By Sue Pascoe
I first fell in love with this town and its shops in December 1994. My husband and I had purchased a house here shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, and it needed major renovations. After a long summer and fall of construction, the project appeared to be nearing completion.
Around Thanksgiving, our contractor promised the house would be ready to occupy in time for Christmas. So, we gave a December 15 notice on our West L.A. rental house and invited extended family from the Midwest to come and stay over the holiday.
My husband then went out of town for six weeks, and I was tasked with overseeing construction. Even though I was there every day with my two toddlers, I seemed to be failing at my task.
It became apparent to me that the house was not going to be done in December and that the large dirt pile in the front yard might be permanent.
I tried to get our rental back, but couldn’t because it was going to be painted for the next renters. A hotel for 20 people was out of our price range. So, the kids and I followed workmen from room to room that December, helpless. There wasn’t really a place to put a tree up and I didn’t have time to go Christmas shopping.
I prayed a Christmas miracle would happen.
On December 21, there was only one bathroom, no kitchen and mostly unfinished rooms, no cable, no Internet. On the bright side, a washer and dryer had just been installed. But, cooking on the barbecue outside and having guests stay on sleeping bags in empty rooms, was not how I had hoped Christmas would go.
On December 22, I went to the toy store in town and tried to pick out a few things for the kids. The shopkeeper was understanding as I tried not to sob telling her I hadn’t purchased any gifts and that the whole thing was a disaster.
It was then the Christmas miracle happened.
She took one look at my face, saw a tired, frantic individual and took over. Not only did she make some appropriate gift selections, she wrapped everything—and then I panicked because I didn’t have any place to put gifts, and I needed to pick up people at the airport (pre-Uber). No problem, she would have the packages delivered to my home the next day.
Before heading to the airport, I went from store to store and all the shopkeepers helped. I got a gift for my husband, and in-laws—wrapped, delivered. It was so easy, so simple—and everyone was so nice.
Then someone told me about the YMCA tree lot, and just like that they delivered—and we had a tree.
With food delivery from local restaurants, lots of laughter and gifts, it turned out to be a truly memorable holiday.
Today, even though so many people go to the Internet to shop (I’m among those people), we all need to remember that small shops help define a community, and it’s up to residents to keep them alive.
Like many stores in Pacific Palisades, Special Moments on Via de la Paz is not online, but it’s a mistake not to stop there in person because the owner, Mely Parmelee, has some of the sexiest underwear ever.
Even though longtime proprietor Susan Carroll carries an impressive collection of silver at the Gift Garden on Antioch, she also has the cutest little stuffed-mouse collection—something perfect for a stocking. Merchant Marine has the best collection of comfy wear—and Dory Forge can monogram jeans or tops in her store on Via. Or Petit Ami, even though I don’t yet have grandkids, the clothes there are absolutely adorable, and owner Pam Hayer has many wonderful sales.
Maybe consider gift certificates to places like Oasis, The Massage Place or Fahy’s Skin Bar.
Restaurant certificates are always appreciated, and our little town has many nice hangouts: Golden Bull, Garden Café, Casa Nostra, Taj Palace, Cathay Palisades, Vittorio’s, Roast, Taste, Moku, Gladstone’s, Cafe Vida, Pearl Dragon, Matthew’s, Ritrovo, Modo Mio, Pinocchio in Cucina, Sushi-Don Express, Beech Street, Tallula’s, Caffé Delfini, Giorgio Baldi and the soon to reopen Kay ‘N’ Dave’s.
A gift certificate for sweets is also a welcomed treat. Try Sweet Rose Creamery, K Bakery, the Yogurt Shoppe and Viktor Bene’s Bakery at Gelson’s.
During this 2017 holiday, make it a point to fall in love again with our little town and the merchants and restaurants who make miracles happen.