Soap Plant / Wacko – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura

Soap Plant / Wacko

An expansive book store, art gallery, and curio shop with wares ranging from tarot cards to novelty socks.  

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Opened in 1971, this iconic Los Angeles shop certainly lives up to its name. The outside of the shop is eye-catching with colorful murals and windows showing off the wild wares within. 

Once inside, shoppers are bedazzled by row upon row of books organized by interest: occult, sex, death, cartoons, film, etc. You can spend hours in the rows alone. Around the back walls are stuff beyond a gift giver’s wildest imaginings: everything from soaps to novelty toys. 

The first portion of the name comes from back when it Barbara and Hank Shire first opened a store. Barbara made soaps by hand and sold them, while Hank designed the shop’s graphics. It was a family-run business, and their two sons, Peter and Billy contributed to the operation with their own artistic endeavors—Peter in ceramics and Billy in leather and other textiles.

In the 1980s, Billy took over the shop. He moved the store from its original location in Los Feliz Village to a larger place on Melrose Avenue, and widened the store’s inventory. In 1984, he added Wacko to the storefront to house the growing collection of games, toys, and pop culture ephemera.

In 1995, the new iteration of the store moved back to Los Feliz, to a location that now houses more than 6,000 square feet of fascinating wares. If you venture far enough into the shop you can find the back room with darker items such as pinned insects and preserved scorpions, turtle shells and deer feet. This part of the store feels particularly occult and is easy to miss.

If you have more in mind than browsing for purchases, you can check out the art gallery. This open space features rotating works, and never disappoints. Wacko is a must visit for locals and visitors alike.

Know Before You Go

Soap Plant / Wacko is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Check their Facebook page for information about events.