I am excited to present to you the third installment in my Neighborhood Spotlight series – a series which highlights neighborhoods across the southland according to the people who live in them. Great for natives, great for visitors. Get to know some of the special spots in your own backyard, courtesy of the people who live there! Allow yourself to go on vacation for a day without packing a bag or going through airport security.
Let’s get started with my third
Neighborhood Spotlight: Claremont!
My hostess for the day was my cousin Barbara. Barbara is, in a word, joyful. She is probably one of the easiest people (I know) to be around. She is a lover of life and lives her life with inspiring authenticity.
Barbara makes beautiful mosaics…we have two heart mosaics on our hearth, one I use in my office as a door-stop, and we have one in our bird bath outside. They are really unique and a stunning array and combination of colors.
Barb grew up in southern California, too, east of where I grew up Pasadena. My dad’s side of the family lives in or around Glendora, so Barb offered to show me around Claremont, where, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’d never been. Eeek. Better late than never, as they say. Claremont is on the eastern edge of LA County, about 30 miles east of downtown LA. It is known as a “foothill” city, as it sits at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the San Gabriel Valley.
The Claremont Colleges are here in Claremont. Most people have heard of Claremont for its colleges: Pomona College (the founding member of the Claremont Colleges,) Scripps (a women’s college) Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer College (part of the SAT optional movement).
You may not know that Claremont has many beautiful tree-lined streets and lots historic buildings. It’s acquired a well deserved nickname, “The City of Trees and PhDs”.
Claremont is also referred to as “a bit of New England with a sombrero.” This is referring to two things: the forbearers of Pomona College founded it in “the New England style,” reflecting their New England heritage, and the first (known) inhabitants of the area were the Serrano Indians. The Serrano Indians lived mostly in the San Bernardino Mountains, east into the Mojave Desert, and the southern Tehachapi Mountains.The Santa Fe Railroad came along in the late 1800s and brought forth the initial creation of the community we now know as. Claremont.
Like many places across the southland, Claremont was at one time the home of a burgeoning citrus industry but the railway shut down and the groves slowly disappeared. Pomona College and the five sister colleges were established in the 1900s, putting Claremont on the proverbial “educational map” and Claremont grew bigger. After World War II, the population increased. Industrial and residential growth in the LA area, plus newly built highways also contributed to this.
Our first stop was lunch. We went to one of my cousin’s favorite places, Petiscos. The two guys that own this place also own The Back Abbey and Union on Yale, more great, fun choices for when you’re hungry and in Claremont. Petiscos is in an old rail ticket building (and the second oldest building in Claremont.) And it’s C U T E. It’s very casual and meant for a quick bite. Or drink…they have beer and wine, too.
There is (only) a cute patio in the back with picnic tables and old-school lunch boxes that contain napkins, forks, etc.
They have fantastic tacos (made with “house-made tortillas,) sandwiches, and a few “plates,” including my favorito, street corn!
After lunch, we walked around. Claremont is really charming. And interesting. Like this place: the Folk Music Center.
It is a museum and a store. It was established in 1958. Their mission is to offer the public an opportunity to”look, touch and play experience with instruments from all over the world.” I am not a musician nor do I play an instrument, but I could spend a lot of time in this place.
And there is also a Rhino Records here in Claremont!
There are also a lot of fun shops along these pretty tree-lined streets. We popped into Barbara Cheatley’s, who by-the-way is one of the cutest and most chic women around.
She reminds me of Iris Apfel, but much younger and much prettier. And of course, being the aspiring photographer that I am, the photos I took of her didn’t turn out. 😔 But you can see her here. Better for you to just to visit her in her precious shop though. Especially around the holidays, when it is a big bonanza of holiday goodness (as is much of Claremont)!
Barbara has been in business for over 40 years! She sells all sorts of things, from soaps, lotions and linens (as you see above) to books, vases, lamps, jewelry, and vintage items. In addition to a wide collection of “wantables” (stuff you really, really want) the collection if very beautifully merchandised.
Next we popped into the Cheese Cave.
Oh, Nelly! (Or is is WHOAH, Nelly?!) This place is fantastic. They have two locations: Claremont and Grand Central Market downtown.
Cheese Cave is a full-service cut-to-order cheese shop, family owned and operated. In addition to cheese, they have boutique wines, handmade local beers, artisan salumi, chocolates, honey, olives, and crackers. They also have fun events. On March 18th, as part of the Claremont Pie Festival, They will be at I LIKE PIE (see below) for an Apple Pie and Cheddar Pairing Session. YUM and HOW FUN!
And they even have the SQIRL jams!!!
Next place worth popping into is Some Crust Bakery.
This bakery has been Claremont’s Bakery for over 100 years. Only stop in if you’re interested in quality, hand-made baked goods.
Some Crust Bakery, to my delight, has a full menu of sandwiches and egg sliders, as well as cupcakes, cakes, and special desserts such as cream puffs, éclairs, fresh fruit tarts and chocolate tortes. Allegedly, it’s haunted, too! Even better! 👻
Another of my cousin’s favorites is Rio de Ojas. Their unique assortment is a combination of locally made, international, and certified fair trade pieces, made by people who have integrity and passion for what they do and create. Many makers support local schools and orphanages and Rio de Ojas supports “Ma and Pa” companies with quality ingredients and committed philosophies. They also vigorously support local artists, including students selling their own work to support local schools.
Rio de Ojas was stablished in 1981 as a…wait for it…hair salon! After some time the retail section of the hair salon grew. Their shop used to be in a small house on outskirts of what is now “The Village” but in 2010 they moved, changed their name and look, and completely embraced who they really were and what they really loved. A lesson for all of us, wouldn’t you say?
This is a beautifully merchandised feast for the eyes, full of an eclectic collection of items for you and your home, all with an emphasis on latin culture (lots of fantastic Mexican Folk Art). They have a variety of things, ranging from jewelry, purses and scarves to wall hangings, candles, Día de los Muertos (and dreidles)! They carry fun, colorful and unique pieces of furniture, gourmet goods and cookware, pottery, and seasonal holiday items. And you can still get your hair cut and then shop your guts up. Or vice versa.
We then headed over to the historic Packing House. This used to be the city’s “agricultural champion” and it’s growers founded the state’s first agricultural co-op (the College Heights Orange and Lemon Association).
They built this packing house in 1922 and from it shipped their citrus all over the world, with the beautiful commercial art labels on the crates. Their citrus even reached Queen Victoria’s dinner table! (Well, this is the story anyway, but it’s a good one, so I’m sticking to it.)
Highways came along (as they do, for better or for worse) and many orchards were cut down in order to make room for housing. In 1972, College Heights closed its doors and the Packing House began its decline and fell into a state of disrepair. Eventually the City of Claremont bought the building in order to save it and the restoration was completed in 2007. Many of the historic features were preserved (like the three-story tall sawtooth skylights) and now the Packing House is home to lofts, offices, galleries, boutiques, restaurants and a variety of entertainment venues. Check out Huell Howser’s episode about the building in this episode from California’s Gold and PBS.
The Packing House has a lot to offer. You’ll find Eureka Burger, Crêpes de Paris, Packing House Wine Merchants, Flappers Comedy Club, and The Whisper House (tavern style dining featuring Prohibition era–inspired drinks). There is also Á La Minute ice cream featuring fresh local ingredients from surrounding communities and Augie’s Coffee Roaster to go with your ice cream.
For crafty folks, there’s Phebie’s Needle Art, a full-service yarn store specializing in yarns from around the world. They also have beads and Brazilian Embroidery supplies. There is the Circus Studio, a fully equipped Aerial Circus, Pole Dance, and Pilates studio, Claremont Chef’s Academy (classes for kids and adults) and Studio Claremont (art classes for kids and adults).
There is also the Claremont Forum & Prison Library Project.The Prison Library Project is really interesting. Their mission is to provide free reading materials to inmates nationwide. They recognize the value of literacy development through active engagement with books in general. Makes sense to me.
We made our way out of the Packing House and then into this adorable courtyard. On one side of the courtyard is I Like Pie. They offer individually-sized, sweet and savory pies. They are made daily (from all natural ingredients) and there are gluten-free choices every day and vegan items Friday through Sunday. They serve Intelligentsia coffee and Dr. Bob’s handcrafted ice cream with their pies.
Right now, some of what they’re offering includes Winter Berry, Banana Split and Coconut Cream. Mini pies are under $3.00. Some of their savory pies include Mushroom, Spinach and Swiss Potato and the ever-favorite, Chicken Pot Pie. Individual savory pies run about $11.00.
They also have hand pies! I love hand pies!
We walked a little further and came to a couple of other restaurants that I mentioned above, owned by the Petisco’s guys.
Union on Yale has a lot of outdoor seating and a bocce court!
The Back Abbey has a selection of over one hundred and ten different beers from around the world, including twenty-eight beers on tap (and a full menu). They serve burgers, sandwiches (po’ boy, etc.), charcuterie, pretzels…things like that.
If I was going to stay in Claremont, I’d probably stay here, at Hotel Casa 425. This is a Four Sister’s Inn. I’ve stayed at some of their other properties up north, in the Napa/Sonoma area and would highly recommend them. This place looks very chic, but not stuffy. They describe themselves as “Modern Luxury In Historic Claremont Village.” I prefer boutique hotels, which this is and it has a “lounge” that opens up onto a courtyard. Right up my alley!
Recap Neighborhood Spotlight – Claremont:
- Petiscos – delicious quite lunch (tacos!)
- Folk Music Center – music store and museum
- Barbara Cheatley’s – fun shopping for all sorts of thing
- Cheese Cave – cut to order cheese shop with lots of special delectables
- Some Crust Bakery – handmade baked goods, sandwiches, egg sliders
- Rio de Ojas – latin focussed furniture, home goods, collectibles and knick-knacks
- Packing House – all sorts of shops (coffee, maker’s space, restaurants, comedy club, etc)
- Union on Yale – great outdoor dining with boccee court
- The Back Abbey – gastropub type restaurant with lots and lots of beers
- Hotel Casa 425 – boutique hotel with a great lounge
PS – The next Neighborhood Spotlight is on Calabasas! Stay tuned…