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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Who needs a Trader Joe’s? Indy supermarkets fill empty stores and parking lots across Northeast L.A. *

A KPCC series on a potential Southern California supermarket strike includes a segment on the independent markets that have filled a void left by the major chains and now pose a competitive threat.  The KPCC in a story and slide show visits four of those stores in Northeast L.A.:  Super King and Super A Foods in Glassell Park and Superior and El Super in Highland Park.  The stores occupy buildings that once housed the outlets of much larger chains, including a Ralphs where Super King now draws long lines of customers – and cars – with a mix of Armenian, Mexican and mainstream foods. Here’s a scene, from KPCC, of the scene at Super King:

At the Super King market on San Fernando Road in Glassell Park, a neighborhood in northeast L.A., store director Raffi Karayan plays tour guide. “Right now we’re just going through people, trying to maneuver ourselves through the shopping carts. We have 14 checkstands open, and we have baggers on each checkstand to make sure the lines are going as fast as possible.”

We try to walk through the aisle in front of the checkstands and there are grocery carts and people everywhere. This is at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. Karayan says it’s a slow Tuesday for his Super King.

The first day of weekly Super King specials not only jams the store with customers, but leaves the parking lot jammed with cars and traffic backed up on San Fernando Road to the 2 Freeway onramp.  The Silver Lake Trader Joe’s parking lot is a calm oasis in comparison.

* Correction: A previous version of this post said the Super King replaced an Albertsons market. That’s wrong. It was a Ralphs and before that a Hughes (remember those?).



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  1. Super King has the worst parking lot design i’ve ever seen. Only one lane in and out. I went there once and won’t go back again until they create another entrance/exit for cars. Can’t tell you how many accidents I’ve seen nearly take place by people trying to turn in left into the lot but block the intersection because cars are backed up.

  2. its been a while but i’m pretty sure super king was a ralphs

  3. At first we were elated when Super King moved into the neighborhood but now it has become a complete nightmare for the residents who live across the street from them. Super King employees park their cars in our residential neighborhood from 6am to 1100pm every day. On trash day, the employees move our cans out of the street and place them on the curb, so our trash doesn’t get picked up. They throw all trash all over and have been very disrespectful to the residents. We have to wait for them to leave so we can park our cars on our block let alone in front of our house. Street sweeper not longer comes by because too many of their cars block the curb. You heard the horns honking all day because the market is grossly over crowded.
    I can’t believe the fire marshal has not closed them down for unsafe conditions. The traffic is horrible. Buses can’t get through and sometimes you’re stuck on the 2NB exit ramp on San Fernando because the traffic is so bad. I’ve seen Super King employees put traffic cone on San Fernando road to direct traffic into the market.
    The bus stops are loaded with trash from THEIR customers. My neighbor asked them if they could help pick up the trash and Raffi just shined her on.
    I’ve seen Northeast LAPD and DOT pass by when traffic is like this and they do absolutely NOTHING. Good luck trying to get building and safety out there, the inspectors are probably on the take.
    Something needs to be done before and not after someone gets hurt.

  4. Like the previous commenter, I was ecstatic to have an “ethnic” grocery store in my neighborhood. Going into Super King is like going into Casablanca – you will literally see people of MANY nations pushing their rude little ways up and down Super King’s well-stocked aisles. But the traffic nuisance they do not hinder or correct has become downright insufferable now. People clog up the parking lot and then the overflow traffic blocks an entire lane of San Fernando to the 2 freeway offramp, and sometimes, up onto the freeway.

    I’ve actually tweeted at them that they create traffic nightmares and some PR goon on the other end said they were “looking into” solutions for the congestion. That was maybe 2 years ago. Since then the traffic generated by this grocery store has ONLY GOTTEN WORSE.

    They should move into the old KMart store at San Fernando and Fletcher. Lots of parking. Huge pace.

    I moved to #90065 because I didn’t want to live in a neighborhood as populated and dense as West Hollywood. Now I find myself going through snarls of traffic on San Fernando every day.

  5. I agree first of all with the poster who said “Ralphs”….I remember the opening as it was a strange little market. Went in there and they had a lot of food demos for Japanese stuff: Seaweed, etc. It was convenient in some ways, but not really a place I’d plan on going to since there were other Ralphs around the area—a 24 hour one not that far away on Glendale Blvd, and what is now a 99Cts Only store on Fig & York used to be a Ralphs…
    The ‘new’ Ralphs was a project of Councilman Hernandez (who took the Gloria Molina seat when she was elected to the Board of Supervisors), trying to get a market into the area.
    OK, enough of history!

    The parking lot is exactly as Ralphs had it set up. I think to try to redesign the lot would require all sorts of City hoops to jump through and would only eliminate parking spaces which would cause more problems than it solved.
    I too have entered into the twilight zone of parkling lot time-warp. I’ve taken note of the times when this happens and tried to adjust my shopping trips to avoid those times. I understand that many people from out of the area (Pasadena/Altadena/communities off the 134/210) came to this market before they got their own in Altadena, but its popularity continues to grow.

    I don’t live in the area so I don’t know about trash but I would suggest the issue be brought up with your neighborhood council who might have a stronger voice in resolving some of the issues.
    You speak of people leaving trash in your area. If they are walking, then they are part of your neighborhood; the majority of the shoppers are in cars. I often stop by the Out of the Closet store a short distance down San Fernandoand some days the little side street is empty and some days it’s difficult to find a place to park. I drive north to access SF road and I see it’s that way all along the route. I think there might be other circumstances impacting the parking situation, not just the workers at SK.

    People come for the selection but also the low prices. A higher overhead (such as a KMart location) wouldn’t work. While everyone would like to see someone/ANYone do something with the KMart property, it remains empty and the longer the building sits there empty the more problems it presents.

    Something that the store does that I appreciate is to have workers constantly going through the parking lots and bringing the empty carts to the front of the store—both making carts available for shoppers (I really hate stores where you have to go looking for a cart to take in) and keeping the parking lot cart free for easier parking.
    I am a happy SK shopper (it’s my first choice of markets but I also patronize Super A (Eagle Rock Blvd), Superior (Ave 45) and El Super (York) so a possible supermarket strike wouldn’t affect me at all. But while I am speaking in defense of SK, I am not involved with the company at all other than shopping there.

  6. This second tier supermakets all have very low produce prices in particular, and meat too, as compared to the major supermarkets. It just shows how much these major stores are gouging the public silly!

    As for SuperKing, I will say it is THE best, and top grade produce. And that’s why it gets the crowds. Those crowds mean it could gouge like the others — but it doesn’t. It shows a much better mindset than the people running the major markets — and those crowds prove it. They chose to set fair prices, not set them as high as they can squeeze out of shoppers. And for that, I sill support them.

    But the racist — and unfounded — comments here about trash at the bus stops (I’ve been at those stops many, many times and they are not trashy, certainly no more so than any bus stop in LA) and rudeness is misguided. I haven’t found any special rudeness; the place is crowded, and everyone is trying to get through that crowd.

  7. This is simply the best supermarket in SOCAL! I visit about 2 times a week for groceries and fresh produce and meat. Their selection is amazing. Yes it is crowded and the parking lot is not the best but it is definitely worth it.

  8. Don’t forget Superior Market in Mount Washington! We love shopping there. Good prices and lots of what we need. Their in store made tortilla chips and soft tortillas are my favorite 🙂

  9. Gotta love Super King. Have been going there since the day it opened.

  10. I love and hate Super King. It’s nice to have a grocery store within walking distance that has everything from cheap Persian cucumbers and asparagus to Soyrizo and Japanese peanuts. My trick is that I go in the off-hours. Otherwise, I’ll end up in a fight with some other crazy person in the parking lot. Go right before they close: no lines, no waiting, no insanity.

    As for trash, for some reason, the whole neighborhood has a nasty littering problem. I chalk it up to: people are dirty and rude. I’ve had people park their new BMW in front of my home while visiting a neighbor and come out to find they left their McDonald’s trash or styrofoam cup still full of liquid in the gutter in front of my home or leaning against my fence. Seriously? Who thinks this is okay?

    I have lived in Eagle Rock, Lincoln Heights, Downtown, Alhambra and Sierra Madre and this is the FIRST TIME I’ve had people just plop their trash in front of my home like that. Not to mention the winds blow about a grocery bag’s worth of wrappers, papers and napkins into my trees every week.

  11. I believe it was originally a Hughes Market – a more upscale market that built there because its main warehouse was located behind it on San Fernando Rd (also believe the original Hughes Family Market was on the NE corner San Fernando at Fletcher) and though it was a fairly large chain the Hughes family still wanted to keep a connection to the old area (the Ralphs in Silver Lake on Glendale was also a Hughes Market). The Hughes brothers got old and they sold out to Ralphs about 10+ years ago and as Ralphs did not have the same nostalgic connection to the area they closed that store and Super King moved in.

  12. From LA Times….

    NEWS
    Atwater Village : Market Slated for Office Site
    April 29, 1993
    Hughes Markets will open a supermarket southeast of Fletcher Drive and San Fernando Road on the site of its former corporate offices, according to Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Hernandez. The new 37,000-square-foot market is expected to create 100 to 150 jobs in the area when it opens late this year. Hughes offices occupied the site from the early 1950s until November, 1992, when the company opened new corporate offices in Irwindale.

  13. If you are against Super King then you are against low prices and value. If you don’t like crowds then come during off-hours. That’s what I do. I get in, get out. I love it.

    As far as the comments about trash: that’s racist. Pure and simple.

    And if you have a problem with no parking on the street or the noises if you live nearby then you should go ahead get some cheap liquor from SK, to take a load off.

  14. And this also relates to my earlier discussion with those who wanted to destroy the Jiffy Lube at Sunset Junction to make way for a transit plaza. Now the same crowd wants to destroy Super King to make way for god-knows-what. This is where I draw the line.

    STAND WITH JIFFY LUBE! STAND WITH SUPER KING! YOU COULD BE NEXT!

  15. Parking is a “NIGHTMARE”!!!!!! there.

  16. Parking? Trash? Traffic?

    I think all of your complaints are true. There is definitely too much traffic, too little parking and not enough concessions to the neighbors for the extra volume of people. However, the half hour to 45 minute wait at the deli counter tops all of these things. I get my number before I shop, go get everything I need, even then I still have to wait an additional 10 minutes for my number to be called. What I won’t do for cheap meat!

  17. Why are the comments about trash at bus stops “racist”? Lots of people of many different ethnicities/races shop at SK. Local grocery stores, fast food places, etc should bear some responsibility for littering, as they produce so much of it.

  18. the suggestion that to complain about trash is “racist” is really absurd. yes, there are areas like sunset and echo park ave where the city needs to empty the trash cans way more often, this has to do with lots of pedestrian traffic. but to tag those who are complaining about litter as racist is stupid. the area around eagle rock high is another place where litter and trash abound. it is sad that some people have no respect for others or their own surroundings. litter and tagging are major examples. if the people who are doing this are non anglo, how is it racist to point out that such things are not ok? are only brown folks allowed to litter with impunity? or just non white folks? clearly that is a ridiculous concept. or, is it that only white people want to live in trash and graffiti free neighborhoods? again offensive and ridiculous. really……

  19. I used to go to Super King all the time but after getting hit REALLY HARD in the rear by a woman running with a shopping cart I am over it. The only time it’s not packed is Saturday night at 8:30 🙁

  20. The question to ask is what is SuperKing doing right that the other stores are not that gets them so much business the traffic backs up to the 2 on ramp. The Ralph’s that was in that same building closed due to lack of customers. Superking has the freshest, cheapest, and most varied produce in town for one. Where else can you buy fresh thyme, fresh tarragon, or verdulagos for about half what the other chains charge, if they even carry it. And the produce is super fresh, rarely sitting on the shelf for more than a few hours much less days like at other stores. Is it crowded? You bet. So go at seven in the morning when they open. The parking lot is empty and the produce aisle isn’t a gridlock of shopping carts. This is a great supermarket.

  21. Super King is the best in the area when it comes to quality and value. People that love food and love to cook, or people that have families and prefer to cook more at home, know this. The complaints about the parking situation are overblown. Sure, it gets busy, but I go there all the time and it’s really not that big a deal. It’s hardly worse than the TJ’s in Silverlake. But if you feel you need more space to park your car then by all means go to Ralphs or wherever else. Leave Super King for those of us who love it.

  22. This place is great. Parking is not the greatest but those who complain so much about parking are just your typical Los Angeles inpatient selfish drivers. People are always leaving so with a little patience parking is worth waiting. I hope some of these people who complain so much don’t come back. They are truly the ones making everyone’s day shopping for groceries a bad experience.

  23. Hey Mark, I made reference to ‘rude’ shoppers at Super King. This is not meant to be a racist comment. I myself happen to be the product of two different kinds of immigrants. All I was saying is: rude is as rude is. Doesn’t matter where you’re from. I’ve almost been hit walking in the parking lot of this parking lot. I’ve had shopping carts pushed into mine, shopping carts rolled over my toes, and shopping carts left against my car. I guess you’ve just been lucky, amigo.

    I can’t speak about this ‘trash’ left lying around near the store. It looks okay to me. I’m still more pissed about the traffic congestion that the city of Los Angeles does nothing about. Oh, so now you own the right hand lane of San Fernando Blvd?

    The produce is indeed astounding. Oh well. Down with Super King. Long live Super King.

  24. Certainly interesting arguments on both sides.

  25. you just kinda accept you are going on an adventure when going to super king. lots of pause. lot’s of deep breaths. and lot’s of the cheapest and best produce and meats around. ssssshhhhh. don’t tell everybody ; )

  26. Yeah my main thing was that I once got into a fistfight with an older Armenian lady near the deli counter. She only won because I let my guard drop and then she slammed my head into the display case. Still, a good value.

  27. now if only they could have some organic/local/sustainably raised meat. its proven that even value-conscious shoppers will spend the extra cash once they see the benefits of healthier meat. if stores like super king supported producers of better meat, the prices would drop and people could stop having to feed their kids potentially contaminated, factory-farmed meat.

    signed, meat lover

  28. Please do not compare El Super or Super A to good markets or to Super King. They are all fine and dandy, but we have enough low end markets in the ‘hood. What we need is organic produce and healthy food. Super A is great if you want gallon sizes of Tang or High C. Seriously? Trader Joes and Whole Foods (or dare I ask a smaller retail mom and pop?) need to come to the neighborhood. It’s insulting that they think the demographics don’t support those kinds of stores. I was there when a Whole Foods went into a Russian neighborhood in a “fringe” area of the City center, everyone said the store would fail. The place was overflowing with neighbors at all hours.

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