Turn one corner on North Fuller Avenue in Los Angeles, which is full of quiet residential houses, and a new world emerges, with more than 300 shops selling jewelry, inking tattoos and serving trendy coffee.
One of those shops has racks of clothing that depict a variety of figures, from iconic pop culture icons to the Rolling Stones and the Wicked Witch of the West.
Surrounded by electric blue lighting and standing by a doorway painted with an eagle is Dominic Anaya, who has been selling his collection of vintage T-shirts for the past decade on one of LA’s most recognized avenues—Melrose.
For about half a century, Melrose has been a thriving shopping hub for independent businesses. Spanning 14 blocks between La Cienega and La Brea boulevards, Anaya and other shop owners are shaping the culture of Los Angeles.
“I used to drive down here on the strip and think, ‘One day, I’m going to have a store here. One day I’m going to figure it out,’” he said.
Anaya, 27, was born in La Puente, California. Before owning a premium vintage clothing storefront and selling at Melrose Trading Post, he grew up visiting Melrose with his mom.
Anaya began his business journey at 13, working with his dad, who inspired his passion for clothing. They had a brand called Impressve, which grew to be successful in a short period of time.
“What’s crazy is that it skyrocketed,” Anaya said. “In a matter of six more months, we went to Tillys, PacSun, Foot Locker.”
When Anaya was around 16, he started planning his own brand, Due Date Studios.
“We have been everywhere for a while until I was 16, and that’s when I started this,” Anaya said. “I grew up and evolved, and I was like, ‘You know what, I think it’s time for me to come out the place and make my own thing.”
Anaya also credits his mother, who pushed him to pursue his dreams.
“She taught me to keep going,” Anaya said. “Through all the hard times that I had, I had to keep going. There is not always a good sunny day in business.”
Before opening his shop, Anaya began the way many self-made entrepreneurs do, through the Melrose Trading Post.
Located at Fairfax High School, just off Melrose Avenue, the self-proclaimed “favorite flea market” of LA takes place on Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s there that a community of sellers come together to share their creations, including furniture, plants, soap and unique clothes.
Anaya’s mom used to buy furniture at Melrose Trading Post, where she made friends with a woman who sold to her. This is where Anaya was introduced to the idea of selling at the Trading Post.
Prior to owning his spot, Anaya would stand next to the lady who sold furniture and sell his clothing.
“I would take my backpack full of T-shirts,” Anaya said. “And I would go to the Trading Post and start selling it to people as they walked by. And I would get super ignored.”
Their friend then urged him to start selling in the booth behind her, despite this not being allowed. He shared that she was reassuring that they would figure it out.
“The following Sunday I went,” Anaya said. “I bought a canopy, table and a clothing rack. I just put myself there.”
Despite the challenges of being a new seller, Anaya never gave up working his way to his own store on Melrose.
He partnered with a friend who shared the same aspiration, so they launched a business together.
“We had the same goal to be out here in Melrose,” Anaya said. “So we figured it out. Our goal was to actually rent out a U-haul truck and sell stuff on the street.”
Due Date Studios was born in 2018. Anaya said that Melrose has helped expand his brand because of the connections he was able to make.
“This place is like a dot connector, anybody can walk in,” Anaya said. “This past weekend, this singer Kali Uchis came in. I helped her out and she bought a T-shirt, anybody could walk in.”
Anaya is one of many over the years who have realized that the best place for his vision is this strip of shops.
Corrie Sommers, a luxury realtor who works extensively in the area, said that Melrose is a one-of-a-kind.
“Melrose being one of the most well-known recognized streets in Los Angeles is always going to make it a landmark,” Sommers said.
It all began in 1909. Melrose Avenue took its name from a town in Massachusetts, which lies outside of Boston.
Sommer said that it wasn’t until the 1980s when Melrose Avenue began to evolve into what it became today thanks to a new wave of punk culture that swept through the city, attracting a number of people and celebrities.
“At that time, there was punk culture popping up,” Sommers said. “It was so eclectic. When you go to Melrose, you’ll still find at least one store that caters to that punkish style.”
Melrose’s location keeps the area busy with both tourists and locals.
“You’re close to The Grove, West Hollywood,” Sommers said. “If you’re a tourist you can hit all the spots, you’re not far from Sunset or Hollywood Boulevard.”
The avenue also has many buildings that are painted with murals.
Sommers said that Melrose has been able to keep the area consistently trendy.
“Somebody was really wise to take advantage of the sides of buildings that were blank slates and doing a little bit more with them,” Sommers said. “For example, there are a couple of buildings that have painted wings where people go take photos. People literally go there just for their selfies.”
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop Melrose from being a lively place. Sommers said because of its reputation, it will never lose its iconic value.
“Post-pandemic, a lot of people have suffered,” Sommers said. “But there is this special draw with Melrose that keeps it going. It’s so well-known that it’s always going to be that.”
Alongside keeping Melrose in fashion, Sommers added that fair price points and great sales keep attracting a diverse group of people.
Hannah Martin lives an hour from LA but still chooses to come to Melrose to shop for exclusive clothing.
“It’s a lot of unique pieces. You’re not going to see any of this stuff in stores,” Martin said. “A lot of the artists here make stuff to make people step into themselves. I drove out here for this.”
Morgan Cooper, who owns gift store Highland Shop, moved from New York to LA with his partner. When looking for an area to start his business, it was the community that drew him to Melrose.
“Melrose was our vibe. There’s people who are from all different backgrounds and ethnicities,” Cooper said. “People from all over the city were coming here.”
For Anaya, it is those characteristics that keep him running his store there.
“When I was growing up, it was always the dream lane to be at Melrose,” Anaya said. “Streetwear is here. Everybody comes here to get a piece instead of just buying clothes at the mall. Melrose is for connecting to people.”
Anaya continues to work toward bettering his clothing, while also building his status as time goes on.
“I hope to be the guy where you can find a cool shirt,” Anaya said. “That’s what I see vintage as. It’s not just a T-shirt from the old ’90s or the ‘80s or early 2000s.”
It is LA and Melrose that have given his life a foundation.
“Being in LA, it’s the city of dreams,” Anaya said. “Never give up on your dreams, never agree to the naysayers, and never think you can’t connect the dots. Give it time, everything will come.”