South LA residents shop for employment at Juanita Tate Marketplace

Signs advertise the businesses at the new Juanita Tate Marketplace | Wan Xu

Signs advertise the businesses at the new Juanita Tate Marketplace | Wan Xu

At the back door of Northgate Gonzales Market, security guard Ulises Hernandez asked a maintenance worker for identification before waving him through. The two men are among the 100 South L.A. residents who have found employment at the new grocery store, which opened its doors last week at the new Juanita Tate Marketplace at Slauson and Central avenues.

The security work is a step up for Hernandez, “about $4 more per hour” than he had been earning, he said. “I’ve been working in El Monte and La Puente. They’re really far compared to this one. I definitely prefer this job.”

Emerging Markets Inc., a consulting firm that helps supermarket chains pursue business opportunities in low-income neighborhoods, helped to recruit new South L.A. employees.

“It helps us coordinate with a couple of work resource centers here in the local area so that we were able to organize interviews,” said store director Alberto Ayala, adding that 1,200 applicants were interested in positions.

New employees are currently being trained in different stores for their jobs, which include cashier positions as well as spots in the grocery, meat and produce departments.

Northgate’s opening is also significant because it will improve the fresh food access for South L.A., an area with more than 455,000 residents. The scarcity of healthy food options has been viewed as such a problem that six years ago the City of Los Angeles voted to prohibit fast-food outlets in South L.A. from opening within a quarter mile of one another. Northgate’s offerings could help to tip the scales in the direction of healthier options.

“We’re going to offer the community a selection of a lot of items,” said Ayala, including a healthy food line called Viva La Salud that’s “based on a healthier form of eating.”

The just-opened Juanita Tate Marketplace is South L.A.’s first outdoor shopping center, spanning more than 77,000 square feet with over 400 parking spots. Businesses include a CVS/Pharmacy, Starbucks, Panda Express and Yogurtland. It is named for the late Juanita Tate, a community activist.

Conceived in the aftermath of the 1992 riots, Juanita Tate Marketplace didn’t come to fruition until recently. Construction was been delayed three times before City Council finally approved the project in September 2010. Designed by Nadel Architects on a former scrap metal plant site, the shopping center is a $21-million project developed by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

The area is home to a large number of Mexican and Central American immigrants, 60 percent of whom don’t have a high school diploma.

“Our goal was to provide a convenient, centralized shopping destination that supplies a wide range of food and services catering to the South LA community,” said Greg Palaski, managing principal of Nadel Architects and project director. “Our design helped create an inclusive retail center for local residents to enjoy.”

Local construction worker Robert Castro observed the buildings going up as he biked past them every day. He said he looks forward to positive changes the shopping center could bring.

“We’re going to have medicine for people who are sick, instead of going all the way to Huntington Park,” said Castro. “We have more stores around, more businesses and more people work. That’s good.”

Officials and community members at the grand opening of the Juanita Tate Marketplace |

Officials and community members at the grand opening of the Juanita Tate Marketplace |

Regency Centers, the development company that owns the shopping center, predicts a 10 percent annual return. Its partner, community property management company Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, is expected to make $242,000 in revenue, said Jenny Scalin, project manager for the city redevelopment agency.

“We are very excited that Juanita Tate is moving forward,” said John Mehigan, vice president of investments for Regency Centers. “With Nadel Architects’ design, we are well on the way to delivering a quality shopping center with best in class retailers for this community.”

City Councilman Curren Price lauded the retail center as the first of its kind in the Ninth District in the past 40 years.

“That’s a big deal here in South L.A,” he said. In addition to the benefit of having more retailers to serve residents, the center also improves job opportunities for the surrounding neighborhoods, where the unemployment rate is 13.7 percent.

The developer and the supermarket operator have agreed to a Community Benefits Plan, ensuring jobs, half of which are permanent, for the workers residing within three miles of the project site. They have also agreed to payments and benefits equal to, or greater than, those offered under the city’s living wage ordinance, complying with the CRA’s Living Wage Policy.

“It needs to be here because in this neighborhood, we don’t have CVS, Northgate and all that stuff. It’s good for here,” said Fred Gibson, a taco cook at Los 3 Puerquitos who said he hoped to land  a job at the center. “It brings good to people here in South Central L.A. It brings more jobs, gives you more self-esteem by itself.”

College student King Cooper said he would like to work part-time at CVS or Starbucks because he simply “loves the brands.”

“People don’t have to go far any more, “ he said. His friend Lanaee Mitchell, a high school student, said she plans to visit Panda Express frequently to eat her favorite Chinese food and maybe even to inquire about a job.

Price hopes the retail center can serve as a symbol that South L.A. is business-friendly and ready for investors.

“They want to know that the atmosphere’s conducive for investment,” he said. “They want to see the red tape pushed away, and I think they’re right.”

Originally published on Neon Tommy.


  1. Great article, I just wanted to point out a correction. It is located on Slauson and Central Avenue not on Crenshaw Avenue.
    Thank you

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