Shopping in Claremont: everything but the kitchen sink
When it comes to shopping and dining, there’s something for everyone in Claremont.
The city is full of longstanding gems, whose continuity and charm provide a small-town feel.
Wolfe’s Market is just shy of a hundred years old, Some Crust has been the Village’s go-to bakery since 1916 and the Village Grille has been serving up all-American food since 1949.
The Folk Music Center, located a scant half-block north of the Grille, has provided Claremont with a cultural heartbeat since 1958, while Rhino Records has provided a soundtrack for residents’ lives since 1976.
The ambience turns from town to city pretty quickly, however, when you are vying for parking in the bustling Village.
Claremont has experienced a remarkable explosion in businesses in the past few years. The newly-opened Wild Birds Unlimited—which has found a nest in the Sprouts shopping center on Foothill Boulevard—as well as Village newbies DeeLux vintage clothing and Vom Fass (purveyor of fine vinegars, oils and spirits), are just three among a score of establishments that have opened in the last year.
The result of the business boom is a dizzying amount of choices.
Craving a slice of sweetness? Head on down to the specialty bakery I Like Pie, which was launched nearly two years ago in the Laemmle’s shopping complex. This summer, the confectioner’s offerings have ranged from desserts like peaches and cream pie with praline crumble to savory delights like tomato basil quiche.
Feeling cheesy? You can pick up a wheel of brie at the Cheese Cave or indulge in some double-dipping at the fondue/jazz joint Hip Kitty. At Union on Yale, you can dunk a crostini into a mason jar full of soft burrata and roasted tomatoes dressed in basil and olive oil. You can dig into a cheeseburger from Heroes & Legends on Yale or from the BC Café, just north of the 10 Freeway on Indian Hill.
Or, you can get your cheese fix with a pizza pie from Pizza ‘n Such or Z Pizza, or enchiladas from a Mexican restaurant like El Ranchero, Casa de Salsa, Espiaus or the Taco Factory.
On a practical note, you can get prescriptions filled and pick up sundries like sunblock and Chapstick at Hendricks Pharmacy. Or, if you’re looking for the perfect gift or want to spoil yourself, you can get all manner of baubles, bangles and beads, including real sparklers from the Diamond Center. Home décor, novelty items and beauty products are also available en masse throughout the Village.
It would seem that Claremont has reached a saturation point, requiring no more new establishments to complete your shopping experiences. There are, however, a few niches left to be filled.
Gastronomically speaking, the city is a veritable United Nations of restaurants. There are Mediterranean nooks like Yiannis Greek Restaurant, Saca’s, Zaky Mediterranean Grill and Casa Blanca in the Village and Fattoush in the Claremont Auto Center. You can get Spanish tapas from Viva Madrid, Peruvian dishes from Inka Trails and Pollos Kikiriki and a plate of pad thai from Bua Thai near the Packing House.
Still, the City of Trees has yet to add a restaurant specializing in soul food or in the cuisines of Ethiopia, Jamaica, Vietnam and Cuba. You can satisfy your appetite for daal and naan at Delhi Palace on Yale across from the Afghan-flavored Walter’s Restaurant, but there is no date-night Indian eatery in town.
And there’s another hole in the heart of Claremont.
You would think that a college town would have a surfeit of bookstores, but that has not been the case since Chapter Two closed decades ago and Claremont Books and Prints was shuttered some years back.
The Claremont Forum, located in the Packing House, sells a wide array of used books through its Prison Library Project and you can also get great, cheap reads at the Friends of the Library bookstore at the Claremont Library.
The Claremont Colleges’ Huntley Bookstore on Eighth Street carries a number of new fiction and nonfiction titles; home-oriented shops like Barbara Cheatley’s have a variety of books on cooking and fine living as well as some kids’ books and A Shop Called Quest near the Laemmle is full to the gills with comic books and graphic novels, and local gift emporiums like Heirloom are stocking an increasing amount of books.
Nonetheless, there is no store in Claremont devoted exclusively to selling newly-printed books.
What else is missing?
The 2003 closure of Powell’s Hardware—a Village staple since 1948—was a blow to Claremonters. It left the town without a place to pick up tools, paint and other items for home repair and renovation. It should be noted that Hendrix Pharmacy carries nails and screws and an upscale home décor shop, something along the lines of Restoration Hardware, is set to open in the Packing House in the coming weeks. That’s a bit different, however, from a nuts and bolts hardware store. C&E Lumber has a well-stocked hardware store, however, even though its located just south of Bonita on Towne Avenue, it is technically Pomona.
Longtime resident Robin Young, who has lived in Claremont for 35 years, is happy to see that, amid all the change, some of her favorite Village standbys—places like Rhino Records and Walter’s Restaurant remain. Still, she waxes nostalgic at the memory of some establishments that have gone by the wayside.
“I miss Federico’s, which was an Italian deli and restaurant,” she said. “I would go in for the Italian nougat candy.”
While you can get cold cuts, meats and cheese at the deli counters of Wolfe’s Market and Sprouts, Ms. Young says it would nice to get a true delicatessen in town, perhaps a Jewish one where you can get a hot bowl of matzo ball soup. She also mourns the loss of Powell’s Hardware.
“If you needed a watering can or potholder or sifter or duct tape, Powell’s was the place,” she noted.
Ms. Young applauds the addition of vintage clothing stores like DeeLux, where she can indulge in her penchant for cowboy boots. For the most part, however, she sees the city’s business boom as posing a conundrum.
“Parking is insufficient to accommodate the increasing number of visitors to the Village,” she said.
There are a plethora of clothing stores. Maple, Amelie, Nectar, Grove Vintage, Replay Vintage, Playlist, The Chama, Chicos and American Apparel, to name a few. Shoppers here are hard-pressed, however, to find youth-centric plus-sized clothes, wardrobe staples like sturdy bras, socks and underwear and clothes for preteen and teenaged boys. The latter lack is somewhat ameliorated by the presence of hip tennis shoes and shirts at Authentix Sneaker & Clothing near Hendricks, and young menwill have further cause to celebrate if a skate shop set to open soon opts to sell clothing.
David Scherer, a member of the gallery crew at the Millard Sheets Gallery at the Pomona Fairplex, admits that, at 31, he’s not quite in the teen demographic. Still, as a lifelong skater who owned a skateboard company for several years, he retains a youthful sartorial aesthetic. That can pose a problem when it comes to shopping in his hometown.
“I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy, but if I want to go shopping for something a little nicer, like office casual clothes, I have to leave Claremont,” he said. “We’re talking a nice, button-up shirt that’s not going to cost me an arm and a leg.”
Mr. Scherer usually ends up heading for La Verne’s Utility Board Shop or to Active in San Dimas or Chino. He is pleased to hear that the city may be getting its own skate shop, which will likely carry clothes for the young and young at heart.
“I like to stay local, so if I can get everything I want without leaving Claremont, I’m a happy shopper,” he said.