Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The LAB Anti-Mall


In the 1980’s, the face of retail had drastically changed.  For decades, each little city in Southern California had at least one “downtown” area; the classic main street of the town where folks would go to fill a prescription, buy a pair of shoes, get a haircut and stop at the mom and pop grocery to pick up a few items. 

By the 80’s, all those little family run shops were slowly losing business to corporate stores.  Supermarkets made it tough for family groceries to compete. Little dress shops were now butting heads with giants like Wet Seal and Contempo Casuals.  Malls were being constructed next to freeways that offered shady walkways, or sometimes enclosed buildings with air conditioning.

The malls grew, becoming enormous shopping centers with anchor stores like Sears and J.C. Penny; corporate monsters that sold everything imaginable.  Clothing and shoe stores lost their uniqueness, trading instead on big box recognition and identity. Bookstores competed to have the most floorspace, not necessarily the most well-read cashiers.  And the little shops?  They began to close.

But even as Goliaths grow, there are always young shepherds to fight, and in 1993, one little mall sprung up that was unlike the rest.  For beginners, it looked more like a temporary festival cobbled together from recycled materials. Built in and around a closed goggle factory, The LAB identifies itself as the Anti-Mall; a shopping center unlike any other.

Photo from Panaramio
The LAB  (which stands for “Little American Business”) was created with uniqueness in mind. Squeezed in a little corner between the 73 and the 55 freeway on Bristol, you will find shops here unlike any other mall on earth. 

The LAB is a gathering of food, art, ideas and genius.  Dine at Bootleggers, or pick up some Good Time Donuts. Visit the Gypsy Den, lend an ear at Cream Tangerine Music, or check out the Little Penguin shop.  Each store is as unique as they can be, and they often share their space with special events, such as live entertainment or even Yoga with beer. For a complete listing of stores, visit their website at www.thelab.com

The LAB is open Sunday thru Thursday from 10AM – 9PM and Friday/Saturday 10AM – 10PM.  Head south on Bristol from the 405 freeway to 2930 Bristol Street in Costa Mesa.  

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