Fire destroys South LA businesses + Breaking down South LA violence

Firefighters follow up at the Church fire.

Firefighters responded to a fire in an industrial area early Wednesday morning. (Intersections South LA)

Chunk of city block destroyed by fast-moving flames in South L.A.: Several businesses were destroyed Wednesday morning after a fire in an industrial neighborhood in South LA began. Firefighters are unsure of the extent of the damage at this point in time. (LA Times)
Facing the Challenge of Violence in South LA: Rising violence in South LA has attracted media attention across the country. But understanding the history of South LA and the current climate is crucial for deciphering risks and making the neighborhoods safer for residents. (Huffington Post)

Fewer customers hurting Leimert Park businesses

imageBy Theresa Pablos

The economic downturn has been devastating for Obine Ador. He’s now in the process of closing his shop in Leimert Park Village. “It’s because the business here isn’t like it used to be,” he explains.

Ador opened the African art store, called African Heritage and Antique Collection, in Leimert Park about five years ago. He remembers when business was better.

“People were looking for African medallions, masks, clothes… It was a trend,” says Ador, who believes his loss might have been preventable if the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association (LPVMA) was in better shape. LPVMA was started in 1933 to help stores in Leimert Park Village.

“I can’t say it’s helpful. They haven’t achieved anything,” he says. “Everybody has their opinion on how the thing should be, and nothing has come up as a result.”

The current president of the LPVMA is Jackie Ryan, co-owner of Zambezi Bazaar. She declined to comment about her work as association president, but she has recently made promotional efforts, such as creating fliers, banners and a website that publicize Leimert Park Village.

imageHowever, some storeowners think her marketing campaign has not drawn in enough new customers to keep stores open and flourishing.

“The leadership should be promoting here – promoting Leimert Park,” Ador says. “Laura used to be president and everybody liked her.”

He refers to Laura Hendrix, the former president of the LPVMA, who has owned Gallery Plus, an art store in Leimert Park Village, for 21 years. She agrees with Ador.

“The leadership hasn’t been as strong,” says Hendrix, who is no longer a member of the LPVMA. “We used to have at least 35 stores in the association.” Now, only about 20 stores comprise the LPVMA.

For Hendrix, her biggest success has been keeping her art store open for so many years. “It’s been rewarding to be here, to work with other merchants,” Hendrix says.

All of the storeowners in Leimert Park Village work closely together to promote business on the street. The collaborative effort to share customers has helped fill in the gaps that the LPVMA has not been able to. “We don’t try to exclude anybody,” Hendrix says. “It’s better than fighting for yourself.”

For about 80 years, Leimert Park businesses have been drawing customers with festivals. According to Hendrix, there are about three or four street-wide festivals throughout the year, mostly put on by non-profit groups, in addition to other events organized by local businesses.

“If you want more people to come, you have to have more events, something to spice things up,” says Barrington Bailey, a two-year employee of Adassa’s Island Café and Entertainment in Leimert Park Village.

imageBailey notices that more customers come in during special events like their buffet brunch and live jazz music every Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. When customers come to Adassa’s Island Café for their highly rated Jamaican food, other businesses on the street also get customers.

Mia Robinson, a regular at Addassa’s, began walking the street after visiting the restaurant one time. “I’ve been to the bookstore,” she says. “People have done book signings, but I haven’t been [to the signings] yet, but I want to.”

While the LPVMA or the stores of Leimert Park Village are not as successful as they were in the past, they are not giving up. Even Ador who is closing his store plans to return.

“I’m going to come back and bring my African art.” He says he’s thinking of doing wholesale to supply the stores in Leimert Park Village.

In the meantime, Ador and other storeowners hope the economy recovers soon, so that Leimert Park Village can once again become a thriving cultural and business hub.

Local organization continues its search for the next entrepreneur star

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Three small business hopefuls faced the last round in a competition Thursday to jump-start their businesses. The Los Angeles Urban League and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza have teamed up to give away a six-month kiosk lease to the winner.

Blair Taylor is the president of Los Angeles Urban League. He judged the contestants.

“I’m really looking for entrepreneurs who’ve done their homework and understand a little about the market – a little bit about the dynamics of the market – and are thinking for the long term about how their business might survive over multiple years opposed to just the immediate launch,” Taylor said.

Think of the contest like American Idol, but without the reality television. It’s fierce, but Barbara Lawson, who is selling hand-painted glassware in the competition, said all the contestants have developed a bond.

“It’s really not about necessarily who wins because obviously for the top three to get there they have a viable product, a viable business, and everyone is going to do great,” Lawson said.

Ronald Jackson, another contestant, has hand crafted jewelry for 17 years. He hopes this will be his ticket to success.

“It’s been interesting, and it’s harder when you see so many people with so many great ideas,” Jackson said. “So it’s been challenging because they’re cool people, but at the same time, I have to keep my focus on me.”

They’ve all come a long way. Originally, 60 people signed up for the opportunity. Today, just three remain. The winner will be announced at a dinner held in early April.

Report reveals lack of city contracts with women and minorities

Listen to the audio story:


Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other city leaders gathered at the Los Angeles City Hall to show support for the Minority Business Contracting Reforms, which would award more contracts to minority businesses.

The Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce unveiled a report that showed small, minority and women-owned businesses do not receive an adequate share of business contracts from the city.

“We just wanted to point out that there were so many deficiencies in the lack of contracts being awarded to minorities,” said Gene Hale, Chairman of the organization, which is also known as the GLAACC.

The chamber proposed the reform by making a series of step-by-step recommendations to the city’s leaders.

Hale said the city needs to implement a series of strong programs that would be in accord with the legal aspect of minority contracting. One of those programs, he added, should be a comprehensive review of past discrimination cases.

“They need to do what’s known as a disparity study that will discover any past discrimination against women and minorities,” he said. “If there is, then the city can implement some set-aside programs for those groups. It’s just some things that other cities are doing, that the city of LA is not doing.”

The Los Angeles City Controller said city leaders will begin taking steps to improve the situation because minority business owners play a crucial role in the city’s economic recovery.

“In Los Angeles, small businesses, and in particular, minority- and women-owned businesses, are the backbone of the city and the backbone of our economy,” Greuel said. “[We are] invested in their future.”

Gale said he hopes this initiative will be the first step to starting a dialogue with the mayor and opening more doors of opportunity for minority businesses.

Proposition 24 would change tax laws for businesses


Listen to the audio story here:


Read the script here:

Supporters say it would end tax breaks for big corporations. Opponents say it would hurt small businesses struggling to survive.

Proposition 24 would repeal three laws passed in 2008 and 2009 that cut business taxes.

Scott MacDonald is a spokesman for Stop Prop 24. He says those changes were designed to help small businesses weather times like these.

MacDonald: “We all know that this recession has hurt a lot of people. The last thing we need to do is burden the state’s small businesses and multi-state companies and others by passing Prop 24.”

That is not how Gregg Solkovits sees it. He is with United Teachers Los Angeles, which supports Proposition 24. Solkovits said with California’s budget problems, the state can no longer afford to give tax breaks.

Solkovits: A vote to repeal those tax breaks is a piece to solving California’s perennial budget problems. We have a revenue problem because we continue to give the wealthy and large corporations tax breaks.”

A poll taken last week showed voters tied, with a third still undecided.