Wednesday, April 20, 2005



BURBANK -- A nonprofit organization that gives teens hands-on business experience will open a clothing and gift shop this summer in the Burbank Town Center to generate money for its programs.

We Care for Youth plans to open the 700-square-foot Bliss Unlimited shop in June or July in space that mall owners are providing free on the lower level.

About 35 students are expected to work in the shop each semester, earning course credit through the Los Angeles County Office of Education. While students can come from anywhere in the county, organizers expect most to come from Burbank schools.

"We pretty much listen to what they say and incorporate it and make it work within the mission of the business ... so that they can learn from the experience," said Linda Maxwell, co-executive director of We Care for Youth, started in Glendale in 1991 as a response to youth violence.

The organization operated a Bliss Unlimited store at the Glendale Galleria about four years ago, Maxwell said.

The Burbank Town Center is giving the shop free space for at least three years.

We Care for Youth officials said they will buy clothing for the Burbank shop from American Apparel, a Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer free of any sweatshop conditions. The items will then go to Homeboy Industries' silk-screen unit, where young people trying to escape gangs will add words and designs.

Once Bliss Unlimited gets the clothing, an experienced fashion-school student will oversee final improvements.

"It will be a very unique line of clothing," Maxwell said, adding that Bliss Unlimited was chosen by teens as the shop's name, likely to be near the top of any alphabetical business listing.

The store also will sell gourmet food and gift baskets, coffee and aroma-therapy products.

"We select suppliers that operate socially conscious businesses," Maxwell said. "So they use organic products, they employ kids, and they somehow sustain and support their communities."