Carly K Fights for Store’s Survival in Pacific Palisades

By Sue Pascoe

When Carly Kamerman signed a lease in April in the Bowinkel (building at 1017 Swarthmore, she was excited to return to the street where she first opened her clothing store, Carly K, in October 2006. But by the time she moved into the space formerly occupied by Madison, her enthusiasm had turned to anxiety, dread and fear.

Unlike construction projects in other retail areas of Los Angeles, the 1000 block of Swarthmore—a city street—was closed to through traffic (between Sunset and Monument), taking away all street parking.

“I thought they [Caruso Affiliated] were just going to put up barriers on either side of the street like they do at most construction sites,” Kamerman said. The entire Palisades Village site has been fenced off.

Carly Kamerman’s store is impacted by construction. Photo: Bart Bartholomew
Carly Kamerman’s store is impacted by construction.
Photo: Bart Bartholomew

In addition to the parking issue, Kamer- man has had to cope with construction noise, debris-filled trucks and dust as the previous stores on Swarthmore were demolished. Soon, trucks will be hauling dirt for about 10 weeks from the future parking structure site across the street from Carly K. Sidewalk appeal is less than desirable and walk-in traffic almost zero.

Another problem Kamerman faces is the rumor mill and the lack of information that most residents have about her situation. Talking to people and hearing the same questions, over and over again, she finally wrote a letter she can hand out.

Kamerman has a five-year lease, with a five-year option, and plans to stay at 1017 Swarthmore, emphasizing that “This building is not being torn down.” She said she has been offered a space in Caruso’s development once it opens, but if this transpires she would remain in her current space and make the Caruso space a second store.

As a 21-year-old, Kamerman opened her first store, Tabitha Maternity & Baby, at 1047 Swarthmore, next to Village Books. When the adjacent high-end shoe store went out of business, Kamerman expanded into that space. She changed the name of the store to Carly K and switched to ready-to-wear clothing for women and children.

When Caruso Affiliated bought the 116,00-sq. ft. Swarthmore/Sunset property in November 2012, inspectors discovered that the old Emerson-LaMay dry cleaners had contaminated the soil below Kamerman’s stores.

She was given a prime space on Sunset Boulevard (within the eventual Caruso project) in 2014, so that Caruso could begin soil remediation. Her business thrived.

“I love my store, I love my customers,” Kamerman said. “When I opened my store, money was not the goal. I opened it because it was my dream. I made tons of mistakes along the way, but I grew an amazing business.”

Kamerman, like other tenants on Swarthmore, received six weeks of free rent during storm-drain relocation in June. During that time, parking on Swarthmore was iffy, making it more difficult for customers to access shops in the two buildings adjacent to Caruso’s construction wall.

“If Caruso acknowledged it then, I don’t know why he doesn’t help us out now,” said Kamerman, who added that everyone asks her if Caruso is subsidizing her rent. “No,” is her answer.

But Caruso offered to help her by paying to sublet her current space during construction. The company would use it as an office. Even though Kamerman had a no-sublet clause in her lease agreement, she went to her landlord and was told that she couldn’t sublet to Caruso. “I felt thankful that the landlord did not want me to move out. I felt that Caruso’s request was odd and I felt bullied.” Had she been able to sublease her space, Kamerman pointed out, she would have likely been without a store for two years. And, according to Caruso’s Oct. 21 proposal, she would have had to leave in 30 days, missing the holiday season, generally the busiest time of the year for merchants. Kamerman said she emailed her landlord’s response back to Caruso, who replied via email, “We made you a generous offer. Either accept it or reject it. Either way do not email me anymore.”

Kamerman told the News, “I have been a big supporter of this project. I have spoken at every public meeting in favor of it. But they gave me an option I can’t do.”

She’s trying to stay optimistic and find ways she can stay in business. In her letter to customers, she writes, “If you would like to host an event in the store, I would love to donate a percentage of the sales to any charity, school or organization. If you have ideas for events or ways to promote business, I would love to hear anything positive.”

Kamerman is keeping all her options open. The store can be reached at (310) 454-1086.

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