Weeks before Covid-19 swept the world, we visited a friend in Los Angeles, California. He recommended we take a road trip to the small, cool town of Ojai – pronounced ‘Oh hi’ – 90 miles north of the city. Set on the fringes of beautiful countryside, it’s the perfect escape from car-and-image-obsessed LA. We stayed in a cool motel, browsed little galleries, museums and shops, hired bikes and hiked in the hills. On our two-wheeled travels around town, we discovered a peculiar old Mid-Century petrol station with a hidden surprise I took lots of grade notes on.
Pull over at the old pumping station, as we did, and you soon realise you won’t be filling up your hire car tank here – more likely, you’ll be filling up your boot, sorry trunk!, with a hoard of charming handcrafted pieces to decorate your imaginary Ojai pad and curious vintage items you just couldn’t resist.
This converted roadside relic is a dreamy shop called Summer Camp, a unique drive-thru shop. It’s owned by a beautiful couple called Mike and Rachel who drove past the old gas station while visiting Ojai and noticed it had a “for lease” sign. They had been dreaming of opening their own shop for years and it seemed like fate. With funds raised on Kickstarter to get the shop up and running, the dream soon became a reality.
The Summer Camp name is a nostalgic nod to Rachel’s childhood days as a girl scout, while capturing the outdoors feel they’ve created inside the shop. “Any kid who went to summer camp remembers a whimsical place where days are spent exploring, learning new things, and sometimes falling in love. We want to take those childhood memories and create a place that embodies all the things we love about Summer Camp.”
Inside, it’s like a place you’ve been to before and don’t want to leave. An abundance of potted plants, a full-size canoe and chunky logs used as display tables all help to achieve this look. Much of their product range also offers the dream of the perfect camping weekend – vintage flasks, cosy blankets, gas lamps and binoculars are all stylishly displayed and would encourage even the most reluctant camper to pack up their tent and don their walking boots. If I hadn’t been travelling, I would have bought the lot.
Add this drive-thru concept store to your next California road trip and enroll at Summer Camp.