The Tide of Commerce
Another major retailer has left Figueroa Street. This time it is the “Dollar and Up” store Bargain Land. Just like Pep Boy’s down the street, Bargain Land closed without any notice. This past week they packed up and moved out of the building where The People’s Department Store used to be (before being burned down by Glendale Fire Department Captain, turned homicidal arsonist, John Orr*).
While only a few years ago, Highland Park seemed to be the 99¢ Gateway of Los Angeles. A place where bargain stores were as abundant as corner fruit carts and where quality products were hard to find. Thanks to the prolonged Great Recession and changing demographics, few are left standing in 90042 today.
The latest to fall was my favorite place to buy cheap Chinese crap, and other inexpensive household items. Barginland, or Barginlandia (ala Disneylandia) as I liked to call it, was thee place to buy stuff you kind of wanted, but didn’t really want to spend the money for, or the place to go as an alternative to the customer-hostile CVS up the street. The place had cheap toys, stationary, paper products, soap, pregnancy tests, utensils, tools, light bulbs, ice, glue, batteries, X-mas decorations for ugly public art, bb guns, lock-picking kits, automotive supplies, knock-off designer T-shirts, both spray paint and graffiti remover (carburetor spray). It was quite the emporium. But now like much of Highland Park, it is history.
While one major store in 90042 was closing, another was opening. Friday was the opening day for the much-anticipated Fresco Community Market. An upstart of a grocery store with some obviously significant financial backing, the supermarket is quite simply the nicest grocery store in 90042.
The opening is a victory for the 90042 communities of Hermon and Monterey Hills, who had petitioned to get a major retailer to take over the grocery space in Monterey Plaza at Avenue 60 and Monterey Road. Rather than just another Ranch-style, or warehouse market, Monterey Plaza now has an ambitious new grocery store that carries name brand, top-shelf items and has a Whole Foods / Bristol Farms flavor to it, but without the price.
The place looks great. The interior consists of natural woods, stainless steel, clear signage and text placed around the store that call out like a mantra to solidify the store’s marriage to the customer. Words like “Commitment, Trust, Considerate, Healthy, Honest, Purposeful, Integrity, Contribution, Responsible…” are printed throughout the store. It has bulk items, imported cheeses, a full-service deli, a bakery and cafe with free wifi. (Although, the coffee has A LOT to be desired.) The place also has a good selection of beers and wines. To shop, there are FIVE different types of shopping carts and baskets offered. (Regular, kids, min-cart, farmers market basket, and regular basket. Crazy huh?)
The store misses the mark in a few areas. Such as more vegetarian options, and abundant organic produce like the other local kick-ass market, Figueroa Produce has. I was also surprised to see such a small Asian and Latino food section. (As I’m writing this from the store, I can hear the managers ordering more Asian products.) Despite the early failings, you can see the earnestness in their attempt to give 90042 the best store possible; and that has to be commended.
Go there yourself or see more at my Fresco Community Market Flickr Set.
*H/T to EL CHAVO! for the links.
UPDATE 1.25.11: The Bargain Land is becoming another store for Fortune 500 company, Dollar Tree.