Vintage On Venice: A Store That Reminds One of Home
Local and Global Antiques and Collectibles All In One Space
Where do you go when you crave the beautiful and the quirky and you want to immerse yourself in another era? If you're an art lover you could go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or if you're a fashionista the Helms Design District Vintage Boutique, but if you're an antique collector Vintage On Venice in Mar Vista, California is the perfect place to go. Accessible to those new to the collecting game and veterans alike, owner Marti Milakovich, has created a shop that's both an asset to the community and a welcome respite to those new to the area.
Sharing the street with El Agave Restaurant Oaxaquiero, All About Color Hair and Skin Spa, Robison Beautilities-Costume Rentals and Beauty Supplies, meche Children's Clothing Boutique, Well Baby Center, a kid's place preschool, Sam Johnson's Book Shop, Soaptopia, Earl's Gourmet Grub Restaurant Venice Grind Restaurant, Venice On Venice exudes the same off-beat vibe.
"Even though the store started as a dream in the back of my head I knew I wanted to find a location that was local and close to where I live," Marti remembers.
One Sunday, when she and her husband were visiting the Grandview Farmer's Market they saw that 12218 Venice Blvd. was being vacated, and loved the spot. Located in a building that was originally built in 1926, after she moved in she and her husband came up with the name Vintage On Venice because it's catchy and fits the area. Marti's husband also created the yellow and red logo and V On V title on her business card and commissioned a mural artist to paint the store's name on the front window.
Personally this stretch of Venice Blvd., from Inglewood to Centinela, is one of my favorites because it's a very pleasant place to walk and unwind. I usually go there whenever I go to the Mar Vista Public Library, and wander around or eat breakfast or lunch at The Curious Palate, Pepy's Galley, Sunny Grill or Mitsuwa Marketplace. It was on one of my walks there that I noticed Vintage On Venice for the first time. Arranged with a sure hand and a stellar eye their outdoor display stopped me in my tracks because it was pure poetry. It was so flawless and picturesque it was like looking at an exquisite photograph in a decorating magazine. I just had to meet the owner and find out how she'd achieved such splendor.
On the morning I interviewed Marti, at a table in the back of her 1,000 square foot store, I was pleasantly surprised that she was gracious, down-to-earth and the personification of a knowledgeable antiques dealer and collector. Tall, with shoulder-length brown hair, and clad in a gorgeous pink print dress, her appearance was stylish, sophisticated and fun. A veteran stewardess, who currently works for Delta Airlines, where she's been for 23 years, she previously worked for Pan Am for 12 years.
"I grew up and went to public school in Whittier, California before attending U C Santa Barbara where I got a B.A. in Art History. I'm not a studio artist, I was more interested in ancient art history and archaeology," she said.
Overall her family life was pleasant, and she remembers that even though her mother was a professional artist and her father was a business man, her upbringing was "pretty liberal".
"I have two older brothers and we enjoyed going to Newport Beach, California and camping at various national parks around the U.S. on family vacations," she said.
Known for her oils, and later her watercolors, Marti's mother "did a lot of different types of paintings," and was one of her first role models.
"It was her love of art that influenced me," she said.
Painting wasn't the only thing her mother was known for, she was also a talented interior decorator, who Marti claims "was always changing things around and redecorating our home." When you look at how seamlessly all of the displays flow together, in her store, it's easy to see that she was surrounded by a well-edited environment from an early age. She particularly remembers her mother "using a lot of color".
Among the large plethora of items available, when I was there for the interview, were two stunning floral paintings created by her mother. Lush and vibrant they stood out and caught my eye immediately. More striking than eclectic I felt the way she incorporated the two canvases behind a pair of African figurines and other objects was quite comforting and unique. There was a relaxed, laid-back air to the display I hated to admit was only temporary until the right buyer came along and dismantled it.
For a lot of collectors they usually remember what their first collectible was, where they bought it, and how much it cost. Marti's no different.
"I was 15 years old and visiting my friend for the summer in London in the 1970s, and I went to my first flea market Portobello Road and bought a Rolling Stone t-shirt for $2," she said. "It was my first collectible, and I remember being so happy when I brought it back to the U.S., after buying it."
In college she met another person who influenced her life, an Italian professor, who described art and archaeology so well he made her want to travel and see it for herself.
"I did participate in several archaeological digs, as a student, and was also an exchange student," she said. "When I saw the combination of older things and modern things it increased my interest in antiques."
While on a dig in Egypt she also went to their Khan El Kahlil bazaar and later the Grand bazaar in Istanbul, where they had 4,000 shops indoors and out including a spice market.
"The bazaars and shops increased my interest in global antiques too," she said.
After graduating from UCSB, Marti spent a "gap year" in Europe and worked in a Migros market in Switzerland before coming back to the U.S. and confronting a crossroads, where she asked herself, "Do I become a museum curator or an interior decorator or do I get a job that will allow me to travel the world."
She decided to get a job and subsequently became a stewardess for Pan Am. On a trip to New Delhi, India her appreciation for vintage first hit and became a lifelong passion.
"I was drawn to the textures there," she said.
That mixture of finds, from textiles from South America to Vera scarves and vintage children's clothing, all arranged in one space as if they were connected by similar design elements is one of the things that really makes Vintage On Vintage a special experience. It's not unusual to see original Pan Am flight bags, bought at a flea market in Sydney, Australia, and Native American memorabilia on the same day you visit along with beaded purses and decorative bracelets.
"We get in all types of collectors, small groups of serious collectors looking for specific things to a casual collector," she said. "At times they want to collect memorabilia because of a recent historical event, such as John F. Kennedy's assassination. We did a display window for the 50th anniversary of his death," she said.
Madmen, the AMC T.V. show set in the 1960s, has also brought in customers interested in Mid-century furnishings. Luckily Marti's prices are moderate and fair enough for most budgets, making it easy for most collectors to shop at her store on a regular basis. Throughout her 10 months as a store owner she knows the best way to shop is to "buy what she likes" and share it with others.
"I get to enjoy the merchandise when it's in the store then I can let them go to someone else can enjoy them," she said.
Besides hearing about Vintage On Venice through word-of-mouth, you can also find it listed in Reece's Antique and Retro Shopper's Map Vintage Los Angeles, the Mar Vista Business Association Guide, their website, www.vintageonvenice.com, their Facebook page, Etsy and Instagram.
"An unexpected pleasure of owning this shop is that I've gotten to meet more people in the time I've had it than in the 20 years I've lived here," she said.
Vintage On Venice: 12218 Venice Blvd., L.A., CA. 90066. (310) 302-7537. email@example.com. Open Wed.-Sat. (11 a.m.-6 p.m.) and Sun. (9 a.m.- 3 p.m.). Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Sip and Shop: Every third Thursday get-together for customers that's advertised on Instagram and Facebook.