Two Floors, Hundreds of Stories

A distinct shopping experience returns to Palm Springs' historic Alan Ladd Building.

Roxanne Jones Shopping

As the story goes, in the 1950s, film legend and Palm Springs resident Alan Ladd went shopping one day at a local hardware store and bought a great deal of merchandise, only to discover the store didn’t deliver. Frustrated, he decided to open his own store. From the time it opened in 1955 until it closed 47 years later, the actor’s eponymous establishment offered a shopping experience that was uniquely Palm Springs — and free delivery was de rigueur.

“The Alan Ladd Store carried virtually everything from nails to Baccarat crystal, and everyone shopped here,” says Annie Giddens, rattling off a list of celebrities that included Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Liberace, Elvis, Tommy Lee Jones, George Peppard, Sonny Bono, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Barry Manilow, Dinah Shore, Goldie Hawn, and Debbie Reynolds. “The atmosphere was very casual and relaxed. People could come in wearing a towel wrapped around their bathing suit.”

Giddens was the Ladd Store’s housewares buyer for nearly three decades (“Just call me Methuselah,” she jokes). She confesses to asking for only one autograph during her tenure — from Eleanor Parker. She also admits to a memorable encounter with Steve McQueen. She relates the story but insists the details be kept off the record.

By the start of the new millennium, however, downtown Palm Springs’ cachet as a shopping destination for the rich and famous had waned. “September 11th was the deciding factor [to close the Alan Ladd Store],” Giddens says. The last day of business was June 29, 2002.

But the story doesn’t end there. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, downtown Palm Springs’ reputation as a place to see and be seen is re-emerging. And the Alan Ladd Building is again home to a distinctly upscale and inviting shopping destination known today as The Loggia Shops. The Pivetti family is writing the next chapter in the building’s storied history.

Tom Pivetti, who ran a real estate firm in Hollister, Calif., bought a vacation home here in 2000. When his father died in 1999, the family decided to sell some Hollister property and reinvest. Pivetti began searching for opportunities in Palm Springs.

“I became enamored with the historical  aspects of the Ladd Building and what it meant to Palm Springs,” he says. Pivetti struck a deal. “We could even keep the name of the Alan Ladd Building, as long as we respected the family legacy.”

Pivetti oversaw a $250,000 renovation that included exterior painting, landscaping, and the addition of distinctive, bright yellow awnings.

The Alan Ladd Store remained open for nine months after the sale of the property, but when it closed, Pivetti had 10,000 square feet of retail space to fill. “I looked for a single tenant at first, then had the idea to find a number of smaller tenants and create a completely different shopping experience,” he explains.

The Loggia Shops opened in March 2003 and comprises nine different shops on two floors, including the L.J. Singer Collection, which had relocated there from the Atrium in Rancho Mirage the previous year. “Even though the shops are individually owned, it’s a seamless shopping experience for the customer,” Pivetti explains, noting that each “shop” is more like a department within a larger store.

You’ll find products as diverse as imported Italian pottery and olive oils, women’s clothing, luxury bed linen, jewelry, teak outdoor furniture, Root candles, handpainted porcelain gift items, crystal bowls and vases, one-of-a-kind estate furniture, golf bags from Scotland, Wildcat golfwear for women (a product line Pivetti’s wife, Michelle, designs), and home accessories, including artwork, lighting, and baskets.

Ask Pivetti about any item, and he’ll tell you a story about it. There are the products made from olive wood, handcrafted by a father and son in a small village in the Umbrian hills of Italy. And Azarite jewelry, simulated gemstones so genuine-looking that even customers who can afford the real thing have bought the faux stones as “travel jewelry.” And the Caesar Crystal Crown Collection, which makes only 25 pieces a year in specific colors (at press time, two pieces from the 2003 collection were available). And handpainted porcelain pieces, made by local artists using a two-centuries-old process that fires the glass at 1,300 degrees.

“You can shop the spectrum here, from the trendy and affordable to higher end,” says Pivetti. “You can even commission a  custom piece of art or furniture, which makes us a great resource for designers.”

While The Loggia Shops is inextricably linked to the city’s past, Pivetti’s family is committed to the store being an integral part of its future. “We see this as a longterm investment in Palm Springs,” he says. “We want to bring back the style of shopping that the Ladd family was famous for.”