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Home / Blogs / Staff Blogs / Urban Scout Handbook
Urban Scout Handbook 10.04.2012

The new (old) Santa Ysabel General Store

Save Our Heritage Organisation restores historic shop

- By Alex Zaragoza
Things were a lot simpler in 1884. When you went shopping, there weren't 80 different types of toothpaste to choose from. Hell, I don't think there were even two types of toothpaste to choose from. But for those who enjoy old-timey charm minus old-timey hygiene standards, the historic Santa Ysabel General Store is opening up for business after undergoing a much needed restoration.

Starting this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6-7), the small store, located at 30275 Highway 78 in Santa Ysabel, will turn into a mini emporium thanks to its new owners, the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), a group devoted to restoring and preserving San Diego's history.

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at 06:26 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 10.03.2012

Purveyor of the weird

Pick from a local schoolteacher's strange collection

- By Alex Zaragoza
At some point in our lives, most of us collect objects we are attracted to for whatever reason. When I was a kid I had notebooks filled with Lisa Frank stickers that shimmered with images of killer whales jumping over rainbow ocean waves. As an adult, I still find myself collecting stuff, like antique cards and paper and animal figurines. For a while, I had a penchant for paintings depicting weird-looking women. We all have our thing.

For Isaac Martinez, collecting has veered into the strange, dark and what some might call twisted. The Encinitas second grade schoolteacher has spent the last three years picking up odd artifacts for his personal collection, like antique medical instruments and cosmonaut helmets from the Cold War. After getting married to a lady who also has an affinity for odd antiques, they decided to let some of their collection go. They started Urban Remains, a shop they run by appointment only out of their home in Downtown San Diego. They're letting go of more than 100 pieces of weirdly cool stuff, some of it hundreds of years old. How does Martinez know it's so old? He has a crack team of second graders investigating his pieces, that's how.

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at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 09.19.2012

(Looking) hot wheels

It's a Luv Thing mobile boutique brings shopping to you

- By Alex Zaragoza

Going to the mall can be a major pain in the ass. The bane of my existence are the long lines at the dressing room. And when you finally get in there with your big pile of clothes, the terrible lighting highlights every bit of cottage cheese; you stand there in your underwear feeling defeated by a crappy light bulb. It's all very Bridget Jones. 

Kamie Archinal is saving women from wanting to punch dressing-room mirrors with her mobile boutique It's a Luv Thing. She had a brick-and-mortar shop of the same name in Encinitas for seven years, but the challenge of maintaining hours and keeping it stocked with cool merchandise was tough for the single mom. So, she bought a 1971 Volkswagen bus and turned it into a mobile boutique she can take wherever, whenever. 

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at 07:48 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 09.07.2012

Shopping time!

A few weekend shopping events to spend your cash at

- By Alex Zaragoza
You know why people call shopping "retail therapy"? Because when you take those new shoes or that cool jacket out of the bag, it feels so damn good. Your shitty day—hell, even your good day—gets a little better. Adding to that awesome feeling is when your friends fawn over your recent purchases. It just validates the fact that you spent the money you owe AT&T on stuff you don't really need but very much want. Here are some shopping events where you can get more of that feel-good shopping buzz.

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at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 08.23.2012

A fine vintage

San Diego sunshine steals The Girl Can't Help It from London

- By Alex Zaragoza
San Diego may not be considered one of the fashion capitals of the world. Unless you consider flip-flops and cargo shorts high-fashion, which no one does. Not even if your flip-flops cost $500 and your cargo shorts are made from the skin of a Bengal tiger. So it's a pretty big deal when an award-winning vintage shop that's supplied inspiration pieces for the likes of John Galliano, Missoni, Stella McCartney and Prada and has garnered major kudos from British Vogue decides to leave London for our comparatively smaller town. (Prada used a skirt purchased at the London shop for $200 to create a design they later sold for triple that amount.)

The Girl Can't Help It opened this past weekend at 3806 Grim Ave. in North Park. I stopped into the shop while they were still setting up and talked to owners Sparkle Moore and Jasja Boelhouwer. The biggest question was a simple one. Why?

"We were sick and tired of cold weather," says Boelhouwer, who joined forces with Moore in 1994 to sell the coolest vintage goods they could get their hands on. "We looked everywhere and we just kept coming back to San Diego. The weather here is just the best."

Point, San Diego.

The shop offers vintage pieces from the '30s through the '60s, though they specialize in '40s and '50s Hollywood glamour. I spotted gorgeous dresses suited for a Bond babe, hand-painted Mexican skirts, one- and two-piece swimsuits in cute prints and fuller cuts, men's ties, dress shirts and jackets. There are also tons of great accessories, like scarves and handkerchiefs (some of my favorite things to buy vintage), gloves, purses as well as a section devoted to housewares and decor from the past.

Photo by Alex Zaragoza

Moore got in the vintage game in 1980 in New York City. She says she and Boelhouwer are the perfect ying and yang for their business.

"I always say Jasja and I come from different angles of vintage fashion," she explains. "I come from the fashion angle and Yasha comes from the history angle and we both come from the music angle. We both love the glamour, the music, the B movies, the whole genre of that Hollywood glamour image. It's just what we've always collected and worn."

"I think it's also that we haven't got much interest in popular culture and popular clothes," adds Boelhouwer.

Shopping vintage ain't cheap. Boelhouwer and Moore admit their goods are a bit on the high-end side. I saw skirts and dresses priced above $100. However, they feel it's worth it.

"It's going to be very rare to find somebody who's wearing the exact same outfit as you have," assures Boelhouwer. "Some people even think vintage clothes are too expensive, but you think, 'Yeah but if you're really into it, you'll be wearing it this year and you'll still be wearing it in 10 years time.' It's an investment and you really get value for your money. It's better to buy something that's already out of fashion because it can only come back in."

Moore also feels the quality and craftsmanship of vintage fashion makes the price worth it. She does have a point. Some of the vintage pieces I own are 50 years old and still look great, while the shirt I bought at Forever 21 last week looks like crap after a single wash. 

While they recommend that buyers come in to try on clothes, Moore and Boelhouwer also sell online on Etsy. Fit can be an issue since modern body shapes are much different than they were back in 1955. (Thanks a lot, McDonald's and low-rise jeans). Moore and Boelhouwer offer help with size questions and have tips on squeezing into a vintage dress. For instance, you have to "hike up your boobs" in an older dress because of the darts. So your sloppy Gap bras aren't going to cut it. Good to know.

Know of some cool boutique? Email your Urban Scout blogger Alex Zaragoza at alexz@sdcitybeat.com. You can also find her making dumb jokes on Twitter.
at 07:16 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 08.15.2012

It's a... baby

Genderless gift ideas for a surprise bundle of joy

- By Alex Zaragoza

I'm not a big fan of baby showers. I spend most of my time at the snack table taking way more than my portion of cucumber sandwiches and wishing I could get drunk. It might stem from a baby shower where one of my aunts confused me for my older sister who at the time was seven months pregnant. That bitch. Anyway, I found myself at a baby shower for my good friend Mary recently. It was actually really fun because it wasn't ridiculously girly and we were encouraged to drink spiked berry tea.

Mary and her husband, Andy, have decided to wait until the birth to find out the baby's gender. They want it to be a surprise, which is great. However, shopping for a baby gift that's gender neutral isn't that easy. Luckily, Mary and Andy aren't gender nazis. They won't refuse to put blue on a baby girl, which I love about them. It still made things a bit tough, but guests seemed to take on the challenge when it came time for presents. One person gave them vintage children's records that she'd framed to hang in the nursery. Other great ideas were classic children's books, lullaby CDs featuring songs by The Beatles and little soft slippers.

The baby shower inspired me to look into cool gifts that can be used for a girl or boy. I found Lullababes, a local company headed by stay-at-home mom Melissa Magee, who makes blankets for kids of all ages. The blankies are made with patterned fabric, cozy fleece and warm shag and trimmed with satin ribbon, making them soft and comfortable. They come in three sizes: Baby Babe (40"x30"), Between Babe (4'x6') and Big Babe (5'x9') and start at $75. A little pricey for a blanket that will inevitably be covered in poop and vomit, but it's a lifer. The kid will probably end up taking it to college.

You can browse the styles in stock or fill out a form for a custom order. Magee will do her best to match it to your exact specifications. While, for the most part, the designs seemed to be very much for boys or girls, there were a few in the online shop that were gender neutral while avoiding the cliche of yellow duckies. I liked the Sassy Stripes and Lots of Dots designs, because they really could be draped over a chair in a boy's or girl's room. They're both simple with a cute pattern. For something a little edgier, Lullababes also has the Fluid Serenity style and Scrolly Skulls. They're a bit more grown-up and work for the parents who don't want to feel like parents. Wait, isn't that all parents? Hi-yo!

For other cool, genderless baby gifts, I recommend Magical Child (967 S. Coast Highway 101) in Encinitas. If you live in, or happen to be in, North County, it's full of crazy-cute baby gifts that will melt your cold, bitter heart. There's everything from toys and books to clothing and accessories for the little ones.

South Park's Mythology Eco-Boutique (2365 30th St.) is another place with insanely adorable baby stuff that departs from the traditional boy/girl styles, prints and colors. Every time I pass the store, I see onesies hanging in the window that make my uterus cry lonely tears. Like this one, and this one, and, oh my God, this one. Are you gushing yet? Because I am.

at 08:39 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 08.10.2012

You better shop around

Weekend shopping events to fill your closet

- By Alex Zaragoza
There gets a point in every person's life where they look in their closet and think, "I have absolutely nothing to wear." Usually this is not entirely the case. Your clothes weren't wiped out by a natural disaster. You won't be forced to wear a burlap sack to your office happy hour. However, we all get to the point where everything looks and feels stale. First world problems, or what? If you're at the point of wardrobe boredom, here are a few shopping events to check out this weekend.

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at 07:01 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 08.03.2012

Weekend shopping

A few San Diego shopping events to check out this week

- By Alex Zaragoza
Robin Sparkles may prefer the mall, and who can blame her. Forever 21 and Hot Dog on a Stick are fine institutions. However, we try to support local businesses and designers who are working hard to craft unique pieces for your home and self. And, really, finding, say, great vintage at the mall is extremely unlikely. Here are a few shopping events happening around town this week to get your closet looking fresh to death.

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at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 07.27.2012

Two feel-good San Diego shopping events

Use your paycheck to make a difference

- By Alex Zaragoza

It's the end of the week and your bank account is a little bit chunkier, thanks to your paycheck showing up through direct deposit. What a great invention. Going to the bank on pay day is the worst. So now that your wallet is a little fatter, head out to these great shopping events to spend a bit of your hard-earned dough. Awesome bonus: Spending that dough will be doing some good at these events.

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at 06:42 PM | Permalink | Comments
Urban Scout Handbook 07.25.2012

Vista has a great new boutique

Metaphor brings an affordable shopping option to North County

- By Alex Zaragoza

When you're on the hunt for cute women's clothing and handmade gifts and accessories made by local artists all set in a beautifully decorated environment, where do you go? When I asked a few friends, they went down the list of usual suspects: Downtown, Uptown (Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, etc.) and bits of North County, like Encinitas and Carlsbad. Not once did one of them gasp, roll their eyes and exclaim, "Ummahgawd, you have to go to Vista!"

Hannah Le is trying to change that with her new-ish boutique, Metaphor, located at 222 E. Broadway in Old Vista Village, which as of late has gotten spruced up with some legitimately hip businesses. In fact, Metaphor is right next door to a record store and just down the street from Mother Earth Brewing Co. All fall under the definition of what's cool. The shop opened up a little over three months ago and carries an eclectic mix of women's clothing, gifts, perfume, jewelry, greeting cards and all those other things that make the ladies lose their shit. Still, I had to ask Hannah the question that many others have asked.

"I've had several people ask me 'why Vista?' And my response has always been why not Vista?," she explains. "When I came to the area to scout out a place with my business partner, I noticed there was a lot of potential in the area. So far it's been great. The city of Vista's been doing a lot to revitalize area. The community has been really embracing new businesses coming in. Vista, I feel, is getting a whole new makeover."

Le is stoked to give customers a chance to buy unique items without having to go to Encinitas, and her loyal fans are equally happy about that. Among the goods she carries are knitted felted purses by Donna Steffen and jewelry by local designer Fox and Finch, who uses vintage items to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Le handpicks everything that is sold in her shop, which is a cross between Anthropologie and Free People only way more affordable. As someone who absolutely loves Anthropologie but can't afford any of the non-super-discounted items that someone probably got stabbed in then returned, this is music to my ears.

"I try to keep it reasonable," Le assures. "I've had a few customers be hesitant about coming in, but then they look at our prices and see it's affordable. So they're happy they discovered our store. That's what drives people."

One thing I hate is when a shop owner says their goods are affordable and then tells me a simple summer dress is $65. While for many that might be a good deal, for this broke-ass girl it's not gonna happen. I'm a 5 for $20 Target underwear kind of lady. I keep it classy and cheap. But Le is pretty legit about her pricing. Dresses go for under $40 and, on average, blouses are $17 to $28. Metaphor, she says, doesn't have any products over $50. Halle-freakin'-llujah! While I'm not one to drive out of my way when I'm shopping, I just might make an exception for Metaphor.

Know a cool shop that should be Urban Scouted? Write to alexz@sdcitybeat.com. Or send her a tweet.

at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments