Exploring the City with Girlfriends – Tenzin Imports

A place to go with your girlfriends - Tenzin Imports

For many Los Angeles natives the Fashion District in downtown is where you can get twelve pairs of socks in one bag on the cheap or T-Shirts with your favorite sports team printed on the front.  Looking for an inexpensive suit?  Perhaps an evening gown?  Or are hot pants more your style?  Store after store may offer a variety of clothing options none too dissimilar from the next--until you come across one you thought lost its way en route to Melrose: Tenzin Imports.



Tenzin Imports is a store my friend thought I would enjoy located in Santee Alley, the "Alley" as it is known.  I hadn't been to the Fashion District in years but I still knew what to expect.  Retail stores occupy ground floors of beautiful old textile buildings erected circa the 1920s and 30s, when companies sold a high volume of textiles to a rapidly growing city.  Sewing rooms tower overhead continuing to turn out textiles today but at quieter pace, their windows propped open to let in the busy air of downtown Los Angeles.

Santee Alley is located in downtown Los Angeles between Santee Street and Maple Avenue, from Olympic Boulevard to 12th Street.  It wasn't open to the public until the 1970’s when wholesalers decided to open their doors on Saturdays to sell overruns of shirts, trousers, blouses and other items. Since then, shopping in the Alley hasn't let up.  It is now open 365 days a year (366, of course, in leap years).  If you are looking for designer brands but don't want to pay the high price there are no shortages of knockoffs.

Searching for a store called “Tenzin Imports,” it was clear which one it was without even looking at the sign.   Tenzin sticks out like a brightly colored Zen thumb.  The store is what one might call "New Age" or "Trendy," perhaps even "Spiritual."  Stepping into it, you feel transported on a mystical journey of discovery.  Tenzin carries everything from crystals, oils and lava bracelets for healing to singing bowls.  Brightly colored clothing lines the walls of the long narrow store.


If rocks are your thing, you will find an endless supply.  If you need one for energy, they have got it.  Perhaps one for clarity? Yep!  Not getting enough rest? They have a rock that will help you with that too.  Perhaps you want it in jewelry form? They have you covered! Need some oils to help with that sore wrist, or simply want to take in the lovely smell of Jasmine?  Are your yoga pants not cutting it for you? They have just what you need.   If you aren't into the whole Zen Bohemian Himalayan style, you can certainly find something to pique your interest.  I found the singing bowls to be beautiful pieces of art even if I never use mine for the sound it makes by moving the wooden mallet around the bowl.  It is simply a beautiful piece of Tibetan tradition.


In Tenzin we began to shop, she with a woven basket in hand, adding rocks, jewelry and a skirt, me afraid of going crazy (easily done here), I opted not to use a basket.  Grabbing what I could carry I got on with my mission of studying this unique little store and talk to some of the staff.  I found them friendly, knowledgeable and very much into the healing powers of what Tenzin has to offer.  In most stores, I see people breeze right through--but not here. Tenzin was full of people, busily looking through items as if they were searching for buried treasure.  If you are in the mood for a place that transports you to another land, Tenzin is for you.  There are two retail Tenzin Import stores (same owner) in Santee Alley, we spent our time at the larger one: 1150 Santee Street.  (By the way, they even sell wholesale to other stores.)

And yes, I got my Zen on by purchasing a lava bracelet, lavender oil for it and a beautifully sewn bracelet.

Take a girlfriend, or several, and be tourist in your own city.   You never know what you will find or the fun you will have.  ~Anna~

Update: Tenzin Imports has opened an online store Click Here



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