The shelves and display cases at Wells Tile & Antiques are filled with vintage tile and pottery that have attracted celebrity customers like Diane Keaton and Brad Pitt. Next door, Hit Bargain caters to working class shoppers with chip clips, sink stoppers and other 99-cent items. The two Sunset Boulevard businesses could not be more different but now they face the same fate: both are moving out of Echo Park as rents rise and landlords seek new tenants.
Numerous Echo Park businesses have closed in recent years as rents have shot up as the neighborhood has gentrified. But Hit Bargain and Wells Tile are part of a mass-closing of neighborhood businesses near the southwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street. In addition to Hit Bargain and Wells Tile, the owners of Rewind Audio said they are closing their storefront around the corner on Alvarado while the nearby Lucy’s coin-laundry will shut down on April 24. Even the Starbucks plans to shutter after April 29, an employee said.
All these businesses are located in the cluster of buildings that were taken over by the Continental Development Group. Continental is planning to renovate the structures and attract restaurants and other tenants to what it calls a “retail compound.” While there’s a chance some of the existing tenants could return once renovations are complete, no promises have been made, a Continental employee told The Eastsider last month.
But some of those current tenants said there was little chance they could return given the higher leasing rates.
“We really didn’t want to leave,” said Scott Wells, whose tile shop is moving to Sixth Street in the Westlake district after about 25 years in Echo Park. Wells declined to provide details about his rent, saying only that, “we couldn’t afford to stay.”
Wells said he and Eric’s Architectural Salvage, which share the same space, need to be out by June 1. Both shops will share the new space in the 1500 block of Sixth Street, where they will move into about 12,000-square-feet of ground floor and basement space.
Wells wanted to stay close by but said remaining in Echo Park, especially on Sunset, is no longer an option given the current rents. When Wells first opened in Echo Park, he paid $650 a month for his original storefront, located about a block west on Sunset from his current location. That same space now rents for $4,000 a month, Wells said.
“It’s just hard to rent a space now in Echo Park,” Well said. “I couldn’t afford a place on Sunset now.”
Next door, Ken Namkung is in the process of reducing inventory at Hit Bargain, which he opened six years ago, as he looks for a new location. He said his bargain-minded customers have been disappointed by the news of the store’s upcoming closure, which is about a month away. Namkung said his customers have told him: “We need you.”
Can’t get enough Echo Park news? Sign up for The Eastsider’s new Echo Park Weekly email newsletter. Echo Park Weekly will feature EP-centric stories, tidbits, advice, observations, information as well as the week’s top news. Arriving in your inbox beginning in January.
Cecilia Padilla-Brill, Editor
Echo Park Weekly
Jesús Sanchez, Publisher
Please fill out every field
Problem with the form? Let us know