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LA's Grand Central : The Gentrification of the People's Market

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Published on May 15, 2014

The Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles opened its doors in 1917 and has been in operation ever since. At its inception, it was a conceived as a discount food space, a place where you could find fresh produce and feed an entire family for a handful of dollars. Before the neighbourhood of Bunker Hill was destroyed to develop the skyscrapers which now stand in their place, families used to ride the Angel's Flight tram down to the market and get their weekly goods. While having a diverse identity and clientele base, for many years the market has mostly been frequented by LA's working class Mexican population.

Rocio Lopez' father bought Chiles Secos, which specialises in Oaxacan mole, back in the 70's. He used his earnings from the stall to raise his 15 sons and daughters, most of whom have worked at the stall at one time or another. Today Rocio and her niece Claudia run the stall.

Over the past year, the market has begun to undergo a major shift. A new initiative by The Yellin Company has aimed to "reinvigorate" the market with new tenants which represent a global trend: the demand for upscale "artisanal" and "organic" takeout. The new tenants are service a hipper upper middle class clientele, who have no qualms about forking out $7 for a sandwich. Steve Lopez, author and LA Times journalist commented that this new development could either "destroy or revive (the market,) depending on who you talk to."

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