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Chief Will Open 15 Inner-City Stores : Rebuilding: Decision by the auto parts chain is hailed as a significant step in healing damage caused by the riots.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chief Auto Parts, Southern California’s largest automotive parts and accessories retail chain, said Tuesday that it will spend $11 million to open 15 inner-city stores in Los Angeles that will generate 200 jobs during the next four years.

The company’s stores were hit hard by last spring’s riots, and the announcement was hailed as a significant step forward in the rebuilding of riot-torn areas.

“This is right on target with what we are hoping to see,” said Jerry Arca, a spokesman for Rebuild L.A. “This is being done for business reasons and not out of some misguided sense of charity. This is every bit as significant as what some of the grocery chains are doing.”

Many companies have offered assistance in the form of emergency aid or loan programs, with some grocery chains leading the effort. Last July, Vons announced that it would spend $100 million to rebuild 12 stores in underserved areas of the city.

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Other chains--including Food 4 Less, Lucky and Smart & Final--have also undertaken post-riot programs to expand in parts of the Los Angeles area that have been most neglected.

The program announced by Chief Auto Parts is a move to “expand our presence in the community and open doors for employment opportunities,” said Simon Smith, the company’s regional manager.

Since it opened its first store in South-Central Los Angeles 35 years ago, Dallas-based Chief has expanded to 185 stores in Southern California.

With about 7 million cars on the road in the Los Angeles area, “there are more cars, especially old cars, here than anywhere else in the country,” Smith said. “So this is a core market for us.”

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The 15 new stores--two of which are already under construction--come in addition to 61 others that operate in the Los Angeles area and employ 600 people. Twenty-nine of those stores were damaged in the riots, including seven that burned to the ground.

The company has since reopened 27 of the damaged stores, including at five of the seven locations where stores were burned out. The two others are expected to open later this year.

Chief Auto Parts operates 525 stores in Texas, California, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.


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