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Meet Lori Webster of Hoopla! An Emporium Of Good Things in Altadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lori Webster.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The Webster family has been retailing in Altadena since 1926, when H. Frank Webster bought a pharmacy on Lake Avenue in Altadena and founded Webster’s Of Altadena. He purchased the liquor store next door when it became available, and got through Prohibition by selling medicinal liquor. After his untimely death in the late 1940s, his wife took over and hired Frank Wiegel, who had helped Henry Ford develop his assembly line and improve productivity. During that time, the store expanded from the pharmacy and liquor store to include a gift and toy shop, an office and art supply store, and later on, a video sales and rental store.

Bill Webster, son of the founder and my husband’s father, ran the shopping center until 2007, when he sold the departments as separate, standalone businesses to family members. By this time, both multi-national discount chains and online discount retailers had taken their toll on the family business. My husband and I purchased the office and art supply store from the family corporation, and transformed it into a boutique that specializes in sourcing our products from the local artisanal community. We carry products that range from pens and paper products (a holdover from our stationery days), to gourmet foods and metaphysical items, such as crystals, tarot decks, essential oils, and smudging tools. We also carry a great many locally authored books.

The family corporation ended up selling the property our store sat on for so many years back in December of 2013, so we ended up moving to our present location in February of 2014.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely has not been smooth. The Webster’s stores were a throw-back to general stores of yesteryear and the shoppers found them charming. In the 1960s, my father-in-law interconnected all the stores together, and you could walk from one end to the other without having to go outside. An entire generation had grown up with the stores the way there were. When the stores were sold, walls went up in between the formerly connected stores, and our shoppers didn’t like it. They didn’t understand that it was for insurance reasons and inventory control. It took a very long time for the public to accept the changes, and even then it was rough going. Rumors flew that my father-in-law had passed away and the “kids” were fighting over the “spoils”. It would’ve helped if he had gone public with what was happening, but he never did. We had people calling, swearing that my father-in-law had died, they’d gone to his funeral, darn it, and why were we all fighting? We were told that we were a disgrace to the community, have been cussed out, even spit at.

Please tell us about Hoopla! An Emporium of Good Things.
We specialize in buying locally sourced merchandise. We promote area artists, from fine art to jewelry, to stationery, books, food, tea and coffee, and décor. We offer fair trade products (jewelry, accessories, scarves, décor), have private mailboxes for rent, and provide UPS services. We are active in our artistic community, and have a founding role in Open Studios Alta/Pasa/Dena, a bi-annual roving art tour. We support Christmas Tree Lane, a local nonprofit by selling their products year ’round and giving them the proceeds.

What sets us apart is our attention to customer service, our free gift wrap, discounts for repeat customers, and our commitment to our artistic community.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I have many, but celebrating holidays with our family is what I remember fondly.

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3 Comments

  1. Laura Monteros

    April 4, 2017 at 00:53

    Hoopla! is my favorite Altadena store. Lori and Scott are great to chat with, and their merchandise is so unusual. Nice article!

  2. Lori Webster

    April 4, 2017 at 20:24

    Scott and I would like to express our thanks for this lovely article.

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