Back To the Future of Melrose

Back To the Future of Melrose

Great Scott! It’s Back To The Future Day on October 21, and where we’re going, we don’t need roads…well only one—Melrose Avenue. We’re going down the history of what’s now known as the Melrose Arts District. What used to be the punk rock epicenter of the 80’s has morphed into a millennial shopping hub. Through it all Melrose has always been a road you walk, in a city full of driving. As we stroll down memory lane you’ll notice that although Melrose has been through changes, it’s maintained its charm and heart and if you look closely, you’ll recognize some famous spots from its illustrious past.

Then: Aardvarks

Now: American Vintage

What used to be the hotspot for edgy vintage is now a hotspot for, well, edgy vintage, only with a different company. This can be seen in the pictures above with the storefront art remaining virtually the same. Aardvarks specialized in Levis and leather, organizing racks by decades, though it was clear they were focused on the 60s and 70s. It has since closed and moved to Redondo Beach. American Vintage has taken its place and it doesn’t disappoint. On their website, they describe themselves as “a boutique selling vintage men’s & women’s clothes & accessories from the 1930s to the 1990s,” although when inside it definitely has an 80s feel. The reason American Vintage is so appealing is their prices which are much more reasonable than most vintage stores in LA. Be prepared to spend some time inside as their inventory is huge. And in October it triples for Halloween.

7575 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 944-0640

Then: Aron’s Records

Now: Shoe Palace

What used to be Aaron’s Records, a store full of punk, indie, and classic rock records is now Shoe Palace. With most record stores going out of business in the 90s, it makes sense that even a place as seemingly cool as Aaron’s would eventually close as well. Shoe Palace is relatively new to Melrose but, man, is it amazing, from the amazingly and almost freakily fast staff to the selection of sneakers. If you’re obsessed with Nikes or just needing a new pair of gym shoes, this is the Mecca. Also, a little tip, if your feet are around an 8, ask if they have your shoe in juniors—the style will be the same but the price will be cut in half.

Shoe Palace
7725 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 556-3310

Then: The Burger That Ate LA

Now: Starbucks

I think we can all agree that we wish we could have eaten at “The Burger That Ate LA” when it was on Melrose. The huge burger restaurant that sat on the corner of Melrose and Stanley in the 80s is surely missed, although having a Starbucks on Melrose is very handy and almost a necessity at this point in American culture. If you look closely you can see that the outside seating at Starbucks is curved, following the original design. If only we could get the Starbucks to remodel its location into a giant frappuccino!

7624 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: (323) 852-9690

Then: Koala Blue

Now: Rumors Fashion

Olivia Newton John, an iconic celebrity whose star shone particularly bright in the 80s, opened Koala blue in 1983. This was an interesting and somewhat risky choice as it was before Melrose Avenue had many shops, retail or otherwise. Koala Blue, which was an acronym for “Korner of Australia in Los Angeles,” sold trinkets from Australia as well as clothing. It, unfortunately, went under after only a few years. Some say it was because the shop was better suited for Beverly Hills as opposed to what was at the time an edgier Melrose. Now 7366 Melrose is Rumors Fashion, run by a designer named Ran Caspi. This clothing store’s edgy and unique style is perfectly suited for Melrose, down to the washing machines that are used as garment tables. This store is not for people who play it safe. The best part of the store is its timely silk-screened jackets.

Rumors Fashion
7366 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Then and Now: The Groundlings:

A staple of the L.A. theatre and comedy community, it makes sense that The Groundlings has been on Melrose for decades, and hopefully decades to come. Some of comedy’s biggest and brightest stars trained here, including the likes of Melissa McCarthy, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, and Lisa Kudrow. In the 80s, it was as talent-filled as it is today with numerous SNL cast members getting their start at this theatre. Its multi-level class system culminates in a writing lab and shot at getting into the elusive Sunday Company. The Groundlings is serious about being funny.

The Groundlings
7307 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 934-4747

Then and Now: L.A. Eyeworks

L.A. Eyeworks opened in 1984, and as you can see from the Grace Jones ad on the above left pic, was the epitome of cool. Thirty something years later, it’s maintained its independent spirit, not the least of which is their googly eyes storefront. I even read in one of their yelp reviews that they sell small Ruth Bader Ginsberg dolls, and honestly that’s reason enough to go visit their store.

L.A. Eyeworks
7407 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: (323) 653-8255

Then: Vinyl Fetish


Now: Revolution Records LA

Although 7305 Melrose has changed owners since the 80’s, the vibe and heart of store has remained the same. Vinyl Fetish and Revolution Records are both independent records stores, selling used vinyl and European imports. But where Vinyl Fetish specialized in rock, Revolution Records is everything from punk to reggae. Revolution Records also sells vintage books and tees that are hard to find elsewhere. The staff are well-versed and can help the customer find what they’re looking for with ease.

Revolution Records LA
7305 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 424-7205

Vintage Los Angeles, Alison Martino, July 27, 2014.…/the-mystique-of-melrose-avenue
New York Times: Melrose Avenue: Shops on a Los Angeles Strip by Suzanne Slesin. April 7, 1984

About Emily Hanley

Emily Hanley is a writer and comic living in Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured on Buzzfeed and some very cool feminist corners of the Internet. She’s performed at The Improv and The Westside Comedy Theatre. Her short film is set to premier on festival circuit in 2020 and she has a standup special coming out on Amazon in spring of 2019.