Downtown Ventura: Sea, soul, and shopping
Downtown Ventura: Sea, soul, and shopping
By Tiobe Barron
Ideally situated on California’s Central Coast between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Ventura has long been renowned as a low-key seaside getaway, beloved by the blue collar and rich and famous alike.
“For 30 years I traveled the world as a travel writer – going to some of the nicest places on the planet – and no matter where I was, I couldn’t wait to come home. Yes, Ventura nestles against the sea, but it’s more than geography. The sea is in our bones,” muses Ken McAlpine of Visit Ventura. “It’s part of our history. For a long time, the sea and the Ventura Pier were the main means of commercial comings and goings. But it’s more than that. The sea is also part of our soul. The town and its people move to the same languid beat as the tides, sea breezes sweep our streets, waves rule some of our lives. It’s hard to explain. It’s more of a feeling. But it’s a really fine one that brings a deep-down smile to your face. There’s no place like home, and the folks who live here know it.”
The current downtown corridor was originally home to the city’s Chinatown, but now hosts iconic antique shops, art galleries, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and fabulous eateries. The following are just a tempting taste of what Ventura has to offer.
• Ventura Visitors Center
A great first stop for newcomers, the Ventura Visitors Center will also surprise locals with its wealth of historic information, current promotions, and awesome Ventura merchandise. While you’re there, be sure to pick up a shirt with the official Ventura logo, a genius ambigram that says “Ventura” whether viewed right-side up or upside down!
Although it’s located downtown, the Visitors Center can help you plan your trip or day adventure throughout the entire Ventura area. Get suggestions on where to stay, where to eat, what to do, even how to get out to the Channel Islands just off the coast. Looking for a great RV park, or wedding venue, or LGBTQIA travel spots? The Ventura Visitors Center has you covered.
It’s also a great place to get up-to-date details on pandemic-related changes to business hours.
Ventura Visitors Center is at 101 S. California St. (805) 641-1400; visitventuraca.com
• B. on Main
Expect the unexpected at this bespoke gift shop celebrating its 16th anniversary in 2020.
“We opened five days before Christmas,” remembers proprietor Carol Barcellos. “I sold two stores before I opened this one … I learned a lot from them, that’s kind of where I got my design, organizing in themes.”
When one steps into B. on Main, these themes are prominently on display to help shoppers navigate by interest, from camping and the outdoors, to oceanic and mermaid treasures, culinary arts to jewelry, tin birdhouses shaped like tiny homes on wheels, antiqued glass art bottles, and more. The unique selection of items combined with merchandising wizardry creates a magical shopping experience, transporting one to a scene reminiscent of those films depicting magical toy emporiums or department stores where miracles happen.
“Color and nature are my biggest inspirations,” says Barcellos.
Not to be deterred by these intensely difficult times, B. on Main is offering free local delivery, invoices via Square, and is planning to offer special hours for senior shoppers. “What we’re trying to do is make sure everyone can shop safely,” Barcellos explains.
Check out B. on Main on Facebook or Instagram for their most recent gift sets and up-to-date shop info.
B. on Main is at 446 E. Main St. (805) 643-9309; bonmain.com
• BC West Creek Gallery
Just a short jaunt away from Ventura’s Main Street in nearby Casitas Springs, BC West Creek Gallery takes the hunks of tree flesh that serve utilitarian purposes in our homes, and elevates them to works of art. Gallery president Brett Cunningham was inspired when he realized that many removed trees end up as just firewood; now, salvaged trees are crafted into truly one-of-a-kind pieces, from cutting boards and bookends to the most beautiful lounge chair you could imagine.
BC West Creek Gallery is at 8672 N. Ventura Ave., visits by appointment only
(805) 212-2828; bcwestcreek.com
• For Your Home Furniture
Offering everything from Amish-crafted pieces and sustainable bamboo furnishings, to those colorful and iconic chrome and vinyl styles popular in the 1950s, For Your Home Furniture has something to accommodate everyone’s taste. Whether you need lighting, stowaway beds, office furniture, rugs, decor, or anything in-between, owners and brothers Brian and Kevin Seelos have got you covered.
For Your Home Furniture is at 443 E. Main St. (805) 628-4543; fyhfurn.com
• Latitudes Gallery
High-definition photographic art, largely of coastal scenes from Ventura and Kauai, are on offer at Latitudes Gallery. Artists Stephanie Hogue and Steve Munch aim to capture the awe they witness in nature, from the perfect, glass-like curl of a cerulean blue wave, to the iconic two trees pre-Thomas Fire, to stunning volcanic formations that seem to defy reality. These glimpses of the most beautiful natural scenes are available printed on photo paper, canvas, wrapped canvas, metal, and wood to brighten and enrich your home or workspace.
Latitudes Gallery is at 401 E. Main St. (805) 642-5257; latitudesgallery.com
There are coffee shops, and there is Palermo. It’s part curated gift shop (their selection of children’s books and toys are both sweet and unique), part bakery – and, in more normal years, part local gathering spot. If you find yourself in Downtown Ventura, this is one stop you won’t want to miss. Try the gelato, and thank me later.
Palermo is at 321 E. Main St. (805) 643-3070; palermocoffee.com
• Rumfish y Vino
Okay, hear me out: if Cuba, Ventura, and your local elotero had a baby, the result could be Rumfish y Vino. A local fixture since 2008, Rumfish y Vino offers coastal standards like clams and mussels, but even the standard tuna melt gets a twist with jalapeno and Castelvetrano olives. The Caribbean stew or flatbreads are not to be missed!
Rumfish y Vino is at 34 N. Palm St. (805) 667-9288; rumfishyvinoventura.com
• Very Ventura Gift Shop
Your one-stop shop for all Ventura-themed memorabilia! Whether you’re looking to take home a reminder of your first visit here, or maybe you’re feeling hometown pride after surviving the Thomas Fire, they’ve got you covered. From T-shirts and baseball caps, stickers and faux mermaid tails, jewelry and ornaments, Very Ventura Gift Shop has what you need to commemorate your time in this seaside town.
Very Ventura Gift Shop is at 540 E. Main St. (805) 628-3540; very-ventura.com
• Rocket Fizz
Kitschy automatons (like Zoltar the fortune teller) and arcade games, bacon soda, taffy of every flavor imaginable, lollipops the size of your head, Beeman’s gum, vintage-style lunchboxes, eclectic wall art … channel your inner kid-in-a-candy-store at this smorgasbord of fun and nostalgia! Rocket Fizz is a perfect one-stop shop for stocking stuffers, or a sweet token to brighten someone’s day throughout the year. Delivery is available through Grubhub, Postmates, etc.
Rocket Fizz is at 315 E. Main St. (805) 641-1222; rocketfizz.com
Peirano’s is an authentic Italian restaurant, market, and deli located at the west of Main Street. They also offer breakfast on weekends, and lunches, dinners, catering, and meals to go every day except Monday.
The Peirano’s Market is located in a historic building across the street from the Mission San Buenaventura. The red brick structure was built in 1877, has gorgeous brickwork with a fantastic mural on the side, and a stunning Spanish revival tile roof.
Peirano’s prides itself on using ingredients that honor where they came from. Enjoy a variety of seasonal offerings, from fennel sausage sandwiches to pistachio pesto pasta. Or come for some local wine and a charcuterie board, and sit on the terrazza as you take in the sunset.
Hours vary; closed on Mondays.
Peirano’s Market is at 204 E. Main St. (805) 628-9028; peiranosmarket.com