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The shuttering of Casbah Cafe, a humble Moroccan-French coffee shop on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake, by all accounts wouldn't have seemed like a major tragedy to an outsider; the 20-year-old business was not known for offering craft coffee (Intelligentsia's 2007 opening filled that quota), its cleverly designed merch, or a catchy tagline. But back in December of this year, its closing had so many Eastside residents reeling.
The cafe seemed to symbolize the "old Silver Lake," one in which there was practically only one coffee shop for the bohemian crowd to read/write/sketch/brood and where the high-end retailers were few and far between the bodegas, semi-sketchy book shops, and yet unclaimed storefronts. Even since we last reported on the surge of spendy shopping spots in the area in February 2015, when stores like Shinola, Mission Workshop, and Sweet William had begun to cement Silver Lake's status as a destination for retail, the trend hasn't slowed. Retrosuperfuture, Aesop, APC, Buck Mason (among others) have all opened their doors over the last year or so.
Still some tried-and-true Silver Lake stores have managed to survive. Indie design shop Reform School is still kicking — despite the reported 140% rent raise that caused its neighbor Casbah to close — as are vets like Ragg Mopp Vintage and Matrushka. Many others struggled, either moving to another neighborhood, or shutting down completely.
And then there are the pioneers of the high-end trend: Clare Vivier's flagship, which opened back in 2012 and artsy jewelry boutique Dream Collective which followed soon after, but it was Gogosha Optique, which opened in 2008, that may have been one of Silver Lake's very first — and thus far longest lasting — luxury shops. Owner Julia Gogosha tells us, "Before we got there [...] it was mostly service/needs oriented. Shoe repair, tailors, your basic shopping neighborhood with the occasional vintage shop peppering Sunset. Anything you really wanted, you left the neighborhood for."
And while her business has largely benefitted from the evolution of the neighborhood, the shopkeep is aware that will eventually force less polished "mom and pop" establishments out. When asked where she saw Silver Lake in five years, Gogosha offers, "Developed. The evolution of the mall, where you can go to one place or neighborhood and find all the same stores. The refrigerator repair guy, and the sweetest seamstress will be priced out and replaced. What I love about Silver Lake, its cultural and economic diversity, the new and the old, will make way to the a new veneered Silver Lake."
LACAUSA's owner Rebecca Grenell also see this for the future, one she admits to having some mixed feelings about. Her womenswear shop, which opened in 2015, has been in the family for 20 years (including when it was the studio/shop for her brother's line Hero Crane), so Grenell has certainly seen a major shift in the neighborhood. The designer, who frequented the Junction in her youth and says she misses the days of the annual street fair explains, "It is sad to see some of the local shops and restaurants disappear." But she's also quick to acknowledge that the change benefits emerging brands such as her own.
LACAUSA is located next door to Mohawk General (a space that was Come to Mama vintage in its former life), another high-end clothing boutique that has made the area a destination to shop independent designers and luxury goods. So while some smaller businesses — those who aren't able to afford the elevated rent — have and will continue to shutter, the new development hasn't yet meant an influx of chain stores and shopping centers (though arguably it may eventually). Rather, it's allowing clothing, accessories, and other wares made locally and/or ethically have a place to thrive, which certainly stands for something.
Another benefit to the retail upgrades within the neighborhood is walkability, which also means more businesses benefitting as shoppers wander and window-shop. In Clare Vivier's opinion, this increases a sense of community, "More stores means more shoppers out and about, which possibly means more sales and more brand recognition. I also like the idea of neighborhood commerce growing and people shopping locally, not going to the mall, but strolling their neighborhood."
One unexpected advantage Gogosha sees is the opportunity for shops to identify themselves in a way that stands apart, "It forces retailers like me to differentiate themselves and evolve in a genuine way. We compete with companies that have the capital and resources to create and maintain a great branded look. Our longevity in the neighborhood is supported by the bespectacled community of Silver Lake and beyond who seek out and appreciate that we carry and support independent brands and labs and custom services." To survive this new retail wave, businesses need to step up their game in terms of producing quality products and offering excellent service.
And still, that may not work. "Upstart creative retailers can't afford to take risks, as we did nine years ago. If you can't afford to take risks, monotony sets in," Gogosha shares. It was just four years ago that Silver Lake was named America's hippest neighborhood by Forbes, and many are wondering if giving it that label was the beginning of the end. With increasingly raised rent and super-fashionable shops settling in, has this 'hood lost its bohemian, hipster credibility? While we don't know the answer, we'd love to know your thoughts on Silver Lake's retail evolution. What do you miss and what would you like to see join the stylish new ranks? Let us know in the comments section below.