WESTWOOD—Tucked away on the southwest block of Olympic Boulevard and Westwood Boulevard, a local-favorite hides among a slew of mom-and-pop shops, practically daring passers-by to notice it.
You would never confuse Hot Rod with a major retail store. There are no neon lights, no billboards advertising the shop, no television commercials, and that’s the way they'd prefer to have it.
I was able to sit down with Kyle Jordan, the locally-bred store manager, whose experience with the shop dates back to his days at Hamilton High School when he would skate in front of the store after school.
Just like Kyle, most shop regulars have their own unique history with this hidden gem. Hot Rod relies on its customers to spread the word about the shop. In fact, the low profile adds to the aura of being a Hot Rod “insider.” When you wear Hot Rod brand clothing around Los Angeles, you always seem to have someone approach you and ask how you know about the store, as if a well-kept secret of theirs had gotten out.
I first stumbled upon Hot Rod while at UCLA in 2007. After leaving a midnight showing at the Century City AMC Theater with some friends, I took Westwood Blvd. south to catch the 10 freeway at nearly 2AM. My passenger noticed the shop and thought to himself aloud, “That must be the store I’ve been hearing about.” We pulled up next to it and peeked through the windows at walls full of limited edition sneakers and clothes. The following morning, I made my first purchase.
But Hot Rod has been around long before I arrived. In 1995, the doors first opened for what was planned to be a simple skate shop. As the skate culture grew in popularity, larger companies began buying into skate. The large retailers began pushing the small shops out of the industry by offering wider selections.
Hot Rod knew the consumer, however, and knew that there was a certain level of coolness associated with its inconspicuous façade. More importantly, Hot Rod was able to secure the product, and was soon after known as the spot to get the limited edition kicks everyone sought. The shop has grown into a fashion mecca while staying true to its roots. Today, Hot Rod deals shoes, tees, pants, watches, hats, glasses, and even socks, along with skate decks.
Over the last 17 years, Hot Rod has been building its reputation and its inventory in LA. In 2005, Hot Rod began its self-named clothing line. The “LA” and “HR” printed tees are unmistakable and the reason fellow Hot Rodders notice each other in the streets. Not to mention, they are the best-selling items in the store.
The shop has taken advantage of the increased popularity. In fact, this month Hot Rod has planned an in-store appearance from Chester French, a popular indie band. The shop also has in-store art shows every two and a half months. Hot Rod even has special edition skate decks designed by local artists like CANTSTOPGOODBOY, and is recognized by many celebrities.
Those events keep bringing in the shoppers, but nothing
works quite as well as their sales. Hot Rod practically begs for excuses to
have one of their famous 75% Off Everything In The Store sales, and they do
mean everything. From Nike to Vans shoes, Stussy to The Hundreds clothes, you
are bound to find something you love amongst the various brands they carry.
So stop by one of Los Angeles’ best hidden gems, and thank
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