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Grand Central Market celebrating 100 years in Los Angeles
It was wonderful to watch as Grand Central Market celebrated 100 years in business in Los Angeles. I have loved GCM from the first time I walked along the sawdust-strewn floors back in 2001 when I moved to Los Angeles. I loved the whole atmosphere because not only were there a variety of food stalls to choose from, but it reminded me of being in another country. I was living in Santa Monica at the time and being in Downtown Los Angeles was like a foreign land. One of my most visual memories is walking by the row of brightly colored barrel-shaped jars of aguas frescas at a stall that is now high-end G & B Coffee. I once paid them $6.25 for an Almond Macadamia Latte, just because I could. I’m sure that was about $5.00 more than I had paid for the aguas frescas back in 2001.
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When Grand Central Market opened in October 1917, it was a neighborhood marketplace for the residents who lived in nearby Bunker Hill and would ride the Angel’s Flight funicular down to Broadway to shop in what was called an open air arcade. One of the original vendors was Magee’s, still in business today, relocated to the Original Farmer’s Market in 1934. By the 1920’s there were almost 100 vendors selling everything you can imagine from dry goods to produce, flowers, eggs, seafood and more. After the so-called “white flight” in the middle of the century, Grand Central Market kept the fires burning thanks to a largely Latino customer base. Thus the aguas frescas discovered on my first visit in 2001. As Downtown Los Angeles has evolved, so has the market.
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In 1984, a successful downtown developer Ira Yellin who also had an interest (thankfully) in urban planning and historic preservation, bought the Grand Central Market building. This property also included Sid Grauman’s adjacent Million Dollar Theatre dating back to its grand opening in February 1918, the first of what would be four total theatres build for this master showman (his biggest legacy being Grauman’s Chinese Theatre built in 1927). After Mr. Yellin passed away in 2002 his wife continued to oversee the changes to Grand Central Market as changes were also taking place to revitalize Downtown Los Angeles.
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I continued to visit Grand Central Market over the years and I would read and hear buzz about this revitalization of Downtown Los Angeles, including Grand Central Market. In 2013 the first wave of new tenants began to move in which included Eggslut, Horse Thief BBQ, Valerie Confections, Sticky Rice and the above-mentioned G & B Coffee. That’s when I noticed a significant change in demographics in terms of customers, younger office workers and new Downtown residents moving into the trendy loft apartments.
Today Grand Central Market still gets my business, I enjoy the variety of food stalls they have brought in with standouts being McConnell’s Ice Cream, Wexler’s Deli, Belcampo Meat Co. (one of my very favorite burgers!) and the earlier mentioned Eggslut, which I will only dine at if I can get in a short line. A new favorite is Sari Sari Store which features Filipino Rice Bowls. My research pals Angela and Allen favor the Wonton Soup from longtime vendor China Café which underwent their own mini renovation recently.
Just a few weeks after the candles were blown out on the 100-layer Grand Central Market birthday cake, it was announced that Grand Central Market has been sold to a Beverly Hills-based real estate group. The new owners have announced that initial plans are not to drastically change-up the tenants but to make some building improvements like paint and lighting. The Million Dollar Theatre property has been leased to a fashion company. Like it has done since its debut in 1917, Grand Central Market will continue to evolve and feed happy diners who come to visit this centennial landmark.
By Trish Procetto