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The Tide of Commerce

January 11, 2011

Bargain Land on the last week of 2010.

Bargain Land on the first week of 2011.

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.

Double Savers, one of the many failed markets at Monterey Plaza in Hermon.

The new Fresco Community Market in Hermon.

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.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. lili permalink
    January 12, 2011 11:28 am

    We showed up at opening night. It’s a great market, but as you noted, it has a very small Asian food section…a large percentage of the clientele on opening night was Asian.

  2. Christian permalink
    January 12, 2011 3:55 pm

    There was a lot of everyone, not dominated by one race. I was there also let’s just appreciate this great place for what it is, a nice clean market.

  3. Nicole permalink
    January 12, 2011 8:11 pm

    It met my initial test on opening day with a surprising range of products, friendly service and a free re-usable bag. It’s probably going to replace going to Vons (ER) because they are in 90042! and have clean shopping carts. I was pleasantly surprised and would say “GO LOCAL – Go Fresco” — kudos to the owners who supposedly also actually live in NELA.

  4. Pladdis permalink
    January 13, 2011 12:09 pm

    I remember The People’s Department Store. I miss it. It was my mother’s favorite store. She would buy dress patterns, fabrics, and sewing supplies there. We would buy toys; I augmented my matchbox and hotwheel collection with the stock offered by People’s. (Remember Ivers next door?)

  5. Robert permalink
    January 13, 2011 6:41 pm

    Having been born and raised in HP, I find its sadly ripe to become another Silver Lake or Echo Park. Surley theres a way for current residents and property owners to get safer streets and healthier, quality goods and services without having the suspitious feeling its only a matter of time before theyre forced out? Its a sad day when locals cant afford to buy groceries at the local supermarket or dine at a restaurant only a block away from their place.

  6. January 15, 2011 12:52 pm

    I admit a snigger of guilty pleasure when you went after “ugly public art”. I’ve always wondered about this work. I was under the mistaken impression it was somehow related to the mission oak that was somewhere in Garvanza. It wasn’t. And the story only got more complicated and convoluted from there. It’s amazing anything gets done.

    • January 19, 2011 9:27 pm

      Thanks for that link. It is the most comprehensive explanation of Jud Fine’s contribution to the Metro system I have ever seen. I have always been surprised with how bad the attempt failed, considering how much I love his “Spine” collaboration at the LA Central Library. Metro just mentions the two Avenue 58 trees as inspiration, obviously nothing about funding shortfalls or the glories of designing by committee.

      I can only hope that eventually when the station and track through Highland Park gets put underground, the stone tree goes with it.

    • Pladdis permalink
      January 25, 2011 12:37 pm

      Thanks for that link, PasAdj. What a tragedy. Still, how did the other stations/communities fully sidestep the b.s.? A question for the ages.

  7. Vicky permalink
    February 3, 2011 4:59 pm

    This grocery store is what I neighborhood needs. Time are tough and we need to support our new community market. Tell your neighbors and friends and shop at our new grocery store.
    It’s clean, organized and prices are better than Von’s.

  8. Shari Perfetto permalink
    February 17, 2011 2:32 pm


  9. December 15, 2011 9:57 pm


  10. December 16, 2011 8:14 pm

    The truth to a long life.

  11. December 16, 2011 8:31 pm

    The truth to happeniest.

  12. December 16, 2011 8:40 pm

    The truth to success.

  13. December 16, 2011 8:57 pm

    Opertunity or More?

  14. December 23, 2011 11:01 am

    I just joined the best offline marketing program

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