ago to be closer to their children, all three of whom live in the Bay Area after graduating from UC Davis, Berkeley and San Francisco State—”all paid for by chimes and all of the crazy things we’ve sold,” she said proudly.

They also opened a store in Berkeley, which Fern continues to operate.

The problems Fern’s Garden had in Belmont Shore mirror the problems elsewhere on the street; increasing rent, for one, and COVID-19 and its attendant complications for another, especially with unmasked people insisting on remaining that way while shopping, which could well be caused by the Shore’s proximity to a less mask-observant county.

Through the years, particularly at Christmas, Fern’s has been crowded with customers looking for something both well made and more unique than you’d find cruising the aisles of a big-box store or even scrolling through Amazon: Wind chimes, the store’s specialty, ranging in tone from tinkling to robust baritone, desktop waterfalls, hand-held Zen gardens, handcrafted jewelry and apparel, plants and planters, candles and calligraphy cards—and, these days, masks. You might not find what you’re looking for at Fern’s, but you’d almost certainly find what you weren’t looking for.

Operating in Belmont Shore became a bit problematic a couple of years before the pandemic, said Fern. Then came the pandemic and, of course, things went downhill exponentially, with stores shuttering either permanently or temporarily and fewer people casually strolling up and down the district’s 14 blocks seeing what was available for gifts or themselves.

Fern’s business began more than 20 years ago in Los Alamitos, where she made her Jacob’s Music Chimes, still a staple of her business in Berkeley as well as online at jacobschimes.com and fernsgarden.com.

The “Jacob” is her brother—she calls him “The king of ding-a-ling”—who’s a musician who tunes the chimes, while Fern does the marketing and sales. She sold them from a stand at the Orange County Swap meet for seven years before opening her shop in the Shore.

Despite problems in recent years, Fern still has happy memories of the Long Beach location. “The neighbors have been good and being next door to the fabulous George’s [Greek Cafe], they were so good to us. It’s been great,” she said. “It’s not that the store doesn’t do a lot of business anymore, but with rents going up and other costs, it’s been more difficult to make a profit.”

Fern expressed her appreciation for all of the faithful customers over the years, with particular affection for Ashley LeDuc who has managed the store for more than seven years, as well as her loyal employees, “The Gardeners.”

Her Berkeley shop is doing well, she said, and she just signed a lease for another five years there. “Even though I’m 69, I just want to keep going and going,” she said. “And hopefully turn it into an employee-owned store that can continue to go on.”

“I just want everyone to know how grateful I am,” she said.

From Dec. 26 to closing day (she estimates sometime around Jan. 9) everything in the store will be offered at 40% off.

Fern’s Garden is at 5308 E. Second St., in Long Beach.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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