Grand Central Market, with its' massive main floor, food stalls and distinctive neon signs, has been a crossroads of L.A. commerce and community since it first opened in 1917. Food fads have come and gone, but the Market remains.  (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

Grand Central Market, with its massive main floor, food stalls and distinctive neon signs, has been a crossroads of L.A. commerce and community since it opened in 1917. Food fads have come and gone, but the Market remains. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

When the facelift was announced for the iconic 1917 Grand Central Market cries of concern went up among the regulars (and the chattering class). Will they force out my beloved carniceria to make room for a yuppie oyster bar? Will a fancy cheese shop displace the cheap produce? Where will I get a burrito the size of my head?

You may have heard something along these lines recently. Except the outcry I’m talking about was back in 1987, when a writer for the Los Angeles Times wrote about the changes being cooked up at that time for downtown’s favorite open-air market…

“Grand Central is undergoing a slow but calculated renovation. Owners Ira Yellin and Tracy and Beach Lyon are hoping to keep their bus trade and pull in the carriage trade as well. Can quarter-a-loaf bread buyers coexist with the La Salsa clientele when that quintessential yuppie taco stand opens a branch just inside the Broadway entrance soon? Except for the La Salsa stand, the Broadway section is expected to keep its present tenants (with some remodeling to the stalls themselves). The big changes are slated for the Hill Street side, with the bargain dry-goods section being ripped out in favor of a ceviche and oyster bar and a well-known Chinese restaurant. It will be interesting to see what happens as the now-quite-workable cultural mix is stirred a bit more.”

The stirring continues. History can indeed repeat itself, because we’re hearing the same outcry today about the dreaded, yuppie oyster bar.

As KCRW Producer Saul Gonzalez reports, the latest facelift to Grand Central Market that was announced in December is now slowly underway on the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building at 3rd and Broadway. For now that means a new Thai stand, a hip Texas-barbecue joint and a third-wave coffee shop. The artisinal cheese is coming. And freshly shucked Carlsbad Lunas from the Oyster Gourmet. We explore what’s in and out on “Which Way LA?”

There will be some push-back from the devoted market goers followed by delicate balancing on the part of the management and consultants to refurbish and update the market without alienating “the bus trade.” While they’re at it, the managers should think hard about their 6 p.m. closing time. Or else these new vendors could go the way of Flanders Frites -  that was a stand that managed to win “Best Fries” from Los Angeles Magazine in 2012 only to shutter because, well, drunk people aren’t clamoring for fries at rush hour. In that regard, hopefully times they are a changin’.

Since change has been decried for decades, we were curious what the Grand Central Market looked like in its earlier heyday.

The aisles and counters of Grand Central Market circa 1966. (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

An exterior view of the open market from the street end circa 1951. (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

The meat and fish aisle of Grand Central Market circa 1930 (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

A sign at Grand Central Market promises all you can drink root beer or buttermilk for a nickel, circa 1937 (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

 

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7 Comments »

  • Sarah C said:

    I fell in love with Grand Central Market when I first moved to LA in 1973. I bought fresh rabbit, candied fruit for the fruitcake, okra from an Asian vendor, roasted nuts, and oh, the gorditas that dripped down my chin! Some of those vendors are already gone, but although I don't live in LA anymore I am glad to know it is still vital.

  • Sam Huddy said:

    It'll be nice to have more variety at GCM, but I hope some of the more distinctive vendors will continue to be around. (hola Bento Ya!)

  • LA’s Grand Central Market: 4 New Eateries To Get Excited About | By The List said:

    [...] was awesome– it’s nearly 100 years old and has been in the news lately because of  a contentious facelift that’s still going on. Pricier, hipster-serving merchants are moving in and there’s [...]

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