Open image in lightbox
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Gift Shop, Assistance League of San Pedro-South Bay Holiday Boutique and L.A. Maritime Museum Gift Shop (photos: John Mattera Photography)
Photo collection of Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Gift Shop, Assistance League of San Pedro-South Bay Holiday Boutique and L.A. Maritime Museum Gift Shop (photos: John Mattera Photography)

This holiday season, we’re highlighting three local gift shops that are hidden gems in the community. Whether you’re looking for that perfect present, a special token of appreciation, something for the kids, or just want a little retail therapy, discover what these unique shops have to offer, and how your purchase goes towards a good cause.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Gift Shop 3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
Hours: Tues – Sun, 10:30a – 5:15p (310) 548-8394 Instagram: @shopcabrillo

The term ‘gift shop’ doesn’t quite adequately describe this shopping destination. Adjacent to San Pedro’s beloved Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, this boutique is full of unique items for everyone on your Christmas list.

The CMA Gift Shop’s inventory is meticulously cultivated by a staff of dedicated employees, led by gift shop manager, Susan McKenna. McKenna truly has a keen eye for interesting and specialty items that you can’t find anywhere else. The newly refurbished shop’s overall feel is inviting and on the pulse of what’s trending and eye catching.

One seasonal portion of the shop worth highlighting is their massive selection of ornaments. In fact, an entire wall is dedicated to these elegant items. Each one gorgeous, eye catching, inspired by sea life, and reasonably priced, ranging from $2.50 to $30.
Going to a holiday party and in need of a hostess gift? The CMA Gift Shop has plenty of fun finds, from pretty tea cloths and hand towels, to aquatic look-ing bar tools. Another special item is the shop’s selection of paper goods. The shop also stocks greeting cards from around the world, as well as stationary.

The shop also has a large selection of interesting books, with subjects ranging from nature photography, information on local landscapes, and an awesome selection of books for kids. Also, for young minds, the shop carries activity sets, puzzles, and other educational toys. A gift card or the gift of a CMA membership also makes a great stocking stuffer. Members save 15% on all Gift Shop purchases.

All proceeds from the shop go directly to programs funded by the Friends of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, including educational programs, field trip transportation, and assistance to the CMA staff and scientists.
“Along with finding beautiful mementos and things that will remind you of our precious oceans and sea life, your purchases contribute to and support CMA programs,” says McKenna.

L.A. Maritime Museum Gift Shop Berth 84
Hours: Tues – Sun, 10a – 4:30p (310) 548-7618

Stepping into the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Gift Shop, aka “The Old Sea Chest,” is definitely a treasure trove! Carrying a variety of nautically themed items, this gift shop certainly has plenty of unique items on deck. “People enjoy shopping here because it’s fun to discover gifts that you don’t find in every store,” says Marifrances Trivelli, Museum Director.

Serving as an extension of the museum, many of the items featured in store are intended for shoppers to learn something or reinforce something interesting that you can find within one of the existing exhibits. An example of a unique item available in-store are brass compasses. Trivelli describes her personal favorite item, saying, “They are functional, beautiful, traditional, and do not take up much space. They remind people that sailors years ago did not have a GPS, you relied on things like compasses to find your way.”

Another eye-catching find, perfect for holiday gifting is the shop’s selection of abalone jewelry. Conscious and ethically made, these stunning pieces come in a variety of styles, includes necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

The shop also features many different home items that both San Pedrans and visitors to our port town would enjoy, including wind chimes made from re-cycled materials, led lanterns, beautiful glass floats, clocks, and barware.

Do you have a history buff on your gift list? Check out the shop’s selection of nautical books, featuring the works of local writers and historians. They even have an additional selection of used books for great prices!

In addition to adorable plush toys, pick up something for the kids, including replica historical documents and currency, monkey fist knot necklaces handmade by a local sailor, and an official Los Angles Maritime Museum harmonica, which comes complete with seven songs of the sea (only $10!).

All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, and members save 10% on all purchases.

“Shopping here means you are doing two great things at once,” explains Trivelli. “First, you are finding a memorable gift for someone special in your life. And also, all of the proceeds from the shop directly support the museum in areas like new exhibits, caring for the artifacts, and programming.” She adds, “When you shop here, it is a true community benefit.”

Assistance League of San Pedro 1441 W. 8th St.
Hours: M–F, 10a – 5p; Sat, 11a – 3p (310) 832-8355

If you’re not already in the holiday spirit, then you definitely should place a visit to our local Assistance League. The volunteers are friendly and helpful, and their Annual Holiday Boutique is really something special.

This annual event is highly popular for both Assistance League volunteers, as well as the local community, and preparations begin well before the holiday season. “We start buying for this event in January,” says Joy Reed, gift shop commissioner. Needless to say, this is a big deal.

Going on now through December 31, the boutique offers everything Christmas. Their selection of décor is stunning and eye-catching, from large reindeer, to beautiful ornaments for your tree. “Our selection of holiday decor is always unique, and includes items you don’t see in other boutiques,” Reed says proudly.

There’re also mainstays of the gift shop that are always popular with shoppers, including a wide selection of greeting cards, clothing and accessories, consignment items, and even See’s Candy!

Led by Judy Hildebrand, president of the Assistance League of San Pedro-South Bay, this dedicated non-profit is the oldest chapter (almost 83 years), as well as has the only volunteer-run post office in the country. Proceeds from all sales go to support the League’s many philanthropic programs, including Operation School Bell, which helps young students in need shop for clothing and items needed for school, and the Francis J. Johnson Dental Center, which is located above the gift shop.

“The Gift Shop and Holiday Boutique is shopping for a cause,” says Reed.

“You support our philanthropic programs, and we try to thank our customers for their support.”

photo of Caitlyn Piercy

Caitlyn Piercy

Associate Editor, San Pedro Today