ECHO 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.
The Eastsider’s Daily email digest includes all new content published on The Eastsider during the last 24 hours. Expect the digest to land in your in email in box around 7 p.m. It’s free to sign up!
Once you submit your information, please check your email box to confirm your subscription.