Wednesday, February 17, 2010


You really can't help but to be drawn into the bright shop on Abbot Kinney that is Zingara. It's a "Gypsy Emporium", and that is the perfect name for it (in fact, Zingara IS Italian for "gypsy"). Especially if you've ever strolled by on First Fridays and heard the band that plays on the porch (and now in the backyard because people get uptight about silly stuff), The Petrojvic Blasting Company. They are all straight up Gypsy Balkan Folk jams, and even have a Gypsy Caravan they brought over from Europe, that for now is living in Zingara's backyard.

Donna Humphrey grew up in L.A., and lives in Venice. She used to have an Espresso Bar in Culver City and then sold that to open what would become Zingara on the Boardwalk. She had her booth down at the beach for 6 months (and loved it - besides the moving everything in and out every day), until she found the little cottage on Abbot Kinney (formerly The Goddess) where her lovely store now resides.

Her Grandma on her Mother's side was a gypsy, and Donna was always drawn to that Bohemian, International eclectic vibe that one conjures up with the word "gypsy". It shows in both her decor and her merchandise. Brightly colored everything beckons to you from the sidewalk. Once inside the door, you're not sure what to look at first, it's all so fun and interesting. Her criteria for what she wants in her store are basically these three things: Authentic (no mass produced schlock). Fair Trade (very important. nothing from a dang sweat shop). Handcrafted (the more local, the better). It's a little like taking a trip around the world in there, and you can tell by the quality of everything, that Donna sticks to her guns about her basic business tenets.

Of these things, the one that I covet most is the custom ordered (of a million color and finish swatch possibilities) Clog Boots by Sven (of Minnesota, y'all!). I want the boots, but you can get them in normal clogs, different heights, furry stuff inside or not, and in honestly every color - even metallics - of the spectrum. Dope. And good for your posture.

The kid room is precious, filled with hand-knit sweaters from South America, little clogs, darling tights, fun shoes, little embroidered tunics, and whimsical little toys from all over the place. You can doll up your little one, while feeling pretty decent that you supported an actual artisan that was paid a decent wage.

There is a transformed bathroom/showroom full of aquatic themed ornaments and trinkets, and a kitchen with decorations and vintage aprons to present to a fun hostess.

Donna accepts items from local craftspeople and designers, and there is fun evidence of that all around, from jewelry to hats and gloves, and clothes re-fashioned and made new again from vintage pieces. Meaning one of a kind, and we all like to not look like everyone else, I hope.

When I asked Donna how she finds all the goods, she said, "Actually, things find me." I like that. And I like the Ulf Andersson dresses, the real Espadrilles from Spain (on sale!), the Masai beaded sandals from Kenya, the sweater with an Airstream trailer printed on cashmere, the plastic floor mats from Thailand that look like rugs, the Papal Picado - punched paper art from Mexico that adorns the whole store (see, you also learn things while there!), and again ... those sirens of my shoe world, the Sven clog boots.

Donna loves the COMMUNITY of Venice, and said that those who move in and don't get it, usually leave. True. She opens her store for First Fridays Fun every time (with that great band AND S'mores!), but also has that big, lovely backyard that she's open to having as a community meeting place, for non-profits, parties, etc ... and share the warmth that her entire space exudes. She's the Chairwoman of the Abbot Kinney Fest this year too, and informed me, which I didn't exactly know, that the Festival ITSELF is a non-profit. All the profits from that blast of a day go back to the community through a Grant process that local organizations can apply for ... ALL in Venice. In talking about that fact, Donna said, "This is Venice."

For Donna, Venice is also the ocean and the beach, the local Mountains (which she adores), and the Canal Club Happy Hour, all of which I will concur with. So maybe throw on something colorful from Zingara, ride your bike down to the beach for sunset, and wind up at the Canal Club for a Happy Hour mango margarita (or your own poison), and imagine yourself a real Gypsy. A Venice Gypsy.

1507 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

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