Hint number one that I was beginning to turn Californian turned up on a late January morning at around 9:15 a.m. I had been in Los Angeles for just over eight days and I found myself putting on a jacket to go out and get my coffee. A jacket to ward off the cold. It was 68 degrees outside.
Hint number two came a few minutes later. As I walked to the coffee shop, an out-of-towner asked me where Ralph's was. To my dismay, I knew that the answer was not, 'Ralph who?' but rather, 'Just around the corner.' Two days earlier I may have been thinking 'Ralph Macchio?' but by now I knew Ralph's was the grocery store. https://skateszone.com/how-to-clean-skateboard-bearings/
The final blow came at around 4 p.m. on that same day. I entered the Sport Chalet store off of La Cienega Boulevard, which was a short jaunt from where I was crashing at my friends', Claire and Andy's, apartment. The store had surf clothes and skate shoes on display, but what did I do? I left with a ski outfit.
Granted, I got a sweet deal. The outfit was a gift for my niece, Megan, and it was just over $50 for toddler-sized jacket, pants and mittens by Black Diamond. But it still left me feeling kind of confused. After all, what kind of New Yorker buys a ski outfit when it is 80 degrees out and they are in California?
It turns Out that the Sport Chalet experience was the final blow. Two days later, I hopped a plane out of Los Angeles, and I haven't looked back since.
Of course the real reason I didn't exit the store rocking a Roxy hoodie and some killer skate shoes was because nothing in there appealed to me. This Sport Chalet location did have a range of female-specific skate and surf apparel from O'Neill, Roxy and the like. And it did feature a token wall of skate shoes. But the selection of skate and surf-inspired gear was not as varied as I had expected it to be. This store really had no attention-grabbing action sports product.
Of course, had I been a true West Coaster, I would have already known that the super trendy stuff is at the board shops. Sporting goods stores, even "better" ones such as this, offer up a different level of merch than do their specialty brethren. Compared to an East Coast big box chain, the selection was off the hook, but as far as California goes, it was nothing special.
That's not to say the store did not have a lot to offer in other areas. Located on the upper level of the Beverly Connection mall, Sport Chalet actually occupies two separate storefronts that are located directly across from one another in the mall's front foyer. One store houses ski and snowboard gear, the other a full-line sporting goods store.
Neither storefront housed any junk. Every product was in what I would term medium to high-end range. There were $400 Marmot sleeping bags in the camping section and $500 snowboards across the hall. Every aspect of sport was represented in the store, from camping, golf, tennis and team sports to active lifestyle and the aforementioned action sports category. https://skateszone.com/how-to-hang-a-skateboard-on-the-wall/
There was plenty of staff help to go around, as well. I counted more than a dozen employees on the floor, probably double the number of customers in the store. The staff was friendly, but not pushy or aggressive. They may have been too nice, if that is possible. When I asked if the store stocked infant or toddler sneakers, one employee shook his head no and then suggested I try the Foot Locker across the street. Nothing would be more like New York than that, I thought to myself, as visions of the Foot Locker-dotted map of my home turf in Manhattan danced in my head.
But in mid-reverie I spotted a rack of Black Diamond toddler clothes that looked like a perfect fit for my sister's little future shredder. I grabbed a red fleece jacket and baggy black fleece pants, both made with Maiden Mills polar fleece, and both reasonably priced at $19.99 apiece. I topped the outfit off with black fleece mittens for $9.99, and headed for the cash register, satisfied that little Megan would soon be decked out in the most killer gear of any 16 month old on the East Coast.