“The past is a foreign country,” author L.P. Hartley famously wrote in his book The Go-Between. Perhaps that’s why we hold on to the postcards…
I was driving up our beloved CA 27, listening to canyon musician Jordan Wainer’s recently released collection of songs, Maybe It’s a Circle, when alongside the road, amidst the wild mustard seed and fennel, the most beautiful delight sprung like a poppy: Alkemie Road Mobile Shoppe. Its warm wood and vibrant windows summoned me to pull over and explore this beaming curiosity with a great hand carved wooden barn owl for a sliding door.
Alkemie Road, quite literally, was dreamed of before being realized. Dara Gerson and her husband Ashley Lowengrub manifested it, pivoting with their jewelry business. Alkemie Jewelry uses only reclaimed and recycled materials. Their pieces feel ethereal and strong, part homage, part reflection and study.
Traveling to trade shows in New York the past few years, Dara and Ashley began to notice less buyers for retailers in attendance and felt the landscape of shopping shift seismically with the growth of e-commerce and mobile commerce, shopping on mobile phones, as well as pop-up shops. Dara dreamed of Alkemie Road after a day at one of these grueling trade shows and that dream evolved into the mobile shoppe: online AND on four wheels—a 16’ x 8’ flatbed Isuzu, to be exact.
For two years they collected various reclaimed materials: stained glass church windows over 100 years old; for the exterior, douglas fir from the 1920’s from a torn down building; and they personally designed a four-foot-wide round hand-made stained glass kaleidoscope sun.
Tegan Bukowski, one of Zaha Hadid’s designers from her firm in London, developed the initial rendering of the shop and Topanga master builder Chuck Breshears helped them design and build it, working off of Tegan’s 3D rendering, in their backyard at their home on Old Topanga Canyon Blvd. Their beloved pop-up events took place at the historic Malibu Pier for the last two years, “before the world changed.”
Entrepreneurs are resilient. They are collaborative by very nature and as members of this community and consumers it is up to us to take part in exploring new ways of supporting local businesses any way we can, even if it’s simply sharing their business with a friend. I asked Dara and Ashley more about Alkemie Road with keen interest in the local brands they carry, as well as charities and causes those brands support.
Tell me about the feature most dear to you on Alkemie Road:
“Our favorite craftsman feature includes the two stained glass church windows dating over 100 years old that we restored and framed in iron for our two rear doors. We designed the whole shoppe around these special eight foot tall windows.”
What are some philanthropic endeavors our Alkemie Jewelry supports?
“Donations to SEVA Foundation, which provide sight saving surgery, glasses and eye care services to more than 40 million people in underserved countries.
“We have also donated our jewelry designs to the Manzanita School in Topanga, Topanga Elementary School and Save the Children, funds for families affected by cancer, Camp Winnarainbow for Underprivileged Children, and pretty much anybody that hits us up with a cause that we resonate with who needs help raising money.”
What are some of the plans you have for the future?
“We recently just returned to the canyon where we have set up outdoor curbside shopping. One guest at a time can enter into our sacred shoppe space. We are currently popping up every Saturday and Sunday 275 N.Topanga 11ish-4ish, until the Malibu Pier reopens.”
The local companies and brands Alkemie Road represents include:
Rituel Beauty: Skincare line that supports organic farmers and regenerative practices. Gives 1% of sales to 1% for the Planet, a global movement inspiring businesses and individuals to support environmental solutions through everyday action.
Foria: All natural and organic intimacy, relief, and wellness essentials. Foria offers discounts for military, first responders, teachers and medical professionals, and the company supports the Audre Lorde Project and Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Wild Love Apothecary: Supports regenerative agriculture and operates The Gaia School of Healing and Earth Education.
Nineteen Candles: Exclusively uses non-GMO soy wax, repurposed vintage stoneware containers, packaging is made of recycled material, and all of their labels are printed locally on vintage letterpress machines.
Melissa Flynn Macrame: Stewarded the ‘Imagine’ collaboration with Topanga Canyon Elementary 1st Graders and the Topanga Canyon Gallery. She also supports the Hope Street Family Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Sunchild: Works with recycled silks and provides economic support for families in Goa and India.
You can find more about Alkemie Road at @alkemieroad @alkemiejewelry