Reach for the Stars!
Griffith Observatory located on Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park opened in 1935 and is a destination for astronomy and movie enthusiasts. “The grounds are beautiful, offering public telescopes, educational exhibits, live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium and spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign,” Veronica Melendrez, store director for Griffith Observatory Stellar Emporium Store said.
“Very few locations in Los Angeles are as iconic – and significant – as Griffith Observatory,” Melendrez detailed. This landmark has been included in movies and TV shows including La La Land, Terminator, Rebel Without a Cause, and more. The notoriety has increased this destination’s popularity and admission is free.
The Stellar Emporium’s retail footprint is not large and merchandise is arranged delightfully in its 1,285 square foot space. Although the Stellar Emporium’s physical retail space handles the 1.6 million visitors that explore Griffith Observatory each year, the shop still “must meet the high volume demands” Melendrez explained, as a portion of the gift shop proceeds directly support the programs at Griffith Observatory.
She also noted some inherent challenges of the location, as the building is located on top of a mountain, there is limited parking and visitors need to climb a hill to reach the destination. This can all impact daily operations. “Deliveries to the shop are restricted to certain times to avoid crowds — and larger pallet deliveries are certainly challenging given the limited space,” Melendrez noted. “Offsite storage and built-in cubbies hidden above store cabinetry are used to store top-selling items. We get creative in how we display items — optimizing every inch of space.”
The Stellar Emporium Store features science related toys, apparel, souvenirs, books, home décor and other merchandise. “Many of these offerings have the Griffith Observatory insignia, making them a special keepsake for local and visiting guests to L.A.,” she noted.
The curated mix focuses on quality and accurate scientific details and “has been carefully vetted by the venue’s esteemed staff.” The doctors and scientists thoroughly review the merchandise and provide feedback on items. Melendrez explained that this allows the store to “uphold the integrity of the institution and that scientific aspects are factual.”
Melendrez noted that top-sellers include souvenirs and mementos always do well — especially statuettes that display the majestic appeal of the observatory’s architecture. Books are also extremely popular and include a mix of children’s stories and reference and textbooks. She shared that items “cover a range of topics in space, science and astronomy to captivate all age groups and levels of interest.”
“The most exciting displays are always those that tie-back into the unique experience of being at the Observatory. We use a lifestyle approach to feature fun and interesting items that guests relate to and provide a multi-sensory shopping experience,” she said.
The retail environment incorporates themes that include: Something to Wear, Something to Eat, Something to Read and Something to Smell. Most importantly, all the themes “are all under the umbrella of learning and further immersing guests in the unique place that is Griffith Observatory.”
Stellar Emporium’s space is used very strategically and quite effectively. “Our walls are configured to hold more product in efficient ways that don’t sacrifice our ability to create fun visual moments. The goal is to be able to balance the art and science of having enough product on the floor to satisfy the needs of the guest without sacrificing experience; and just enough room for guests to breathe comfortably in the store,” she said. Additionally, she noted that feature tables are critical and are designed to accommodate high-capacity merchandising.
The displays are constantly being refreshed and changed to allow Stellar Emporium to incorporate the new arrivals, adjust products based on inventory levels and to modify offerings based on the current curriculum at Griffith Observatory. “We have seasonal updates as well, so guests are sure to find something unique with every visit,” she said.
From March 2020 until the end of June 2021, Griffith Observatory was closed, as was Stellar Emporium. “We have officially welcomed back guests since July 2021, opening Friday through Sunday,” Melendrez detailed. All staff members wear masks, enforce social distancing, clean thoroughly and comply with all city and state requirements.
The Stellar Emporium Store is an extension of the overall adventure for visitors. “We cultivate a team that is familiar with the unique experiences the Observatory offers and that can answer questions about the history of the venue, its current exhibits or attractions, and interesting or lesser-known fun facts that will inspire guests,” she said.
The personal interactions and exchange of information impacts guests’ experiences, and the retail staff is an integral part of the shops’ success — and is a source of inspiration for visitors. “Seeing that spark of curiosity is so exciting! We’re always in service to the Griffith Observatory’s mission to turn visitors into observers,” Melendrez enthused.