In the Neighborhood: Veruca Salt
Across the street from the La Canada Town Center lies a small boutique called Veruca Salt. Filled with a mixture of vintage and wholesale clothing, along with accessories, cards, and knick-knacks, this store is the perfect place for a quick “stop and shop”. Carolyn, the owner, initially opened the shop 8.5 years ago in La Crescenta. While waiting for her daughter’s dance class to be over, Carolyn would go to the coffee shop and wander the streets looking for cute shops to browse. Recognizing a need for more shops in Montrose that catered to young folks, she opened her first location. She started with a little shop on Honolulu to test out the success of this new endeavor. About a year and a half later, her dream spot in Montrose opened up, and the Montrose board asked her to take over the space. The only hitch was that Carolyn was also 7 months pregnant. Determined not to let a rare opportunity slip through her fingers, Carolyn leased the space, and opened the store with her two-week-old daughter in hand. Carolyn would soon spend 4 years in Montrose enjoying the good and dealing with the bad parts of the location.
In 2020, Carolyn began exploring new spaces, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit she was forced to close down her Montrose store. Initially, Carolyn did not think that there was going to be a lot of relief for small business owners, and she was ready to move all her things to a storage facility and redirect her focus to an online store. That is when she saw a new location that saved her business, deep in the heart of La Canada. For as long as she could remember Carolyn has always admired the little store, and it seemed like the timing was perfect. With cheaper rent, and a back-patio space to facilitate outdoor shopping during Covid, she jumped at the opportunity. She moved in June of 2020 and Veruca Salt in La Canada officially opened its doors in October of 2020.
Carolyn explains that she is not only getting her old customers from Montrose, but she feels like the La Canada community is embracing her as well. Not only has the location changed for Veruca Salt, but so has its target audience. Carolyn was initially purchasing more for the moms in the area but started to redirect her attention to make her store a mother-daughter shopping experience. She believes that there should be a place for younger girls to shop in La Canada, and did not want to exclude the youth from her unique store.
Along with the change in demographic, Carolyn started to incorporate vintage items in this location. Carolyn explains that the pandemic has made this much easier. It seems as though everyone got rid of everything in their closet (including me!), and thrift stores are now packed with great, unique pieces. When looking through her wholesale items, Carolyn started to notice that everything looked the same, and she wanted to change that. Therefore, Veruca Salt started to sell more one-of-a-kind pieces that you would not find at other stores. As a worker in product development for Gap and Seven for All Mankind, Carolyn has always thought about replaceable fashion and the quality of fast fashion. She knows that vintage shopping helps reduce clothing waste in the landfills, and this mindset is behind her out-of-the-box approaches.
Carolyn also faced other changes during the pandemic. At the very beginning of the pandemic, there was a sudden urgency to purchase masks, but there were not a lot of places to buy them. Luckily, Carolyn was receiving cotton masks from a vendor, and started distributing them through her website. She charged no shipping fee and sent masks nationwide. She also started doing car deliveries with her five-year-old daughter. Carolyn also needed to adapt to the type of clothing that people wanted. For example, people did not need party dresses, but there was a demand for sweats and lounge clothing, because people were not leaving their homes. She also worked a lot on expanding her website and social media reach during the pandemic, because in-person shopping was not as accessible. As a mother of two daughters who were both at home at the beginning of the pandemic, emotions were high in their household. Carolyn saw the store as an escape, and she believes that working at Veruca Salt allowed her to stay sane during the pandemic.
Looking ahead, Carolyn wants her business to go back to being sustainable again, and to eventually become a staple of La Canada. She also wants to become a hub for mother-daughter shopping, and an inspiration for more retail to open around the area. Carolyn not only loves the clothing aspect of the store, but she also loves interacting with the people and talking to those who come to the store. For Carolyn, the community is what is most important to her.