Happy Pride 2021•
Posted on June 02 2021
As we celebrate Pride this year, I want to share a little about what Pride means to me and why I opened Brick & Mortar over 15 years ago.
Growing up in conservative Orange County I was sad and alone; I was sure that I didn’t belong and that there was no one like me (until I discovered West Hollywood). For me, the only redeeming quality of the OC was its proximity to West Hollywood, and I frequently made the trip to feel safe and meet other LGBTQ+ people. This was the first place where I felt connected to a wider community.
When I turned 18 I moved to WeHo and lived there for about 10 years before opening Brick & Mortar. I would be on Santa Monica Blvd for dinner or drinks with friends almost every night of the week. I was always bothered that there weren’t more cute, trendy shops - you know, the kind that line the streets of The Castro or in P-Town – so I decided that I wanted to open a place of my own, despite having never been a business owner. I was scrappy and saved some money to open in the humblest of locations (which has since been torn down to make way for luxury condos). The 300 sq/ft space wasn’t how I hoped to debut, but hard work and a group of great friends helped make it a really great space. Owning a small business without loans or backing is incredibly difficult, but I was lucky it really resonated with the neighborhood.
Eventually the location I was obsessed with became available and I took a risk to take the leap into a bigger shop. I love the space, a historic building that used to be Douglas Fairbanks Studio offices in the 1920s. I could have never imagined taking these risks without believing in a community and having a connection to something that's bigger than me. To me, community is feeling connected to those around you, and our store’s identity comes from a sense that we share common interests and have had similar struggles as the people who shop there. I can’t tell you how many friends I made because I met them at the shop; I even met my husband there in 2012.
As I reflect on Pride month, I am proud to serve the LGBTQ+ community, support small LGBTQ+ owned brands, hire LGBTQ+ staff members, champion LGBTQ+ causes, and celebrate queer culture. I’ve also seen my community and my city change over the past fifteen years. In that time, we marched in the streets for those who died from AIDS, marched against H8, then again for marriage equality. Last year we marched in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, which signaled a shift in my relationship with West Hollywood. It was too clear that the feeling of belonging and community that West Hollywood provided me wasn’t universal, especially for BIPOC and trans people who never felt at home in West Hollywood. We need to make sure that our city, and our community, live up to the values we expect from a progressive LGBTQ+ community. As West Hollywood grapples with its own history, and how Pride will fit into the city’s identity, Brick & Mortar will continue to evolve and hold inclusion as a core value. We’ve changed over the past fifteen years, and we welcome change in the years to come, but we will always be there to make West Hollywood a little gayer. Here’s to being part of the LGBTQ+ community for many more years!