Edie Frère reflects on her years on Larchmont

| July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments


Edie Frère has been a fixture in the Larchmont community for most of her life. She grew up in homes on Third Avenue in Wilshire Park and McCadden Place in Hancock Park, has lived for many years on Las Palmas Avenue in Hancock Park, and this coming October will celebrate the 30th anniversary of her Larchmont Boulevard store: Landis Gifts & Stationery.

In her youth, Edie Dunn attended Wilton Place Elementary and Marlborough School. “I can remember shopping at the old record store on Larchmont Boulevard, Stratton’s, called ‘Strat’s,’ where you would go into these booths and listen to 45s and sneak and carve your initials into the walls,” Frere told us last month. “Back in those days, everybody knew each other’s names.”

Adventure and travel

When it came time for college, Dunn set off for Stanford, where she studied history and art history. After graduating, she left for New York City to seek adventure and travel, but after a short while she decided: “NYC was just not what I wanted.” Instead, she packed her bags for Wash., D.C., where she accepted a role in the State Department with the Chief of Protocol. Later, when her boss was named ambassador to Denmark, she packed her bags for Copenhagen. After a year in that role, she accepted an opportunity to serve as the social secretary for the U.S. Ambassador to France, a position she held for more than a decade.

“I can remember the move from Denmark to France because it was the day we landed on the moon. I watched the moon landing in Denmark, and the next day I got on a train to France,” she says.

While living abroad, she met her husband, Christian Frère, and they started a family.

Return to Larchmont

It was in 1984 that the Frère family, which now included two young kids, returned to the neighborhood, settling in a home on Las Palmas just a couple of blocks from her childhood home.

Several years later, Frère heard rumors that Larchmont’s beloved Landis Department Store, which had been a fixture on the Boulevard since 1933, might soon close with the retirement of owner Bob Landis. At the time, Frère had partnered with her neighbor Christine Wolfus, and the two were operating a gift catalogue from inside their homes.

“When Bob Landis was going to retire, we didn’t want that kind of business to leave the Boulevard. We thought it was important to keep the Landis name because it was such an important part of Larchmont. And we thought the community needed a store that served that same purpose,” explains Frère.

With the blessing of Landis, the two women opened a smaller version of the store across the street, called Landis General Store. “We sold almost everything the original Landis store sold except for hardware and underwear,” Frère says with a laugh. After he retired, Bob Landis even came to work at the new storefront for a short time. “Bob came in and he was fantastic. He would always say, ‘this is my social life,’ about his time with us.” Nevertheless, Landis helped mentor the new owners as they got used to running a retail store.

The early success of Landis General Store allowed Frère and Wolfus to expand into a second space focused on children’s toys, and, then, a third storefront for custom stationery and gifts. However, in late 2006, Frère’s partner Wolfus announced plans to retire. That’s when Frère decided to split from the general store, but kept Landis Gifts & Stationery, which she continues to run today. In fact, putting her high-level experience of social protocol to good use, Frère has become the person to go to for high-quality, custom stationery and cards. “When you’re new, you have to prove yourself; it doesn’t matter who you are or who knew you. Gradually our reputation built up. We know what we’re doing,” says Frère.

While raising a family and running a popular store, Frère has still found time over the years to give back to the community. Frère is a longtime member of Las Madrinas, a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), and for more than 25 years she also has supported Children’s Chain of CHLA. Additionally, Frère is the head of the Southern California chapter of the French Heritage Society. In this role, Frère has put her knowledge of French culture to good use raising funds to help restore historic buildings and gardens in France. Over the years, Frère says that the local chapter has helped save a little church, part of a château, and a couple of old buildings in a little town that was being decimated by antique dealers, among other things. “It’s a fabulous organization,” she says as she recalls trips that took members to places like the Paris Antique Show and the French countryside.

Marking 30 years

This October will mark 30 years since Frère opened shop on Larchmont. However, the store’s future is all but clear.

“Our lease is unsure,” says Frère. “I’ve not been able to get in touch with the new owner of this building, so I have no idea if we’re going to be able to stay in this spot,” she says. Malibu-based Christina Development bought the Lipson Building in Oct. 2018 for $23.5 million and has announced plans to renovate the 1920s building, which houses 14 tenant spaces.

“I worry about the future of Larchmont Boulevard. I worry about it staying the focal point of the neighborhood, where it feels cozy and comfortable and where stores can afford to stay open,” says Frère. “People care about the community here. I think that’s the secret. There’s a sense of kindness and gentleness around here.”

For now, at least, you can find Frère busy teaching the next generation how to leave a lasting impression with custom stationery: “Our biggest growing market is clients in their late 20s and early 30s, who are hard working and upwardly mobile, that know how important a hand-written note is now.

“We’re here to help.”

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Category: People

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