When I first came to Venice Beach, before I ever moved to LA, I remember a store on the boardwalk called Ocean Blue. It had such cool stuff, mermaids with wings, flying high above my head, colorful painted wood framed mirrors in the shape of a sun, the smell of incense and candles burning. Back in the 90’s I would buy gifts for my NYC friends there, at Ocean Blue, to bring back to the East Coast.
I recently met the owner of Ocean Blue, Larry Gutin who told me a bit about his story and the store and how long it has been in his family. Back in 1978, his father had started a T-Shirt business on the beach. Since his parents were divorced, Larry lived full time with his mother in NY but would spend the summers in LA with his Dad. In 1982 Larry’s older brother Jeff, took it over. Back in those days, Venice Beach had stalls that you could rent and sell your wares. Then in 1983 Larry moved to LA and worked while he went to college.
Then in 1990, Larry Gutin traveled to Indonesia. He fell in love with Bali and the beautiful arts and crafts made there. Larry shipped some merchandise back to his brother Jeff, to see if it would sell. It was indeed a huge hit in Venice and Larry continued to bring beautiful items from Bali to sell at Ocean Blue. Silver Jewelry was added to the product line at Ocean Blue. His brother Jeff decided to retire from the business, leaving Larry as the chief in command.
Despite the economy of recent years, Ocean Blue has stuck it out with the help of the Venice community’s support. Ocean Blue consistently offers wonderful products and art pieces at great prices and will continue to do so.
Larry still travels to Bali, Lombok, and Java, all in Indonesia where he brings back unique and wondrous merchandise. Woodwork, jewelry, stone carvings and ceramics, costume jewelry comes from the Philippines and Thailand. The shell work and costume jewelry come from the Philippines as well as more jewelry from Thailand. China provides beautiful ceramics, glasswork and aromatherapy products. Ocean Blue carries incense from India, China, Japan, Tibet and Nepal. Also singing bowls, finger cymbals and tapestries are imported from India and Nepal. Sterling silver comes straight from Thailand, Bali, India, Hong Kong, Italy, Korea and Nepal. Lead crystal arrives from Egypt and Europe as well as so many gorgeous additional items from all over the world. Ocean Blue also hand makes their own line of oil dipped incense sticks and cones along with high quality body oils all (can worn or burned) in 44 fragrances.
When asked why he has continued the business, Larry explains, “Everyday I meet smiling tourists from all over the world. I was raised practicing Conservative Judaism. I had a strong upbringing in religious beliefs. As I get older I have seen many different places and have realized that there are many walks of life. I try to balance myself as best as possible and consider myself a spiritual being with a twist of Brooklyn and Judaism mixed in. This is why the store takes on a form of spirituality through my products. From this, my concept of life, Ocean Blue is born. The store is a direct metamorphosis of me and my environment.”
Larry’s younger brother Steve now works at Ocean Blue, keeping the family commitment to the business and the community of Venice. Gutin’s love of art has also influenced his choices of what is appropriate for Ocean Blue. Larry Gutin is actively supporting local artists and Ocean Blue has, and will continue to participate in the Venice Art Crawl featuring local artists each month at their store. For more information about Ocean Blue, see www.shopoceanblue.com.