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Lindsay Kennedy

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Melrose Avenue Is Not Dead

Posted: 10/08/10 06:41 PM ET

The story "Melrose Avenue loses trend-setting cachet" in last month's LA Times business section presented a pretty bleak picture of the current state of Melrose Avenue business. The storyline: empty storefronts lead to fewer customers, which lead to more empty storefronts. Set that spiral against the backdrop of a prolonged economic downturn and it's got all the makings of a real tragedy. And so the curtain falls on the Times story with a decidedly un-Hollywood ending. Local ABC and NBC news stations followed suit.

Of course the story doesn't actually end here. The historical narrative of Melrose has always been one of adaptation, reinvention, and evolution. For more than three decades, Melrose has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to transform itself anew for every generation of Angelenos. It has done so by welcoming the original, supporting the independent, and offering exciting alternatives to the corporate-owned chains and the monotony of the shopping malls. As a merchant district, Melrose Avenue grew from the dreams of ambitious entrepreneurs.

Today, Melrose Avenue stands as one of the longest and most famous stretches of independently owned and operated retailers in the world. Consequently, it does not weather the regular economic downturn of the business cycle in the same way commercial enterprises such as The Grove, The Beverly Center or Third Street Promenade do, nor does it adapt as quickly as smaller independent shopping areas like West Third Street, Los Feliz or Abbot Kinney.

Look beyond the "For Lease" signs and you will discover that the newest evolution of Melrose is already under way. Long-term stakeholders like The Groundlings, l.a.Eyeworks, Angeli Caffe and Sportie LA have shown continued dedication to the ebb and flow of Melrose Avenue since the 1980's. These and other seed businesses have inspired a number of exciting new businesses to set up shop on the centrally located, world-renowned, historic core of Melrose Avenue.

The entrepreneurial spirit can be found right now, and stories of success can be told today on Melrose Avenue between Fairfax and La Brea. Today's representatives of the original Melrose spirit are made up of vintage clothing store owners, local and international designers, accessory makers, collectible shop owners, hair salons, tattoo studios, and a custom motorcycle builder. Add to this diverse and eclectic mix a recent surge of community supported, locally driven restaurants and cafes, and what you begin to see emerging is a more complete picture of what Melrose Avenue is all about: original, independent, alternative.

For many years Melrose Avenue has enjoyed the fame and fortune that comes with being one of the brightest stars in this city. The Times' cursory glance-over and ominous forecast for the avenue suggests that suddenly and inexplicably that star has fallen from the sky. We would suggest that the brightest star is in fact still shining around the temporary eclipse of "For Lease" signs featured in the news of late. We are steadfast that these empty storefronts will fill again and that the next era of Melrose merchants will join the current thriving business core to make the avenue and the community an even greater place to live, work and play. And if you are an ambitious, forward-thinking, 'glass half-full' kind of entrepreneur and you're ready to convert your passion in to a business opportunity, then come to Melrose and shape the future of our beloved destination.