RETAIL THAT REFLECTS CULTURE
By Kathleen Mest | Photos by Alexiz Gomez
As a Filipino immigrant myself, my parents wanted their children to assimilate to our new home country as quickly as possible. English was the main language at home and Sesame Street was my first teacher.
In recent years, perhaps because of the increase of AAPI presence in media, I have found myself wishing to reconnect with my heritage and wanting to share my Filipino culture with my kids– borrowing cookbooks, visiting the Filipino market, and looking for more content online.
Bridging two cultures is an interesting concept. I want to embrace and be mindful of the cultures that make up who I am, respectful of the differences, and be comfortable in both.
Long Beach’s diverse community provides opportunities for us to learn about or revisit our heritage. Amarte and Kubo are two beautiful retail spaces that strive to promote their respective cultures with passion and inclusivity with founders who are proud of their heritage.
@_ _ _amarte
4105 N Bellflower Blvd Unit A, Long Beach, CA 90808
Amarte means “love” in the past, present and future. The story of Amarte begins with Claribel’s love for the families and the culture in her father’s hometown in the state of Guerrero on Mexico's Pacific coast.
Claribel Valdovinos, owner of Amarte, began her business selling handmade hammocks from a fishing village in Guerrero. “I wanted to support the families and artisans that I have known growing up… seven generations of fishermen. 10 years ago, it was my first product.”
Though Claribel was born in California, her Mexican roots run deep. “I'm continually learning more about my culture to share with folks who may not be able to visit Mexico. I want the next generation to know the stories of these multi-generational artisans and preserve their traditions– like how natural dyes are created and the intricacies of weaving.” Claribel personally selects the products and forms relationships with these artisans, practicing direct trade by buying straight from the makers in Mexico.
Besides Guerrero, Claribel sources products from Oaxaca and Jalisco. She shares, “I want to highlight other areas of Mexico beyond Baja. Not everyone has the ability to travel these long distances.” For some, these products “trigger memories of childhood.” Claribel remembers, “A customer was so happy to see the palm mats (petates). She hugged them and told me about growing up with palm mats (petates) in her bedroom.”
Claribel graduated from CSULB with a double major in Fashion Merchandising and Chicano Studies and followed that with a Masters degree in Latin American Studies at UCLA. “I’ve come full circle. The merging of art and culture equals fashion.” And this shop is a realization of both passions. She also enjoys sharing her knowledge with her involvement in the intern programs at
Lakewood High School and Workforce Economic Development (WED) at Long Beach City College. Also, she was recently a guest panelist at Vanguard University's Fair Trade Fashion Show: Intersections of Race & Economic Justice.
Celebrate with Amarte in March during their 1-year anniversary and discover “a lifestyle brand that believes in the power of art, love and culture. Our collection celebrates Mexican ancestry from distinct regions and landscapes. Amarte is for all who are reimagining tradition and creative expression.”
@Kubo.lb / kubolb.com
3976 Atlantic Ave. Long Beach, CA 90807
Sometimes when you can’t find what you are looking for, you just have to make it yourself.
I sat down with Jennifer Estacio, one of the co-founders of Kubo – a creative community space for experiences and retail, and discovered a continuous thread of seeking and solving.
While attending CSULB, Jenn planned Filipino events as a side gig. Combining Filipino culture and experiences always made sense to her. Once she graduated and started her “real” job, life happened.
Once she started her own family, she wanted to introduce them to Filipino culture through the lens of a Filipino-American family, but found resources lacking. She shared, “I could not find anything to fill the hole for young families with kids.”
Her solution: In 2019, she founded Flipp Family and went back to her first passion, creating Filipino events, but this time catering to young families to learn about Filipino culture through interactive crafts and food. “There is always food,” she laughs.
As Jenn searched for resources to include in her events, she could only find books in Tagalog (one of the Filipino national languages) that were written for kids back in the Philippines. “The language was too hard,” she admits. She was looking for books for Filipino-American kids that had illustrations and language they were familiar with.
Her solution: At the end of 2021, Jenn self-published an activity board book “Buko” about the different ways the Filipino coconut is used. She also created a line of shirts and accessories to provide at the events, and curated a selection of toys that embrace Filipino language and culture.
The next challenge was space. As the events grew in size, it became more difficult to find spaces to host her.
Her solution: Together with co-founder Romeo Garcia, Kubo opened in March 2022, in an old church on Carson Blvd. “We always knew that would be a temporary space,” remarks Jenn. But it fit the needs at the time. In February 2023, Kubo opened their permanent space in Bixby Knolls on Atlantic Ave.
Kubo is the Tagalog word for a small house like those built by the indigenous people of the Philippines. This Kubo is an open, inclusive space that is a home for Filipinx, BIPOC, Women, LGBTQ+ owned businesses.
Current businesses you will find at Kubo include:
• Bel Canto Books @belcantobooks
• Birdie Home Botanical & Friends @birdiehomebotanicals
• Flipp Family @flippfamily
• Kubo @Kubo.lb
• The Merkado: A monthly popup market for Filipinx and BIPOC small businesses (March 25th - every 4th Saturday, 2pm-6pm)
• Easter-themed Cultural Circle: A quarterly storytime that includes music, activities, storytime and incorporates Filipino language (April 1st)
• Cultural Storytime: (weekly event starting in March)
Kubo is also a …
• Co-working space with workstations available for rent.
• Event space with mobile equipment and furniture that can be moved according to needs.
• Filipino micro-museum that displays a collection of Filipino artifacts and stories.