Indie Insider: Explore Long Beach’s Independent Book Shops, Record Stores, Coffee Shops, and More.
Planted as it is between LA and the OC, Long Beach has staunchly refused to attach itself to either. The nation’s 36th largest city – bigger than Kansas City and Atlanta – has always been fiercely, proudly independent, developing its own distinct and vibrant music, art and food scenes. If you see yourself in similarly free-spirited terms, you might consider this Bohemian rhapsody of a day out at The Beach.
You’re not one to kowtow to alarm clocks, so whenever the mood strikes you, head to Confidential Coffee, well-known to downtown denizens as a great place for coffee and conversation. Regarding the former, owner Denise Maldonado offers the usual coffeehouse fare as well as caramel cajeta lattes and rompope, a non-alcoholic Mexican eggnog topped with orange zest and pecan shavings. Hungry? Walk a few blocks over to Pine Avenue and grab something at Saints and Sinners Bakeshop. Whether it’s substantial – Margherita toast, Cali BLT – or sweet-stantial (think cinnamon rolls and lemon blueberry scones) – it promises to be as unique as Saints and Sinners founder Traci Delatorre, who combines being a master baker with her roller derby alter ego, Molly Misdemeanor.
Head east on foot, bike or scooter, for about half a mile and you’re in the East Village Arts District, which, as the name implies, is an artsy mix of galleries and retail spaces such as wide-ranging vintage spot Make Collectives, which offers everything from handpicked vintage clothes to locally made jewelry and houseplants. A couple of blocks away at 3rd Street and Elm Avenue, you’ll find LBMA Downtown, the Long Beach Museum of Art’s Downtown space that features rotating exhibitions of varying styles and periods, including mid-century modern furnishings.
Just a block up and over on Fourth Street, you’ll happen into Fingerprints Music, the city’s largest, oldest independent music store, where you'll find vinyl, CDs, books, DVDs and intimate live performances. Since 1992, Fingerprints has played host to not-so-secret secret concerts by the likes of Foo Fighters, Brian Wilson, Patti Smith, Jack Johnson and local heroes Cold War Kids. It’s kind of a big deal.
After grabbing lunch at Berlin Bistro – which is attached to Fingerprints and offers outdoor dining and healthy fare like the Urban Farm Sandwich and Coconut Chia Pudding, as well as fantastic coffee and teas – walk, ride or rideshare the mile and a half down Fourth to the excellently-named independent bookstore Page Against the Machine. Owner Chris Giaco is wonderful to talk to about anything, and will happily direct you to what’s on his shelves, which is equal parts countercultural and a bit off the beaten path. Take a two-minute stroll up Fourth and you're at Retro Row, an amazing collection of thrift, vintage, pop culture, furniture, food and clothing shops; just about anything that could be considered cool.