Sisters are doing it for themselves in the city by the sea. Pushing past persistent glass ceilings, these boss ladies have turned their passion for pastries, appreciation of accessories and art, fervor for fitness, and hankering to be a good host into thriving Santa Monica restaurants, gyms, hotels, coffee shops, boutiques and self care sanctuaries. In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up a small sampling of female-fronted Santa Monica businesses to support.


After meeting in the late ’70s as the only two women working in the kitchen at Chicago’s prestigious Le Perroquet, chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger moved to LA in 1981 and opened what would become the first in a long string of restaurants that includes former Santa Monica institution and James Beard Award winner Border Grill, eventually opening Socalo in Santa Monica. Socalo is an all-day Mid-City canteen located in the Gateway Hotel that serves their specialty, modern Mexican with a seasonal California twist (i.e. jackfruit tinga tacos, gingery ceviche, warm guava empanadas, and duck carnitas cassoulet). As Milliken is fond of saying, “We ditched the patriarchy and took charge of our own destiny.” They’ve never stopped blazing trails as cookbook authors, Food Network hosts, champions for LGBTQ rights, sustainability, and anti-hunger charities, or founding members of Women Chefs and Restauranteurs and Chefs Collaborative.

The NOW Massage

Self-help gurus, life coaches and therapists are constantly advising people to live in “the now.” If they’re talking about The NOW, as in the Main Street minimalist chic massage parlor, sign us up! Co-founders Gara Post (the current chief creative officer) and Amy Krofchick set out to bring pampering to the people. They saw self care as a necessity not a luxury, so their business model incorporated quicker services for busy urbanites, reasonable prices and serene whitewash-and-wood interiors. Their services target sore muscles with strong hands, rose quartz crystals and hemp-infused Calm Balm.

Hotel Shangri-La

This independent boutique hotel has been giving visitors an elegant place to lay their heads since 1939 and is as idyllic a hideaway as the name would suggest. Hotel Shangri-La is housed within a historic Art Deco tower, decorated to evoke the glamour of old Hollywood with a dash of whimsy. The hotel is located just a stone’s throw from the Pacific, the Pier and the Promenade. Under Tehmina Adaya’s ownership, the rooftop bar has become a see-and-be seen scene, especially on weekends. The pool deck’s cabanas, ping-pong table, hot tub and lawn games are a popular place for R&R year-round thanks to Santa Monica’s mild climate.


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Sidecar Doughnuts

“Donut” miss the chance to enjoy a delicious donut while also supporting a homegrown Southern California brand started by wife-and-husband team. Back in 2012, Chi-Lin and Sumter Pendergrast started testing out artisanal and elevated takes on classic recipes—think vanilla bean glazed, Saigon cinnamon crumb and salted malted chocolate chip cookie dough. Sidecar Doughnuts is more than a tasty morning treat… Chi-Lin and Sumter prep as many ingredients in-house as possible and fry in small batches because hot and fresh is the best way to eat a doughnut.

The Stables

If you’re looking to perfect your right-hook, visit Cary Williams’ boxing gym, The Stables, located on Pico Blvd. She offers personal training, small group classes, and certifications in Boxing & Barbells, a plug-n-play program she developed which incorporates glovework, weight training and cardio. Williams is a former competitor, spokesperson for Everlast, and has trained Olympic contenders and coaches for Team USA Boxing.


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