Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“I’m done” – Long-time Echo Park shoe store owner moves on after rents rise


Storefront ReportECHO PARK ––  Crown Shoes owner Yong Kim has seen many of his customers leave the neighborhood as they have been priced out by rising rents. Now, Kim is joining them.  After 35 years in Echo Park,  Kim has closed the doors to his Sunset Boulevard shop after a new landlord proposed a substantial rent increase.  “Things have changed,” Kim said. “I’m done.”

Kim has been working in the brick storefront crowded with athletic shoes and school uniforms since he was 14 when his parents bought the store. The Belmont High graduate has seen the neighborhood change over the decades.  During the 1992 riots, Kim and his brother enlisted Echo Park gang members to help protect the shop in return for free sneakers, according to an account on KCET.  Now, there are less gang members around. “This gentrification, these landlords did what LAPD Gang Unit couldn’t do,” he told KCET.

Down the block from Kim, discount store Jumbo Bargain recently closed after it also faced a steep rent hike. Kim said he has heard that other long-time commercial tenants on the block are moving or considering to move as rents rise.

The rent increase was one of  several challenges Kim has faced in recent years. Competition from online retailers has increased. The gentrification of the neighborhood has reduced the size of his core Latino customers. The lack of other nearby shoe and clothing stores also made it harder to attract shoppers to the area, said Kim.

“The only thing we are attracting is bar customers,” said Kim of Echo Park’s Sunset Boulevard commercial strip. He said he had grown tired of cleaning up vomit, urine and, in one case, blood from the sidewalk in front of his shop. “How many more bars can they bring in?”

Kim, who closed the shop at the end of May and is now clearing out the remaining inventory,  said he will keep selling shoes and other merchandise through online channels and operate his other businesses from offices in Paramount.

crown shoes map

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  1. I’m sure these are good people and it sucks they are being “forced”out. I’ve been trying to buy shoes at that place for 9 years. And every time I’ve gone the selection has been extremely minimal, and most often my size, 10.5, wasn’t available. Gentrification is a major issue but that’s not the main reason this or many of the other stores are closing up. Jumbos sells items that are as close to being literally garbage as possible. The market next to Chango sold chef Boyardee and single rolls of toilet paper. I hate to see anyone leave that’s helped build this community, but that shoe store could easily be doing really well right now. They could have been selling shoes to gentrifiers like me. I tried many times to do. One time I did and regretted it because I had to settle for a shoe I didn’t want but wanted to keep my money in my hood.
    Let’s be real. Let’s blame gentrification for the things it causes, and not just make the reason for every change that happens in Echo Park.

    • I had the same experience with this place. Went in twice to look for new running shoes, didn’t have my size in anything I wanted.

    • This is an excellent observation. Cities are always changing, and businesses that ignore those changes are going to have trouble surviving. The photo shop on the corner of logan and sunset now sells bikes to white hipsters….that’s an owner who is paying attention and seizing an opportunity.

    • Ironically, their big selection of Converse is pretty ideal for the gentrifying hipster sect that’s forcing them out.

  2. I hate to admit I had the same problem. I lived in EP for 13 years and would go in here every so often. I think I did get a pair of shoes once or twice, and a dodgers hat, but usually they just didn’t have anything good.

  3. Nonetheless, it is a huge rent hike that ran him out, like too many others. These small businesses are being hit by rent hikes of 500% or even notably more. And anyone who pays that kind of rent to replace them will be charging high prices. Too bad this story failed to say how much rent increase Kim was given.

    Kim made some very good observations: This idiotic gentrification is mindlessly oriented around alcohol everywhere, at every turn.

    • Yeah, that’s an interesting economics problem. Booze is a great high margin/low footprint item that can make rent pretty easily. Kim could, maybe, convert his store into a running shoe place and break even, but he’d never make as much as if he simply started selling beer from a tap.

      This, of course, is the reason for liquor licenses etc. , to artificially stem supply and increase demand/opportunity for other kinds of businesses. Anyone know what the law looks like in LA?

    • There really needs to be some sort of rent control for businesses so long-standing neighborhood shops don’t keep getting forced out.

      • WHAT? why should we all subsidize crappy businesses like this shoe store? good riddance, this store looks old, shitty, and they’ve done nothing to improve the neighborhood. They deserve no subsidies. This business is just taking up a prime spot that another, more deserving business could take.

        I walked into this store about 5 years ago and they had literally nothing. A bunch of junk really. And it hasn’t tried to improve one bit, GoodBye!

        • Ditto.
          Tried to shop there couple of times, wasn’t happening. One time they didn’t have my size and the owner let me know, through various grunts and sighs, what a pain in the @ss it was for to look for a size 11. The other time he wasn’t around, period as in no one in the store.

          Just like Barragan’s, Pioneer Chicken, Ralphs etc.; crappy service, old and or bad products, rundown locations. I’m surprised people keep getting all weepy over businesses that the owner’s themselves clearly don’t give a sh*t about, let alone caring about their customers.

          Give the space to a business owner who actually cares and knows how to hustle.

    • We can argue about the pitfalls of capitalism and find many areas of agreement. I don’t like our system either but it is what it is. That being said property owners are gonna make money where they can and so should a shoe store owner. With no experience selling shoes aside from watching Married with Children I could make that place incredibly profitable with very little effort. Shoe sales to certain denographics are probably the easiest thing to figure it. Clearly he knows what his local demographic is if he can so clearly point to as being the entity forcing him out. Under a different system perhaps even a not so perceptive shoe store owner could still co exist with a community of patrons 20-40 years old with a habit of paying absurd prices for fashion in the “hippest” area of the world. I’m in favor of that system but you can’t carve our chunks of your neighborhood and say they should be immune to the rules of society just because.

      • I hate sounding cold. But capitalism is cold. And it all needs to change so that good people like Kim can stay in their neighborhood. Good luck, and I am sorry.

        • Business has to evolve or they die. Some just don’t get it.

          • @Juan

            Exactly. This is more a universal rule than just a gentrification issue.
            Retail is tough, and if you don’t know how to run a business properly it’s even tougher. Doesn’t matter if it’s grandma’s tienda or a hipster clothing place; both will sink if you don’t cater to your customer’s needs.

  4. I bought every Dodger cap I ever owned here since I was a kid. Thanks Crown!

    • I often walked through to see the styles Crown had, purchased some old school Air Jordans which I couldn’t afford when I was a kid, but most importantly Kim always supplied the slip resistant shoes I needed every season at the Stadium. Going to miss the facade of the building. As if it was trapped in the 90s. Good luck to you Mister Kim and Maria.

  5. It was only a matter of time. Next up fashion of echo park.

    • Fashion of Echo Park probably isn’t going anywhere. Their prices are a lot higher then when I grew up, and the store is full of hipsters. They know what they are doing!

    • iamsnowbear, Fashions of Echo Park has been doing a kick ass business for years. Somehow, they are always on the crest of fashion, even if the quality isn’t great. I know people who make sure to check out their new window dressing every time they update it.

  6. doesn’t really seem like they’ll be missed.

  7. I lived in Echo Park for over 18 years and I used to buy my shoes here when I was in high school. Well…more like lay-away because I would make payments from my allowance. When I had my kids this shoe store was convenient too for the same reason but then I noticed that they didn’t’ have a good variety selection of shoes and I stop shopping for that same reason. They have been here for a long time but I never saw improvements within the store nor their shoe selection. Sad to see them go but I believe they could of made it through if changes were made within their store.

  8. I bought my logger boots there about 1992. Sad to see Crown shoes go.

  9. Jason Fernandez

    It was too expensive and i live in the neighborhood all my life.

  10. I have a feeling that building is beautiful under all that signage. I don’t recall the owners being involved in local events, fundraising, community activism like the owners of Masa, Taix, and other stores.

  11. I hope they replace the store with “Authentic American” hand made canvas tote bags that run $100 or more.
    Or better yet, some dudes favorite things sitting in shelves for everyone to see…

    oh wait…
    yeah, that’s already happened.

    • “Some dudes favorite things sitting in shelves for everyone to see” is a GENUIS way of describing it. I’ve been trying to put it into words what some of these terrible stores really are and that’s it in a nutshell. It’s like having a store for self promotion and ego.

    • I know what rich is and people who are moving to Silver Lake or Echo Park aren’t wealthy by any standards; they are primary white people who have been priced out of the West side.

  12. jimmiejoejohnson

    ““This gentrification, these landlords did what LAPD Gang Unit couldn’t do,” he told KCET.’

    There is a silver lining to everything.

  13. Just a bit confused, if his parents bought the place why is he being forced out by a rent increase?

    • I was wondering the same thing. I guess either they sold it some time ago or he’s got some tough old parents who would raise the rent on their own kid’s business!
      Not to pile on, but the one time I went in there they didn’t even have the Dodger hats that other people remember buying. Shoes sound like a tough racket but Undefeated (Undefeeted? However it’s spelled) in Silver Lake seems to be doing just fine so I’m skeptical of his critique about the changing neighborhood putting him out of business.

    • His parents bought the store. They did not buy the property.

  14. Am I the only person who thinks it’s inherently racist to assume that all white people are rich and that entire areas must be reserved for Latino persons….who are always described as poor? It’s irritating. Just because someone is white and lives in silver lake does not mean they are ” hipsters” . Most are average working people who are excited to be buying their first house in the areas they can still afford to do so. Further, to continue to reinforce the idea that all Latinos are poor, helpless, and need to be subsidized is insane! The people selling their properties are not helpless… They are cashing out, just like everyone else eventually does, and taking their money and buying somewhere else. Which is interesting, because whatever city they buy in, I guess they are ” displacing” someone with their new found wealth? It’s all relative.

    It’s disheartening to hear such rude things being written about fellow humans.

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