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Monday, Sep 25, 2023


SHELLY GARCIA Staff Reporter Tania Naimi-Yazdi wasn’t exactly on a nostalgia kick when she decided to stock her in-mall kiosks with inflatable furniture, jewelry made of hemp, lava lamps and black lights. In fact, she hadn’t even been born the first time these items were popular. “I wasn’t there,” says 26-year-old Naimi-Yazdi about the decade that spawned much of the merchandise carried on her carts. “I just know that kids really like it.” Since she opened her first kiosk, Funkytown, in the Topanga Plaza mall in Canoga Park last year, Naimi-Yazdi has added two additional outlets at the Northridge Plaza mall and The Oak in Thousand Oaks. She also recently launched a second kiosk called Lizard Lounge. Funkytown, with its inflatable sofas and chairs decorated with ’60s motifs, peace-sign necklaces, bracelets made from guitar strings and rhinestone hairclips in butterfly designs, appeals to a younger, “innocent,” customer, Naimi-Yazdi says. Lizard Lounge, which sells a selection of body jewelry, silver ball-and-chain bracelets, black light and candles in psychedelic tones, is geared to an “older crowd.” Either way, says Marla Koosed, director of leasing for the small kiosks and movable carts that line the pedestrian walkways at Topanga Plaza mall, “these stores are doing gangbusters.” Naimi-Yazdi, who started up her company after graduating from Cal State Northridge with a major in psychology and a minor in business, says she isn’t quite sure of her firm’s revenues because she has been continually adding to the number of outlets since she opened. But she does know that she has paid back the $15,000 to $20,000 she borrowed from her friends and family to start the business, she’s meeting the payroll for a staff of about 20 employees, mostly part-timers, and she’s looking at opening two additional kiosks by Christmas. So far, she has worked largely by instinct. Her first idea a reminder shop where customers could sign up to receive reminders of birthdays and other occasions for friends and relatives bombed after the first week, and Naimi-Yazdi closed it. She figured that when people come to the mall, they want something they can take home and play with, so she began researching the type of merchandise she wanted to carry. After scouring the gift shows in L.A., New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, Naimi-Yazdi put together an assortment of wares that “would attract attention,” she said. “I fell into this (merchandise) because I really like it.” Naimi-Yazdi may not have realized it at the time, but her selection of ’60s fashion and d & #233;cor was at the cutting edge of an important trend. Unlike previous generations that rebelled against their parents’ lifestyles, so-called echo-boomers, the children of the baby boom generation, are fond of the styles embraced by their elders. “You hear kids saying, ‘old school is real cool,’ ” said J.L. Sullivan, editor of California Apparel News, a trade magazine for the fashion industry. That has created a renewed interest in fashions from a number of different decades. At the same time, body piercing and other accessories popularized by rock stars and rappers are finding a broader audience than the street-wise, urban kids who first adopted the look. “She’s on trend with inflatable furniture and hemp jewelry,” said Richard Leonard, vice president of the Zandl Group, a New York-based marketing consulting firm that specializes in the youth market. “And body piercing has been growing steadily.” Body jewelry, long available in trendy shopping districts like Venice Beach, has been scarce in suburbia. Large retailers are unable to stock many of these items because buyers for these stores require longer lead times, and often can’t take advantage of fads that may not last more than six months. So suburban kids, who shop almost exclusively at malls, have been hungry for outlets to buy such items as belly-button rings. “She’s recognized that the typical suburban teen doesn’t have access to trendy, urban stores, and this is an alternative,” Leonard said. Naimi-Yazdi learned the hard way that her concept doesn’t do well outside suburban areas like parts of the Valley. She quickly closed a kiosk in Santa Monica Place because the young people were hanging out at the Third Street Promenade, and the tourists shopping the mall were too old for Funkytown’s merchandise. But her suburban clientele are no less selective just because they are limited in their options for shopping. “You’ve got to keep going for that new item,” Naimi-Yazdi said. Right now, her best sellers are guitar-string bracelets, inflatable furniture, black lights and baskets decorated with butterflies. She figures that the assortments she now carries will remain in style for another six months or a year. After that, she expects to revise her stock, although she admits that she doesn’t know what the next trend will be. The next outlets, a second Lizard Lounge opening in coming weeks in Thousand Oaks and a new Funkytown at a site she hasn’t yet selected in Orange County, will stick to familiar territory. “I’m just trying to make sure I find the right location,” she says.

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