On the Verge | Pasadena, a Place With Many Hidden Charms
Everyone knows that Los Angeles is having an art and fashion renaissance. But the transformation of Pasadena, its eastern neighbor, has happened under the radar. Developed in the 1880s as a winter retreat for the East Coast elite, the sedate college town at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains has long been an antipode to Hollywood, a place with family-friendly neighborhoods, numerous Ph.Ds from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech, and a general air of all-American normalcy. Fashion types usually only come out for the monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market. Pasadena is so uncool that Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s address there is often cited as evidence of their status as fashion outsiders.
But for the young artists, filmmakers and musicians who have moved eastward from the creative-class nuclei of Silver Lake and Echo Park to Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Mount Washington, Pasadena — not downtown or Hollywood — is the closest urban center. Kevin and Bo Carney, the husband-and-wife team behind Mohawk General Store (and Mohawk Man, their nearby men’s boutique), the beloved independent clothing and lifestyle shop in Silver Lake, are among this generation of inland-inclined Angelenos. After buying a house in Highland Park two and a half years ago, their perspective on Pasadena has changed. “We realized, ‘Hey, this is maybe where Silver Lake was five years ago,’” Kevin said. “There are tons of people around, and no interesting place to shop.”
Last Saturday, the Carneys opened a second Mohawk General Store women’s wear outlet at 26 Smith Alley, a cobblestone street in Old Town, Pasadena’s walkable, European-style shopping district. The shop carries cult international designers like Dries Van Noten, Acne and Rachel Comey, and progressive local talent such as Jasmin Shokrian and Black Crane, not to mention the first cache of Isabel Marant east of Hollywood. “It’s that idea of ‘If you build it, they will come,’ ” Kevin added. Here, the Carneys share their insiders’ recommendations for where to eat, shop and experience Pasadena and its surroundings.
The Market on Holly
This gourmet cafe and marketplace two blocks from the new Mohawk outpost “is kind of like the Café Stella of Pasadena,” Kevin said, referring to the restaurant and bar which functions as the undisputed social hub of Silver Lake. “They serve amazing sandwiches and handsome coffee, and it’s packed all the time, which says something about what’s happening in this area.” 57 East Holly Street; themarketonholly.com.
The Luggage Room
Housed in the former cargo hold of the 1930s Del Mar train station, this cozy wood-oven haunt has adjusted its menu to suit local preferences. “The gluten-free pizza is amazing, and we’re not even gluten-free,” Kevin said. 260 S. Raymond Avenue; theluggageroom.com.
Pasadena City College Flea Market
True fashion insiders swear by Pasadena’s lesser-known swap meet to hunt down vintage treasures, and they don’t even have to queue up before dawn to do so. “We like it more than the Rose Bowl. It’s more like a true flea market, with random, quirky finds,” Bo said. Her husband added, “You don’t have the guys from, like, ‘Storage Wars’ showing up and trying to buy what you’re trying to buy. It’s more local vendors who buy things from estate sales.” 1570 E. Colorado Boulevard; held the first Sunday of each month, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; pasadena.edu/fleamarket.
Echo Mountain Hike
At the top of this five-mile trail lie the ruins of the 1896 White City resort. A vast complex complete with a zoo, it was destroyed in the early 20th century by a series of fires. “There are the remnants of tram tracks running to the top,” Kevin said. “You get there and there’s just the foundation of the ruined hotel, and you’re standing on this flat cement slab overlooking all of L.A. It’s the biggest view I’ve seen.” Trailhead at East Loma Alta Drive at Lake Avenue, Altadena.