From The Hawk down to Alex’s Bar, a stretch of the bustling Anaheim corridor has become home to some of the best watering holes to catch a live show or a glimpse of Long Beach subculture.
Those familiar with the Zaferia District may have done a double take when Buvons Natural Wine Bar + Shop first opened a year ago. Aesthetically, the storefront resembles a place you might expect to see along Retro Row across town, or more on the nose, L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood.
Just around the corner from Bamboo Club on Loma Avenue, Buvons offers something new: A vibrant, chic retreat with a spacious patio and plenty of intimate indoor seating to enjoy natural French wine paired with charcuterie boards and other hors d’oeuvres.
Buvons (that’s French for “let’s drink”) is helmed by two sommeliers who met in Paris in 2017 while individually pursuing their passions for French wine. Owner Alicia Kemper said the shop was only open in Long Beach for a few months before she was able to sway Marie Delbarry to move to the United States to help her manage the space.
Delbarry relocated from France to Long Beach to assist her old friend, Kemper, the soft-spoken visionary behind crafting Buvons and its sleek, art-minded atmosphere.
“We always kind of said, ‘One day we work together,’” Delbarry said while assembling a charcuterie board. “We have a good relationship so it’s easy. It’s like we know what to do.”
Kemper, who started working in restaurants at the age of 14, said she’s always had an affinity for small, family-owned vineyards and the story behind them.
“These are all small production, like families are making them or a husband and wife or a woman or you know just a guy and there’s a lot that goes into making them, it’s not like a big factory or mass-produced wine—there’s a story behind all of them,” Kemper said.
The spectrum of wine bottles that line the shelved walls in the space are small production, French and natural or organic.
“It’s about being conscious of the environment,” Kemper said. “The way that they’re farming, the way that they’re making the wine, what you’re ingesting into your body—it’s not just a bunch of chemicals.
“Because they’re not adjusting and changing it, it’s an expression or a capture of time in a place, of a specific grape. So it’s a little bit more poetic. And the wine is changing. It’s not going to be the same time or same flavor, like vintage to vintage, you’re gonna get a lot of different expressions and different experiences.”
Kemper has always been drawn to French wine. She worked at a restaurant in Paris and has done wine harvest in France for six years. Now, she visits France twice a year to try new wines, and she hopes to share all that she’s learned and discovered with her Long Beach customers.
For Kemper, French wine represents “purity and authenticity and elegance.”
For many, Buvons is still an unturned stone. While the Anaheim corridor has become an evening destination for those in pursuit of a craft cocktail or a night of merry-making, it lacks foot traffic comparable to somewhere like Belmont Shore, where each business is likely to attract passersby.
“Every day we have a customer that comes in and they’re like, ‘Oh we live down the street, we have not heard of the shop.’ How is this possible?” Delbarry laughs.
Kemper moved to the Rose Park neighborhood after signing the lease on 1147 Loma Ave. From hosting regular DJ nights to wine classes, Kemper says she’s been working to connect with people in her new home under the roof of her new business in Long Beach.
“After living in L.A. for more than 10 years, Long Beach is so much more community-driven,” she said. “It’s just really nice and rewarding to be able to work with people that just have the same sort of vision and work mentality. We all want to support each other.”
Buvons, located at 1147 Loma Ave., offers memberships to its monthly wine subscription service, the Tippler Club. The wine bar and shop is open Monday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday noon to 9 p.m.; and Thursday through Sunday noon to 10:30 p.m.