Monday, April 22, 2024

Belmont Shore is having an entire renaissance—and Long Beach is here for it


This article has been updated with more articles on the Shore’s updates. Scroll to the bottom for the updates!

It started when I had to write about Acapulco Inn closing its doors after (over) serving Belmont Shore in April of 2018. Then came Lasher’sPapalucci’sTavern on 2The Spot CafeMagic Lamp, and Peet’s joining the lengthy list of closures in the Shore.

And this is all before COVID-19.

Belmont Shore has had a rough go when it comes to the 2010s

Then the pandemic came and with it, took out Thai Gourmet. And La Strada. And Fern’s Garden—all longtime staples of what could be argued as Long Beach’s most well-known and charming stretch of businesses. (No shade, Bixby Knolls or Retro Row.)

The heft of it all made me—and I am quite sure the city—sad for the Shore; it even prompted me to list Nick’s on 2nd—surely a consistent but nonetheless corporate outfit—as one of the city’s best restaurants not necessarily because they were doing anything spectacular but because it was a sense of stability for a neighborhood that was going through a roller coaster of spatial and cultural change.

That is, thankfully, rapidly changing.

Belmont Shore is welcoming a seemingly endless list of new businesses: From names with huge clout in Los Angeles—like Goodies and The Win~Dow—to brands that are expanding nationwide—like Dave’s Hot Chicken and Le Macaron.

“It’s really a reflection of how people are dismissing the shopping malls in favor of Main Street corridors that remind them of charm and local culture,” said Belmont Shore Business Association leader Heather Kern. “Belmont Shore is primed and ready. It’s a genuinely exciting time for both residents and visitors alike.”

The array of businesses moving into the Shore—from big L.A. brands to restaurants that are expanding nationally—are not, however, just a reflection of post-pandemic retail therapy.

The Belmont Shore renaissance is deeply connected to a so-called ‘return to Main Street’ ideal

That “return to Main Street” is clutch in this conversation because it isn’t pandemic-centric; it is a historically-driven one: The so-called demise of the American department store began in the late 90s and into the early 2000s, where brands like Walmart and Target began to override the love of mall spaces anchored by department stores like Sears and JC Penney.

However, Walmart and Target’s rule—while still hoarding a huge chunk of the market—is losing its iron-fisted grip as walkability, charm, aura, and aesthetic play a role in where and how people shop—things that spaces like Walmart cannot accommodate in their suburban-saturated, car-centric approach.

“People want a vibe, they want a space that is welcoming and walkable, where they can bounce from space to space,” Kern said. “And the association is here to help these new businesses harness that interest and remain connected to the community. We’re thrilled to be riding the new wave of discovering consumer happiness.”

“Consumer happiness” is a fickle beast if there was one and, in a world where one has to consider both accessibility and likability as two essentials, it welcomes a new, more affordable side to Belmont Shore that has not been seen in decades.

Belmont Shore’s appeal is reaching (finally) above the 10

And the new, more affordable businesses are nothing to be flippant about, both titans of the Los Angeles food and retail scene.

Take Goodies opening soon in the Shore, for example, the Santa Monica-birthed brand that exploded from online business to brick-and-mortar success story thanks to Filipina-America owner Rhea Carlisle heading a single ideal when it came to her home goods store: Nothing will cost above $25.

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“Shopping at discount or value stores had a stigma attached to them growing up, and I wanted to change that narrative,” Carlisle said. “When I moved to L.A., I noticed certain stores, especially high-end ones, were stuffy and intimidating—and that didn’t sit well with me. I’ve always loved brick-and-mortar retail and wanted to create a space where someone from South Texas and someone from L.A. can both shop.”

This conversation was one that would likely have never occurred in the early 2000s when it came to Belmont Shore shopping and real estate—and it is one that is continuing with the opening of The Win~Dow. The Venice-based smash burger success will have its first venture below the 10 as it expands upon its three existing locations with a new location in Belmont Shore, taking over the former Archibald’s space at 4600 E. 2nd St.

First opening on Rose Avenue in Venice in 2019—through a small take-out window attached to steakhouse American Beauty—perhaps the most shocking thing of all was that The Win~Dow was giving In N Out a direct run for its money: With a menu that had only seven items—none of which went above $7.95—there was finally a place in a deeply gentrified neighborhood that was meant for the people who still work and invested in that very neighborhood long before.

So, yeah, a $5 burger is coming to Belmont Shore, a stark finger in the air toward the more bougie offerings and balancing a food scene along a stretch that is hardly accommodating in terms of cost.

And the influx of new business doesn’t stop there: The also-affordable Dave’s Hot Chicken opened in the old Peet’s space.

Candified—from the Candy Queen herself, Netflix and Hulu star Jackie Sorkin—and Le Macaron will be opening in the Shore side-by-side, creating a sweet-tooth haven for those missing Rocket Fizz, which closed in 2019, and Ô Gourmet, which opened and closed within a year where Babette’s Feast once was.

Speaking of Babette’s Feast, the building it was once attached to—which also hosted Papalucci’s, which closed in 2019—is being completely remodeled and taken over by famed Napolitano pizzeria L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

The outrageously popular, San Diego-based all-things-breakfast giant that is Breakfast Republic—which will be opening at the opposite end of what could be considered its local rival, Let’s Yolk About It—is opening May 31.

Los Angeles-based Chinese food legend Northern Cafe is opening up where La Creperie used to be, ushering in what could be Long Beach’s best Chinese food in decades…

If anything is to be said about the pandemic and Belmont Shore, it is the fact that it gave the neighborhood a pause to remind outsiders of ideals that buck trends and remain lovable timelessly: Locally cared-for, human-scale, soak-in-the-Californian-sun spaces don’t die instantaneously nor are they always perfect. Like any business corridor, they have their ups and downs—but it is safe to say that Belmont Shore, amid a renaissance unlike any its seen for decades, is here to stay.

Updates on the Shore written after this article was published:

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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