Joane Pickett was more than a friendly face: Pickett Fences closes after 27 years on Blvd.

| March 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

JOANE Pickett and her husband, Wiley, with the late Councilman Tom LaBonge.

To say that closing her beloved Larchmont Boulevard store of 27 years, Pickett Fences, was completely traumatizing, would be the understatement of the year. But that is what happened, and this is where we are.

The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on many Larchmont businesses, both restaurant and retail, and as the pandemic wears on, month after month, and as the boulevard continues to change with the pandemic pushing it along, we are all witnesses to its transformation. But before we look forward, it’s imperative to look back, through the lens of one person and the little store that could … until it couldn’t.

Joane Hennenberger Pickett got her start in the business and sales side of wholesale clothing, where she sold to department stores and small retailers. She and her husband, Wiley, bought a “cute little house” in the Larchmont area, but Joane still found herself on an airplane every week, traveling for work. At the time, Larchmont Boulevard was a sleepy little street. Joane and Wiley decided to take a chance and opened up their very first retail store, Pickett Fences, in 1994 at 111 N. Larchmont (currently DMH Aesthetics), soon followed by her second store, Petticoats, in 1995, in the current Silver Linings frame store spot. Then in 2001, Joane decided to merge the two stores into one space at 214 N. Larchmont (most recently, the Trina Turk shop). With every move, the Picketts’ prospects improved.

“This was before the internet and the Grove,” explains Joane. “When we moved to the 214 space, we were in a busier area, near the crosswalk. The high profile location worked out really well for us.”

The Great Recession took its toll, but her business survived and, with the loyalty of its customer base, thrived once again.

“Joane always did her best to meet the changing trends,” says Anne Loveland of Loveland Carr Group. “She even adapted to let people bring dogs and ice cream into the store!”

In 2016, Joane lost her lease. “We looked everywhere for a new space,” she remembers. “Beverly Hills, Melrose, Hollywood — but we ultimately decided that if we weren’t on Larchmont Blvd., we would just close up shop.”

Luckily, a spot opened up across the street at 219 N. Larchmont, and Joane quickly snapped up a new lease.

Things were humming along nicely until the pandemic hit. The total shutdown in March, April and May, combined with the constant closing and reopening of small businesses in Los Angeles over the next 12 months, in tandem with the closures caused by social justice protests, became untenable.

“It’s very difficult to plan ahead,” explains Joane. “I have to put my orders into the suppliers months in advance, and with the constant uncertainty of ‘will we be open, will we be closed,’ it’s difficult to plan and place orders. The supply chain has broken down. The delivery services don’t deliver on time, and the suppliers aren’t making the amounts needed. It’s just a mess.”

Joane is not only devastated about her own store having to shutter its doors, but is also worried for other small businesses. By forcing mom and pop stores to close their doors at the beginning of the pandemic, but not the larger, corporate entities, “Newsom and Garcetti basically said, ‘don’t shop at small businesses, but it’s okay to go to the big box retail stores like Target and Walmart to do all of your shopping there,’” laments Joane.

As small businesses slowly opened up again, holiday shopping picked up, but reality quickly set in.

“Christmas was really good and busy, but at the end of the day, I need Paramount Studios employees, Marlborough moms, school kids, and Rhodes Music School parents popping in while they wait for their child to finish a lesson,” says Joane. “Twenty ladies per day would come in just from the yoga studio. There was a lot of foot traffic that has just disappeared that you really don’t think about.”

Much of that heavier foot traffic was due to the constant upgrades to the street over the decades, many of which Joane helped spearhead. She served on the Larchmont Boulevard Association (LBA) board for 25 years, as President, Vice President and Secretary, retiring last month. During her time there, she and City Council deputy, then councilmember, Tom LaBonge established the Sunday Farmers Market, added crosswalks with handicap cutouts, ramps and stop signs, and rezoned the street for a height restriction of 35 feet, or two stories, so the businesses on the boulevard wouldn’t tower over the neighbors’ homes behind.

Dr. Timothy Gogan, local dentist and also a board member of the LBA, appreciates everything Joane has done for the community.

“The kind of things that Joane worked on … she really beefed up the sidewalk sale, and she was the liaison with the farmers market … so it’s sad to see her go. But it’s so daunting to try to run a business when you’re closing down for weeks or months at a time,” says Gogan. “The thing is, you’re in business to make money, and if these landlords have high rents, $10-$12 dollars per foot, it’s just really hard for a mom and pop store to generate that, especially if they’re not allowed to be open. Joane contributed so much to the boulevard and we’re really going to miss her.”

John Winther of Coldwell Banker, current LBA President, is also sorry to see Joane go.

“She was a very active member of the board, and everyone hates to lose an active member,” says Winther. “She went beyond being a retail and business person. She had an affection for the boulevard because she liked people and the community and she wanted to protect it. It wasn’t all about business.”

That’s the point that Anne Loveland likes to emphasize the most. “Joane brought her whole self and her love of community to the boulevard. Her store was the vehicle through which she had full self-expression. She could share so many of her gifts with the community through her business. Aren’t we lucky we had her and her husband? But nothing lasts forever.”

Though Pickett Fences is no longer on the boulevard, Joane has ideas about what the street will look like in the future.

“My takeaway is that brick and mortar stores were under pressure, and the pandemic is quickening the pace of their closures. Going forward, I think we will see more food and experience-based shops. I also think outdoor dining is here to stay, which is a positive thing.”

For the first time since Joane started working at the age of 21, she finally has a chance to relax in her Brookside home, and maybe play a tennis match or two. But for someone who has worked nearly every day of her life, that’s not an easy transition.

“It’s super strange that I don’t have a job, and I’m still decompressing and settling into it,” she says hesitantly. “But I want the neighborhood to know that I feel truly grateful that I have this community, and I’m thankful for so many friends that I’ve made while being a business owner on Larchmont. It’s a very special place, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else in Los Angeles.”

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Category: People

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