Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice California

What would Sir Abbot Kinney, the founder of Venice and financier of the first commercial amusement park, think about the commercial resurgence on his namesake boulevard? His dream was to re-create the Venice Canals throughout the marshy lands of the west coast beach community. The canals have long since been filled in, the piers have changed and the amusement park is long gone.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a short road, book ended by Main Street and Washington Boulevard. The stretch between Main and Venice has always been lined with shops and restaurants. In earlier times, however, shops were more utilitarian-Angela’s shoe repair shop is still sandwiched between a flower shop and a boutique. The old local grocery is long gone the only remnant is a metal Carnation milk placard above a doorway.

Now, a hip clothing boutique and a chic custom-built furniture store sit beneath the rusted sign, which has become less advertisement and more creative décor for this gentrified shopping destination. Abbot Kinney hosts a number of annual and monthly celebrations throughout the year to draw customers during the floundering economy. Sadly, many stores including Digs and Equator Books had to close.

This well-known street has had its share of challenges. Two years ago, there was a fatal shooting at the Other Room right after the Abbott Kinney Festival-an annual September celebration. However, things have remained relatively calm since then. Patrons who stroll down this lively lane can encounter any number of people-dog walkers, chic shoppers, art lovers or bar hoppers. The utilitarian roots have given way to a fresh, arty vibe-whether this equals “culture,” is up for debate. Abbot Kinney has yet to figure out what it is-cultured artist colony or urban scourge.

Once a month, the Venice Chamber of Commerce hosts an event called First Fridays. The stores and galleries stay open until 10pm-bars and restaurants keep regular hours-and the festivities include Food Trucks, wine and dessert as well as live music and entertainment.

A clothing store, Zingara, hosts live music in its back garden. Usually, an old school Blue Grass Musician Frank Fairfield plays Fiddle and Banjo from 5-7 pm. Tap your toes, dos si dos, jiggle to the music and sizzle some, melt-in-your-mouth, s’mores on the open fire.

Enjoy the dessert even more by cashing in on the deal YAS-Yoga And Spinning-offer. Get your first class at YAS for Free on First Friday.

Just to change things up-never let it be said that Venetians follow the rules-Tales and Tots hosts a live music and storytelling time from 5pm-7pm every third Friday.

A strict no franchise policy has driven out the obvious commercial draws-like Pinkberry which closed three months ago. The stores you’ll find on Abbot Kinney are one-of-a-kind, stand-alone and completely devoid of trite mini-mall banality.

The result is a shifting, changeable reminder that commercialism isn’t the panacea for a struggling economy. What that means for Abbot Kinney Boulevard is anyone’s guess.