After the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, it was hard to not feel like once again it was OK to discriminate against queer people. It’s easy to feel hopeless in this political climate, like all we are doing is taking hit after hit, assault after assault. But we aren’t hopeless, and there are ways we can fight back and support our community. One of the things I decided to do was start seeking out local queer-owned businesses on the “East Side” of L.A. where I could spend my dollars.
It’s often hard to know which big companies support us, which have fought to limit our rights and which seem to be doing both. Sometimes it feels impossible to know which choices are the right ones.
But I’ve compiled this list of a few amazing queer-owned businesses in Los Angeles. I encourage you to go out, walk around your town, look for those queer business owners who want to support you and show them some love!
I had a great time meeting some amazing people while working on this story. It’s easy to forget that we are all together in this fight for equality. It’s also easy to forget there are some really good people out there, trying to live their lives as openly and as honestly as they can.
Support our community by patronizing these 5 queer-owned businesses in Los Angeles:
One of my favorite queer-owned businesses in L.A. is Spellbound Sky, located on busy Santa Monica Boulevard just west of the city’s Sunset Junction. The shop sells crystals, aroma therapy, jewelry and magick potions to help you on your path to happiness and success.
The energy in this shop is amazing. The front window displays a giant white unicorn and a flashing silver disco ball. There are life-sized posters of Elvira in the bathroom. The staff is friendly and queer and loves to talk to you about the power and intent behind their stones and potions.
Owners and partners Mark Phillips and Martin Anquiano (above) have a strong belief in the power of manifesting their own reality, believing it is their destiny to create a space filled with love and magick and happiness. They definitely succeeded.
This little gem of a shop (pictured at top) is located in the back courtyard behind the Muddy Paw Coffee Company. Hank Jenkins’ shop focusses on stylish, artistic, designed plants for your house and garden.
“Growing up as a person of color and different in a small backwoods town led me to seek refuge in plants,” Jenkins tells me. “I felt I was an alien lost in the wilderness and plants soothed me.”
“As a QPOC, I feel visibility is important,” he says. “When I opened my doors I began to meet queer people who either worked and/or lived in my community. My philosophy is to support those who support me, develop trust, create safe spaces for everyone and create commerce that is accessible to everyone. Visibility can strengthen our community and show others that we live, work and play just as others do. A strong community creates a vibrant, successful place where anyone can positively thrive.”
Americano is a hybrid between a brand design studio and an advertising agency, and its founder, Charlie Poulson (above), has a solid history in PR and design. Making the decision to break out of heteronormative corporate America and create a queer and trans-run studio of his own was the next logical step for this young entrepreneur.
“Americano is unique because our composition of a primarily trans/queer team is unheard of, and it’s the first of its kind in both the design studio and advertising agency hemispheres,” Poulson tells me. “But I’m not here saying ‘hire us because we’re queer.’ I’m saying, ‘You want us because our lived experiences translate to a new wave of design, non-traditional thinking and smarter moves in marketing and advertising a brand.'”
Being trans and a successful business owner — and not falling into the stereotypes of what it means to be trans or queer — is the most radical thing we as a community can do.
Folklore is a barber shop and salon owned by queer trans person of color Pony Lee that specializes its services to those on the LGBTQIA spectrum and their allies. Folklore feels a lot like the gay Cheers. The staff is super-friendly and excited to work with you to feel comfortable in who you are and how you portray that to others. Inside you will hear vintage tunes layered with the sound of clippers and scissors, and the conversations of people sharing their queer experience.
“Folklore is a space where all folks are welcome and celebrated through hair.” Pony tells me. “Within our community visibility is very important, and Folklore provides one component of this. Anybody can walk in and get the haircut they’ve always wanted, without stylist bias being imposed on the guest’s presentation. As being seen and heard starts within our own community, all of our guests are addressed by the name and pronoun they identify with.”
L.A.G. Vintage is the perfect queer-owned business for all your vintage clothing needs. Owners and partners Arron Mendoza and Ben Phen take great pride in the choices they provide to their customers. In addition to their brick-and-mortar store, you can often find their pop-up at Eagle L.A., Akbar and other queer nightlife venues.
“We started out as stylists. Then we got a space on the side for our own fun and to have a safe space for friends to hang out as well as to showcase our favorite vintage items,” says Phen. “People would come over, play dress-up, hang out after-hours and between going to the gay bars on the East Side. It was the beginning of a really great community. During that time in 2012 there was a string of violence against the gay community in the area, and I was attacked in a hate crime. The shop was a refuge for people as we hosted awareness events and came together as a queer community.”
L.A.G. Vintage is more than a boutique, though. “We continue hosting queer art, music, comedy and social events and really make it a space beyond retail,” Phen says. “Our shop is a place of queer community for all, and a gathering point outside of just the bars. That’s essential to who we are and a natural cornerstone of our concept.”
These are just a few of the many queer-owned businesses in L.A. Stop in and say hi and you’ll be amazed at how friendly the world can be, and in this strange and often dark political climate, that can be an incredible thing to remember.