Celebrating local craft and economy has not always been met with cheers – just ask Downtown Long Beach (DTLB) boutique owner Patrick Santa Ana of Elev8, whose store has always been filled to the brim with hand-forged jewelry, handcrafted clothing, and locally made soaps’n’beauty  products.


“The whole ‘buy local’ thing just wasn’t cool,” Santa Ana said. “People would walk in and see something homemade and legitimately not want it. They saw the label – ‘homemade’ – as something that was below them. But the attitude has switched, across the whole city, and Downtown Long Beach has led that change.”

Elev8 is a clothing and accessories store for men and women at 132 Linden Ave. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


When talking of DTLB, Santa Ana is referring to places like Anneise that offers handcrafted jewelry, The Academy that is Long Beach’s first top-down clothing store, and 1897LB that brings local swagger to a new level with a shop whose contents are entirely Long Beach-themed – all within the East Village alone.


Then there is the unexpected juggernaut that is MADE in Long Beach, the all-things-local store that transformed 236 Pine Ave. into a space where small business owners are between the “I-have-an-idea” phase and the transition to a full brick-and-mortar storefront.


Opening just one year ago, MADE has since shared space for up-and-coming artisans, vendors and retail concepts with such success that it is looking to take another step by creating a market. “There are so many food growers and producers in Long Beach, imagine if you could find all of them at one store, every day,” Heather Kern, project manager at MADE, said. “I mean fresh produce from local farmers, artisan breads, raw honey from fields just south of Long Beach, ice cream from Long Beach Creamery – a full-on market, all Long Beach.”

An employee assists customers at The Academy, 429 E. 1st St. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


Of course, the culture of craft within downtown doesn’t stop at retail and market space. The culinary worlds of beer and cocktails have created an expansive and impressive array of drinkable concoctions and brews that have altered the way that downtown (and Long Beach) restaurants treat their beverage programs.


Just a handful of years ago, the art of refined cocktail-making was hard to find in dive bar-riddled Long Beach, where banal mixes of Jack’n’Coke and vodka’n’anything were the norm and an Old Fashioned hadn’t quite made it into common drinking vernacular. Enter DTLB, where a plethora of bars and restaurants suddenly began offering Long Beachers their best.


From James Republic to The Blind Donkey, BO-beau kitchen + rooftap to The Stave, establishments across the downtown began specializing in high-end bourbons, special drink weeks dedicated to gin, and unique concoctions mixed by women and men with sophisticated, knowledgeable palates that, in turn, prompted other bars and restaurants to up their own beverage programs.

Kurt Shoemaker is general manager of the Yard House at Shoreline Village. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


To pin the precise origin of the craft cocktail scene in DTLB is difficult, but one could speculate that it started with its more casual partner – craft beer. DTLB has long been the hub of specialty beer. Before becoming the corporate chain it is today, The Yard House in Shoreline Village debuted in Long Beach in 1997, with owners Steve Reynolds and Steve Platt bringing 250 beer taps with them. Beyond the all-too-common Miller and Bud offerings, The Yard House offered DTLB brews that were, at the time, completely unknown: Kona Brewing Fire Rock Pale Ale, Marin Brewing Bluebeery Ale, Belhaven Scottish Ale, Köstritzer Schwarzbier . . .


Then there’s Kress Market at Pine and 5th Street which carried brands like Ballast Point and Lagunitas long before it was popular. Kress offered downtowners a choice that even bars couldn’t offer when it opened in 2010 – not to mention shopping options that included everything from organic quinoa to raw sunflower seeds.

Javier and Hilda Ortiz own Kress Market at 443 Pine Ave. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


Since then, craft beer has exploded in DTLB. Rock Bottom Brewery saw a $2 million makeover in 2012 that brought with it an expanding brewing section, while Congregation Ale House and Beachwood BBQ & Brewery have each altered the way that Long Beach does beer. Public Beer & Wine offers an open-air refrigerator filled with hard-to-find IPAs, Berliner weisses, saisons and stouts.


And Beachwood? They’ve expanded their operations with the debut of their Blendery outpost, a space solely dedicated to brewing sour beers. The first of their sour bottled series, dubbed the Propagation Series, was released on November 1. Not only did the release see people lining up at the space’s 3rd Street and Long Beach Boulevard location as early as 3 a.m. the day of the release, but eventually the line stretched west on 3rd and down The Promenade as hundreds of craft beer lovers sought to be the first to taste the Blendery’s funky brews.

Ryan Fields, left, barrel master, and Gabriel Gordon, owner, Beachwood Blendery on Long Beach Boulevard. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


For those who need more of a pick-me-up with their drinks, craft coffee is slowly building its presence in DTLB with the opening of its first third-wave coffee shop, Recreational Coffee (directly next door to the Blendery). Though DTLB has long been home to local roasters – True Beans began roasting in the downtown in 2008 and Long Beach’s own Rose Park Roasters has been roasting in DTLB for nearly two years – it had yet to become home to a third-wave shop until this year.


Third-wave coffee joints are largely described as spaces that use, to the best of their ability, high-quality, sustainable ingredients and treat coffee as a part of the culinary world more than a commodity. Recreational, which took over the space at 237 Long Beach Blvd., opened its doors in October and has since seen a steady stream of caffeine lovers seeking to grab its pour-overs, affogatos and iced coffees that are all sourced from local purveyors.


Shortly following it, a little bit of the Belmont Shore spirit took up shop in DTLB as Aroma di Roma, the Shore’s beloved Italian coffee shop and eatery, officially opened its second location along the ground floor of the repurposed 444 West Ocean Tower. Before you jump to the conclusion that this secondo in Roma’s locales is one that will be bustling with the downtown energy found on Pine, think again. Here, you have a coffee shop nestled away from the traffic on nearby Ocean Blvd., complete with views of Queensway Bridge, outdoor fireplaces, and a clean, white and red aesthetic that is as charming as it is contemporary. Best of all, it’s caffeinated (coffee and lattes alike), it’s sweet (cannoli or gelato, anyone?), and it’s savory (try a breakfast bagel slathered in pesto and Roma tomatoes). Even if your only goal is to become buzzed via caffeine alone (we humbly suggest otherwise because leaving without an exquisite crème croissant is a loss on your part), have no fear: they are the first Long Beach house of caffeination to serve Australian-based Vittoria.


Though disparate in what they offer, DTLB’s small business owners are learning that keeping it as local as possible benefits everyone – whether you’re trying to grab a cup of Joe or looking to dress up for a special event. And in that, the culture of craft will continue to thrive in downtown as long as business owners continue to believe in it.