Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Bohemia – Alive and Well on Abbot Kinney Blvd.

By CJ Gronner

Bohemian Exchange is a uniquely great store on Abbot Kinney, that is – get this – a non-profit store. Meaning, proceeds from items you buy there go to non-profit organizations like Heal The Bay, The Sierra Club, Tree People, The Surfrider Foundation, and the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). How cool is that?

Tired of shopping on Abbot Kinney and finding dresses that were 75% off and still $750, Deborah knew that she wanted to do clothes, and she wanted to be on Abbot Kinney. Timing and luck joined forces to enable Deborah to open Bohemian Exhange at 1358 Abbot Kinney, right next to the Liquor Store and across from Abbot’s Habit, right in the heart of all the action.

The shop is lovely, filled to the brim with clothing treasures, jewelry and accessories of all kinds, and Deborah’s two cats, Truffles and Kallisti, watching over the whole scenario.

Proprietress Deborah Lashever, born and mostly raised in L.A.(with a 10 year stint in Hawaii as a kid), has a background in fundraising for charities, mostly environmental ones. With the economy suffering as it has been, non-profits are hurting badly right now, and really need our help. Knowing this, Deborah decided to open a clothing store, specializing in new items from local designers and artisans, as well as accessories from Fair Trade organizations and select vintage and donate to the groups listed above. When the block has gotten so fancy and high-priced in most stores, it is truly a pleasure to find a spot that has its heart in the right place. You can feel good about your purchase, knowing that you got a cute dress AND helped out a local designer, and the planet a little bit too.

Deborah and I were chatting one day, and she made a really good point that non-profits are pretty much the only way to get real information these days. You can’t trust mainstream media, so when you want to get to the bottom of a certain topic, it makes sense to go to the sources that advocate for themselves, right? So that makes it all the more important to keep these organizations alive and thriving in every little way we can.

Deborah always had the philosophy that it was cooler when buying gifts to get things that were unique and awesome from a local designer rather than something that everyone else around will be wearing. In the beginning, she started accumulating a whole bunch of vintage clothes and would go to Street Fairs and various Festivals to sell her treasures, always for charity. When she came up with the idea to have a store for non-profits, she looked at the business model of Discovery Shops and Out Of The Closet, and went for it. Once bills are paid, 100% of the profits go to her chosen organizations, and get split up based on where the need is greatest.

Since Deborah opened her doors two years ago, the shop has evolved and blossomed. After seeing that she could help small designers get their designs seen on Abbot Kinney (and how much this helped them get noticed) she decided to go more local designer, less vintage. She swears she’ll always have her “vintage rack in back” so customers that prefer vintage can always find a treasure or two.

Deborah is accepting new, bohemian clothing designers and artists (call her first to make an appointment), so if you are a local designer, artist, or know an amazing one, get in touch! It helps the designer, the shop, customers, and you’ll know that the sales will benefit the community we all love. As non-profits are struggling, so too are small designers, shops and, of course, everyday people.

Community – there’s that word again. And it came up a lot while talking with Deborah, when we agreed that Community is exactly WHY Venice is so special. You can feel it, if you’ve lived here even just a little while, and it’s why Deborah says Venice is her favorite place in all the world. We spoke about the sunsets lately, and how really we should all stop what we’re doing at that time of the day and go down to the beach and watch it. Every day. Doing that, and knowing that you just got a fresh hat at Bohemian Exchange, and that the money you spent went to help preserve the ocean you’re staring out at, I suspect will make the experience even sweeter.

I liked it when Deborah said she starts each day by thinking, “I wonder what magic is going to happen today?”, reminding herself to be open and look for it. It can appear in so many forms, especially here in Venice, so if you start every day thinking like that, your life can’t help but be pretty magical.

Bohemian Exchange has also gotten into hosting fun events at the store … First Friday parties, Trunk Shows, and packed to the rafters Fashion Shows (the last one we couldn’t even squeeze in the front door!), the next one being this coming up April 1 with local bohemian designer, Crow’s Cloth.

As Deborah also said, “It’s time to give back. We’ve done the selfish, taking thing, and it didn’t work. It’s time to give.” So stop in, say hi to the cats, give Deborah a thumbs up, and find a treasure for yourself or a friend (But not the blue hooded cape. I want that). You can know that you’ve done some small thing to help improve the world. OUR world. b