If the first thing you think about when you think of Venice Beach is Abbot Kinney, then you have no idea about the real Venice. You hear it everywhere, Venice has changed. Abbot Kinney is no longer what it once was, and there’s no denying that. The locals have evolved, they’re not hanging out on Abbot Kinney anymore. Sure they go there for a cup of coffee, an occasional stroll, possibly a meal, and from time to time a pair of glasses (trust me I know). But gone are the five-hour Abbot Kinney hangout sessions. What once was, “Let’s meet on Abbot Kinney,” has become, “I don’t care where we go out, just not Abbot Kinney.” So what’s the point you ask? The point is that locals haven’t left. The real ones are still here and they aren’t going anywhere. The landscape of hot spots has just evolved. The daytime watering holes have moved a few blocks, just down the street, just over there, as the Mexicans say, alliM. Lunch meetings happen on Rose or Lincoln. Coffee talk happens on Pacific and Brooks. There’s a little find here and a little find there. The Venice map is littered with treasure chests in all directions.
This leads me to General Admission, a new combination coffee shop and curated art, menswear, surfboard and event gallery space located at 52 Brooks. Before I go any further, let’s call it a “soon to be combination coffee shop,” and (currently) lifestyle gallery focusing on storytelling through events and content. If this were a Facebook page, their relationship status might be “it’s complicated.” The City of Los Angeles is really messing up my write-up here with their damn permitting. Anyways, here’s why General Admission matters: GA is for the community by the community. Their monthly events have highlighted legendary Venice local surfboard shaper Guy Okazaki as well as the 70s photography of Akira Kobayashi (you can check out two great GA produced videos on their website for the full story). They have put together an exclusive assortment of goods, most of which can only be found at their store; most notably, their house label, General Admission, which is all sourced and manufactured in Los Angeles. The team is comprised of local residents, locals in the true sense of the word, but in all fairness mostly South Africans who are deeply fond of Venice and everything it stands for. Instead of continuing to tell the story on their behalf, I sat down with Owner & Founder Gavin Dogan for a little GA lesson in his own words.
What inspired you to open GA? I grew up in the fashion industry. My parents had a clothing manufacturing business in South Africa. Growing up in that environment inspired me to create something similar of my own. I knew early on that just making clothes for other brands or retailers wasn’t enough for me. I’ve always wanted to create a brand of my own. I wanted to create something with more passion behind it. What really triggered me to start General Admission was my first trip to Japan two years ago. I was really inspired by the hidden neighborhood style shops there. Shops that almost felt completely integrated with the community in some respect.
When did you start creating the concept for GA? After my trip from Japan I assembled a team of friends in my garage to start talking about the idea. We would meet weekly over a couple bottles of whiskey to brainstorm names, ideas, locations, etc. After several months we finally came up with the name and concept and we were lucky enough to find a really special building and location that would allow us to communicate our vision seamlessly.
Who is General Admission? The General Admission team was formed quite organically, like it always seems to go in Venice. Dooma heads up our marketing and is basically my brother from childhood. We’ve been surfing together for 20 years. Stick worked in graphics and production at my last company and we formed a special bond there. Omer, our store manager, went to FIDM with Stick. Holly and Dooma have been working together at Stab magazine for years. And last but not least, there’s Ralph, who just so happened to own the building and was also South African. That shared background really created a bond between us and a partnership was born. First and foremost, GA is a family of locals with backgrounds in fashion, surf, skate, and most importantly storytelling.
What is the concept? Essentially, General Admission is a combined coffee shop and menswear focused store curating a variety of collections from apparel, shoes, art, surfboards, lifestyle goods, and of course coffee. To us, General Admission is not just a store, it’s an integrated space within the community that will hopefully bring a diverse array of creative people together. We plan on using the space to tell really interesting stories about the people from the communities that inspire us. The second part of General Admission is our in-house label. We are manufacturing our own line of clothing that is all made in Los Angeles. The collection is influenced by California’s modern man who wants to dress well but doesn’t want to look or feel overdressed.
What’s your favorite part about Venice? Specifically your location… Our space, being 52 Brooks...is the mediator between what we call the Old Venice (boardwalk) and the New Venice (Abbot Kinney). We wanted to make sure we had a space that was isolated where we could create a destination. My favorite part about Venice used to be Abbot Kinney about 5 years ago. It was really a dope place to be and hangout. Unfortunately, it’s become a little played out. For me personally, I’m all about the backstreet areas around Venice that are more local and less touristy. I love riding my bike on Speedway where I occasionally high five a drug addict or a homeless person.