By Emilie Hu '21
On October 31st, Downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market was sold to Langdon Street Capital, a Beverly Hills real estate investor, shortly after its 100th birthday celebration. The Grand Central Market is perhaps most recognized for its instagrammable spots, such as Eggslut or PBJ.LA. Situated in the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles along with the Bradbury Building, Angel’s Flight, and the Million Dollar Theatre, it is a hallmark of Los Angeles food and culture.
Walking through the Grand Central Market feels like a colorful micro-tour of Los Angeles’ assorted enclaves. Every vendor has at least one neon sign at their stall as it is a requirement for the lease. The open-air indoor market bustles with tourists and locals alike; it smells of everything from pupusas to chop suey.
This purchase marks a pivot in the Grand Central Market’s history; its clientele is changing, and it is becoming more profitable than ever. The customers are upper-middle-class professionals living Downtown Los Angeles, looking for a more upscale yet leisurely dining experience. Adam Daneshgar, the new owner, says his firm just wants to “safeguard” the place. Still, the goal of this acquisition is to revitalize and revamp the market for a new generation of consumers.
The Grand Central Market’s beaux-arts style building was built in 1917, a time when Downtown Los Angeles was filled with Victorian-style mansions. Affluent Bunker Hill residents frequented the market for groceries and specialty goods. As the decades passed, the Victorian mansions were either relocated to other sites or demolished to make way for the skyscrapers we see today. Along with that, the wealthy Angelenos began moving out of Downtown, making room for low-income residents. The Grand Central Market adjusted to these changes and many of the stalls became discounted goods and a spot for people to grab low-cost meals. Many of these residents that moved into the once well-to-do market were immigrants. Legacy vendors like Tacos Tumbras and Ana Maria’s moved in during the early seventies, serving Downtown Los Angeles’s large Latino community. In 1984, the Grand Central Market was purchased by a developer named Ira Yellin, who wanted to revitalize the Historic Core. His goal for the market was to follow the trend of organic and artisanal eateries. He introduced new vendors like Sticky Rice, G&B Coffee, DTLA Cheese, and then eventually the notorious Eggslut. Eggslut’s establishment marks Grand Central’s transformation. Its tongue-in-cheek name and its specialty in brunch food is the epitome of hipster culture in Los Angeles.
While Los Angeles is a city that often cannibalizes its own history, this new wave of gentrification happening in the Grand Central Market threatens the area’s overlooked immigrant communities. Today, Latino-Americans do not frequent the Grand Central Market as much as before. The Grand Central Market is a link to Los Angeles’s rich history, and it seems ironic that a landmark in the Historic Core should have to resist the erasure of its own past for the sake of a lucrative future.
In a more hopeful vein, Adam Daneshgar says he is not looking to “change or overhaul anything.” Perhaps the Grand Central Market’s new owner will seek to preserve the building’s history, but their plans for the market have not been released. Daneshgar says he will invest a several million dollars to “maintain” the historic indoor market. While Daneshgar words may be reassuring, they still do not undo the tribulations of the displaced communities that are trying to prosper under the throes of gentrification. In the meantime, it is important to support the legacy tenants like Chiles Seco, Tacos Tumbras, or Villa Moreliana when you visit the Grand Central Market. Their survival is vital for the preservation of Los Angeles history and culture.