Travel Diary: The LAB Anti-Mall

Greetings from Santa Ana! It may sound like I’m far away from home, but it’s actually just under two hours drive from San Diego. Roan and I are staying here from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening since he’s attending a 2-day training/seminar in the South Coast area. I decided to join Roan on this trip to get a chance to explore around the city while he does what he came here for.

Can you make out the word ‘HOPE’ in the wall art? Roan saw it before I did!

How awesome is this map of the LAB?

Last night, after attending the sixth day of Simbang Gabi at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, we decided to check out The LAB Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa. In spite of a very quick trip, we did research on things-to-do and places-to-see around here, and the strangely-named establishment caught our attention.

She’s got everything she needs / She’s an artist, she don’t look back —Bob Dylan

The LAB, which means “Little American Business” and oftentimes referred to as the “anti-mall,” is exactly that. The LAB was established in 1993 and was built mostly from recycled materials. Its target market is the generation-in-between, trying to embody what it’s like in the 90s. Think MTV-watching generation. It is not your typical mall with mainstream retailers, though you will find Urban Outfitters by the entrance. Hipster. Speaking of which, I purposely edited these photos to give off such vibe. It’s working, isn’t it?

For someone who isn’t a fan of crowded places, I could only wish there’s a similar suburban establishment in San Diego (or is there already?). The grungy, underground atmosphere appeals to me, especially the hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants. More often than not, what they offer are so much better than commercialized ones. In addition to this, I love supporting small or lesser-known businesses that deserve to be in the spotlight.

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