As violence, fires and looting spread across the city during the riots of 1992, Yong Kim and his family, who owned the Crown Shoes store in Echo Park, prepared for the worst. They closed their Sunset Boulevard store and rented a U-Haul truck to move their merchandise to safety. Meanwhile, one of Kim’s brothers struck up a deal with local gang members, according to a post in the KCET Departures blog:
One of Kim’s brothers, minding the store while Kim relocated the merchandise, recruited gang members who were longtime patrons of the shop; each was offered a pair of sneakers in exchange for helping to protect the shop. “Their original intention I don’t think was to come protect,” Kim says. “[I think] they came down just for the heck of it. But then again, we all knew gangs, those guys shopped here, so they knew if they really did anything we could point [a] finger. So they took care of the place.”
That account was written in 2002 by Jeremy Rosenberg, who recently returned to interview Kim, whose family has owned Crown Shoes for 27 years. In the follow up interview, Kim said that it would be hard to trade sneakers for gang protection now since so many gang members have been pushed out of Echo Park by gentrification and rising rents:
“This gentrification, these landlords did what LAPD Gang Unit couldn’t do,” Kim says.
Somethings won’t change, however. Crown Shoes recently signed a long-term lease to stay in Echo Park.