Echo Park shop owners prepare to close up and move out

Scott Wells of Wells Tile & Antiques

Scott Wells of Wells Tile & Antiques

Storefront ReportThe 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.”

hit bargain owner-002

Hit Bargain owner Ken Namkung

Screenshot 2015-12-10 at 3.10.51 PM

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  1. So we are down to only 2 small laundromats in all of Echo Park? That’s ridiculous.

  2. This is terrible news. Lucy’s is always busy and very much needed in the neighborhood. We need Hit Bargain too! They are the nicest people that know everyone in the neighborhood.
    Thanks Continental Developement Group. Can’t wait for the graffiti covered empty buildings in the coming months.
    Can Mitch do anything about this?

  3. And don’t forget they already pushed out Pizza Buona.
    So long Wells Tile and Hit Bargain. You will be missed. Although with all the coffee shops on sunset now, I can’t see how the starbucks will be missed.

  4. The developer’s proposed “retail compound” sounds as cheery as a gulag. Yuck.

  5. Why did Mayor Garcetti go on TV w/ Adrien Alpert & tell her that No Person Should Be Displaced! If They Are It Is Against The Law For Them To Do That… He Wants The People To Stay In The Community!! At What Price Mayor!!! Aired Sunday4/9/2016

  6. Too bad. But I’ve got to think Wells tile has benefitted from a hell of a deal on rent for the past 25 years. Prime spots like that on sunset aren’t common.

    • Wells tile hasn’t been in that location for 25 years. And the neighborhood was ver very different, 25 years ago. My landlord gave me all kinds of concessions back then because he was so happy to have a renter who was employed. I imagine there were similar concessions for commercial space.

      • So you agree that Wells must have had a damn good, lower than market rate on rent for the past 10 years or so…

        • You fail at reading comprehension. Maybe you should learn how to identify contextual clues/words instead of pushing your pro-gentrification agenda?

          Wells paid $650 a month 25 YEARS AGO IN THEIR ORIGINAL LOCATION. They did NOT reveal their current rent. Also, seems like you are not local to the neighborhood, because Wells hasn’t even been in their current location for 5 years! (Maybe 2 or 3?)

          • Are you drunk? Wells was a block down sunset in another prime spot next to the current PETA office. They moved to the current location 4 years ago or so and paid less than half the market rate for a sunset Blvd storefront in the area. Split between two businesses might I add. That storefront is worth that cost for advertising purposes alone. I’ll repeat myself one last time for those having a tough time w this, the business has benefited over the years from massively low rents, Wells and Eric made out like bandits. Sympathy from anti gentrification crowd is laughable. Complete idiocy on display.

  7. Where will we ever buy our sink stoppers now! Crisis in echo park!!

  8. The Lucy’s situation is crazy. I mean that place was always packed! what are those people going to do???

  9. Why don’t people just do their laundry at home like everyone else?

  10. At this point don’t most people in the neighborhood have housekeepers to do their laundry in the home? In any case that is the direction things are going and the people at Lucy’s might very well understand that there is an end date to their viability in Echo Park.

    • Are you serious?? Never had a housekeeper in my life. We clean our house ourselves, and we do our laundry at Lucy’s. Not everyone is rich enough to afford those luxuries.

  11. The community and businesses that made Echo Park so diversified and special are now being sold to the highest bidders. Mitch and Garcetti don’t give a damn!!!

  12. “Retail Compound”. Gag.

  13. Why is there no rent control for commercial buildings? There used to be no housing control but, thankfully that changed. Does anyone know why the same is not being done to protect small and or local independent businesses from this fate? Do Mitch or Garcetti have any control over this?

    • Rent control is not the God send that people like you think. There are many unintended consequences, one being inflated rents for the newer tenants in the rent controlled buildings

      Anytime you try to price fix or artificially control the market it ends in disaster.

    • Let’s subsidize outdated businesses! Said no one with half a brain who cares about their neighborhood.

  14. Meanwhile it is going to be a serious laundry emergency in this neighborhood. Help us Mayor Garcetti!!!

    • Youre barking up.the wrong tree there. He does not give one shit about anything but overdeveloping LA to the point of being unrecognizable.

  15. so that puts us down to one dollar store now? i moved to this neighborhood because you can keep the business in and walk around the neighborhood. it’s getting to the point where I don’t want to spend a single penny here. which defeats the point of even staying.

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