By C.J. SALGADO
EAST LOS ANGELES — While the national economy seems to be growing at a healthy rate, the economy appears to be a mixed bag in East L.A.. Take for example Whittier Place, a brand new strip shopping center on Whittier Boulevard. Palm trees have been planted and the parking lot lines have been freshly painted. But of the 18 spaces up for lease, only about half are occupied so far, with tenants skewed to the big corporate chains.
With gas prices and inflation at low levels, you’d think things would be quite rosy for businesses as consumers gain additional spending money. But across the street from Whittier Place is a failed business, a reminder of the harshness and riskiness of retail life on this iconic boulevard in East L.A. That business was once a long-standing tuxedo rental store, which became a discount store during the recession, and now stands vacant with a “bank owned, for sale” sign.
In a community with many mom-and-pop businesses, both legitimate and underground, Whittier Place seems geared for a different type of tenant. The shopping center’s features – like high street visibility, appealing design, dense demographics, and ample parking – sound inviting. Mom and pops beware, though. No hair or nail salons here. There are no bakeries, no mini markets … at least not yet.
Hailed as “one of the best new centers in East L.A,” Whittier Place so far has attracted mostly corporate tenants – Subway, Allstate Insurance, Fast Auto and Payday Loans – to fill its approximately 14,000 square-feet of space. With asking rents of about $2,000, mom and pop businesses will have to be financially strong and brave to join the club and local economy at this new shopping center.