Throughout many booms and busts, the various districts of downtown Los Angeles have climbed ever so close to the peak of residential desirability, only to take a Sisyphean tumble when essential businesses fail to arrive or thrive.
The latest wave of establishments, however, may push downtown over the top. They go beyond food and shelter to provide the corporeal services that appeal to its arty, loft-living dwellers. Not every spa, salon or gym requires piercings and a green Mohawk for entry; sometimes, they're just happy to know you appreciate the bohemian vibe and a neighborhood that's more about community than commerce.
On the Santa Fe Lofts' ground floor, Rick Reinier opened not just a hair salon, but also a portal to history, his own and the building's. The stylist from a railroading family operates the hair and nail salon in the former home of the Santa Fe Railroad and outfitted the interiors with salvaged railroad spikes and track ties that frame mirrors or hold blow dryers. Now a nucleus for neon hair colors, extensions, blow outs and cuts, the nearly 3-year-old salonPure is also a patron of area artists who use the shop walls as a gallery. Clients are given iPads to peruse during their appointments in the antiques-filled space. The salon is open every day, and extra late during Downtown Art Walk (every second Thursday), when newcomers get a 15% discount. Women's haircuts are $70 and up; men's, $45 and up.
117 E. 6th St., (213) 624-7873, http://www.salonpurela.com
A bouquet of dead flowers sits on a cluttered desk where Ronnie Teasdale oversees CrossFit Mean Streets, a massive gym that's half a block from the new LAPD headquarters and faces the cops' lime-green parking garage. "Some hardcore stuff happens here," says the taut and tan proprietor. Above the weights, rings, benches and a massive pickup truck parked indoors soar embellished arches and curvy plaster from the building's elegant past. There's no sign, no fancy lockers or ads, but monthly dues of $200 give you seven-day-a-week access to the CrossFit discipline and the promise of rock-hard abs.
265 S. Main St., (213) 245-1612, http://www.crossfitmeanstreets.com
Proprietor Matt "Mohawk" Berman wants you to know that his retro-new establishment, Bolt Barbers, is not a salon but an old-school barbershop. The former marketing executive opened his Spring Street doors in November 2009 with the idea that men's grooming needed a return to the history and tradition of barbering, mixed with community engagement. Barbers are schooled in techniques and tools specific to shaving, short hair, and Mohawks, the shop's signature style, which Berman wears proudly. With a vintage jukebox and flat-screen TVs, shuffleboard and shoe shines, and special events that combine charity with service discounts, Bolt Barbers bridges the old and new, the personal and the communal.
460 S. Spring St., (213) 232-4715, http://www.boltbarbers.com
Ask anyone downtown with pink hair where she got the matching pink-polka-dot nails and she's likely to point you to Nail Service in Little Tokyo, where 3-D roses, rhinestones, ribbons, stripes and bows can be applied to gel or acrylic nails. The nail salon and mini-spa is nicely decorated with sleek white leather couches and cushiony pedicure chairs. The salon also offers an efficient, $30 simultaneous mani-pedi, and $24 to $45 foot massages, eyelash extensions, waxing for men and women, and Dermalogica facials. Services for hands and feet range from $13 for the 20-minute manicure to a $48 pedicure or $52 Executive Manicure.
244 E. 1st St., (213) 626-0315, http://www.myspace.com/nailservice
When the Ritz-Carlton Spa unveiled its lavish 8,000-square-feet this spring, the L.A. Live hotel and stadium complex embraced its feminine spirit. Far from the stomping tourists and roaring crowds at Staples Center, the spa beckons with deluxe decor — gilding, fringe, spotless chrome and cool light fixtures. It's a look the creators call "Champagne and Shimmer," a theme that extends to signature services. A glass of bubbly comes with a mani-pedi, while a Champagne and Citrus Sugar Scrub polishes away dry skin. It may take selling a screenplay (or two) to afford regular visits: A basic massage starts at $135 for 50 minutes; while a Couples Retreat Package is $525. Yet every kind of body beautifying service is on the menu — massage, men's only, maternity, scrubs, waxes, facials and even an $80 Foaming Milk Bath.
900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 763-4400, http://www.ritzcarlton.com/losangeles