Ten years ago, Stephen Monkarsh sat at Koffi on North Palm Canyon thinking about his mom, who had recently passed away.
“I looked up and saw a sign, Space Available, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if people could get a coffee and read a book?’” he recalled.
Two months later, Monkarsh opened Just Fabulous, despite friends’ concerns about vacant storefronts during a downturned economy. “I’m a visionary,” Monkarsh said. “I knew in my heart I could make this work. The store is a testament to believing in your dream.”
It’s almost as if his Mom, an artist, was pointing him to his next journey. “Sometimes, I can almost feel her presence here,” he said. “She would have loved all this,” meaning the bright pink flamingos, pool accessories, Hollywood glamor shots, pop-up books and classic coffee table books about Modernism design and fashion. “Our customers tell us there’s nothing like us in Palm Springs. They say we’re an institution.”
As the store celebrates its 10-year anniversary April 8 with a special party from 5-8 p.m. open to the community, Monkarsh now curates a collection that is both eclectic and colorful. “It’s a lifestyle store,” he says. “I like to think that if you didn’t feel just fabulous when you arrived, you will when you leave.”
Just Fabulous is known for its many book signings, collectible coffee table books, and handmade cards from all over the world. It’s set in a landmark building on North Palm Canyon Drive, which anchors the gateway to the Design District reaching from Alejo Road to Vista Chino.
PHOTO BY NEIL HUSVAR
“In Palm Springs, a coffee table book can become part of the midcentury décor,” says Stephen Monkarsh.
Even to uninitiated visitors, the building is an eye-catching focal point by which to get one’s bearings, surrounded by palm trees, with a backdrop of Mt. San Jacinto. The white-and-gray exterior belies an interior of whimsical, glamorous, historical and unique objets d’art which Monkarsh selects from shopping trips to Paris and all over the United States.
“I’ve loved photography, books and art all my life,” says Monkarsh, who studied film for a year at Sorbonne University, as a University of California-Irvine student, and returns to Paris as often as he can. Of his fondness for cards, he says, “I’m very sentimental. I used to buy my mom, or anyone, multiple cards. I have always loved to celebrate. In life, we are always celebrating something.”
Prior to moving to Palm Springs in 2006, Monkarsh was a Los Angeles attorney. He came to live in his Palm Springs home, after injuring his back, he said. He enjoys the town square atmosphere of his store’s location, with Koffi’s grassy garden. “I was the first one to open after Koffi,” he said.
PHOTOS BY NEIL HUSVAR
Just Fabulous is known for its many book signings, collectible coffee table books, and handmade cards from all over the world.
Books by entertainment photographers Bruno Bernard and Douglas Kirkland are popular among buyers. “Bernard’s work is so glamorous,” Monkarsh said. “He captured Hollywood stars from the 1940s to the ‘60s at the Racquet Club of Palm Springs, where Marilyn Monroe was discovered. This was the place to go because Hollywood actors couldn’t travel more than about 100 miles from LA. There was a clause in their contracts, so they’d be close for shoots.”
Kirkland has worked on the sets of more than 100 movies, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and Titanic, according to his website.
“In Palm Springs, a coffee table book can become part of the midcentury décor,” Monkarsh said. “People like to pick up books representative of the desert as talking pieces in their homes.” The store’s display includes a fashion section, autobiographies, LGBT literature and personal growth. Shoppers can also find signed and numbered collectible art.
Just Fabulous, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760-864-1300; http://bjustfabulous.com/
10th anniversary party, 5-8 p.m. April 8 at The Corridor at Alejo Road and North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. The public is invited.