Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Port O'Call Gifts and Antiques, 388 South Lake Avenue, Historic "Oak Knoll" South Lake Shopping District

In 1957, Mary Elizabeth Colby co-founded with her husband Port O'Call Gifts and Antiques in a tiny gray bungalow on Granite Drive in Pasadena, also soon including a larger bungalow located at 388 South Lake Avenue. The shop complex offered contemporary California gifts and crafts and European gifts and antiques, and later clothing. It was a remarkable institution which lasted from 1957 through 200?, when the property was sold and the bungalow at 388 South Lake was demolished and replaced with a modern non-descript stucco box which now houses a realtor.

I remember the buyer coming to American Express on South Lake Avenue and purchasing British Pound denominated Travelers Cheques to go on annual buying trips. The Port O'Call shop complex always had unusual treasures, both contemporary and antique, from the entire world. Such an unusual and upscale shopping experience is sorely missed on South Lake, just as Gump's Luggage, I. Magnin, Hall's Jewelers and Bullocks are missing from the once high end exclusive "Oak Knoll" South Lake Shopping District.

There are remains of Port O'Call behind the businesses on Granite and South Lake, Ghost signs showing the way to the dearly departed destination. I found a gift box from Port O'Call recently, with the tasteful Tarot Card design covering, just as with their gift bags, and containing a piece of Meissen German porcelain, a beautiful pheasant. What a nice gift!

Here is an article from the Los Angeles Times in January 19, 2008, about Mary Elizabeth Colby, co-founder of the Port O'Call chain of gift stores: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/19/local/me-colby19

What will become of bricks and mortar shopping? Will the exclusive "Oak Knoll" South Lake Shopping District ever come back? Please share your memories of shopping on Lake Avenue in Pasadena....