210 East Olympic Boulevard, #202
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Shop directions: Downtown, between Santee Street and Maple Avenue, from Olympic Blvd. to 12th Street
According to Mary Ellen, there’s no better place for honing your bargain hunting skills than Santee Alley, in the garment district in downtown Los Angeles. It’s an actual alley reaching from Olympic to 12th Street, and is home to about 150 stores selling apparel, accessories and gifts.
The area immediately surrounding Santee is also worth exploring. “Park in the district. It’s $4 or $5 for the whole day, and you can walk everywhere and just keep putting your packages in your car,” Mary Ellen says.
Stores catering to certain needs tend to be clustered together. According to the Fashion District’s own map, you’ll find the greatest concentration of kids’ clothes on 12th Street, from Santee to Wall. But Mary Ellen says she’s made some of her best finds on 10th. “Keep your eyes out for a new mall, past Maple, just south of Olympic. It’s all kid’s clothes and it’s all very clean,” she says.
812 Maple Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90014-2281
A common costumer’s trick is to take a simple garment and add trim to make it unique. This works well if you have a boy who wants to affect a rocker look. “We just created a Def Leppard-style jacket on America’s Got Talent by ironing on some silver studs we picked up on Santee,” Mary Ellen notes. Bohemian Crystal is one of the best known outlets for beads and studs. “But down the street, you’ll find more stores with the same quality beads for less,” Mary Ellen notes.
7753 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Hours: Mon-Sat: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday: Noon – 7:30 p.m.
Shoes are another item that kids seem to outgrow at a tremendous pace, and they tend to develop brand preferences at an early age. Mary Ellen buys her girls athletic shoes at Sportie LA in the Fairfax District. “They’re not cheap, but they have everything,” she says.
Decker’s Factory Outlet
4880 Colt Street
Ventura, CA 93003-7730
If you’re willing to drive up to Ventura, real bargains can be found off the beaten path at Decker’s Factory Outlet, which only carries three brands of shoes and can be a little bit risky, because one never knows exactly what they will have in stock. But one of the lines they sell is UGG Australia, and if you happen to come across a style in the size you need, your savings can be significant: A pair of boots I bought my daughter there recently was only $40.
– Donna Schwartz Mills is the creator and blogger of SoCal Mom.