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CRENSHAW : Quake Damage Puts End to Upscale L.A. Swap Meet

Quake-damaged Shoppers World, the indoor swap meet that provided a more upscale brand of retailing in inner-city communities, has closed up shop.

The bright red letters that adorned one side of the building--a familiar sight to motorists traveling south on La Brea Avenue from the Santa Monica Freeway--are gone.

After sustaining extensive damage in the Jan. 17 earthquake, the cavernous indoor mall at La Brea and Exposition Boulevard faced an uncertain future.

The site has been put up for sale, and the owners of Shoppers World are looking to start a similar operation elsewhere, said Bill Christopher, architect and planner for Chrysler Realty Inc., the Connecticut-based company that owns the property.

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“The quake damage was significant to the structure, enough to get it red-tagged,” Christopher said. “The owners didn’t quite know what they wanted to do. They may reopen, but the land is on the market now.”

The 200,000-square-foot shopping center opened in 1991 as an alternative to the swap meets that have proliferated in central Los Angeles and offer little in the way of customer service or high-quality merchandise.

Shoppers World strove to be different, with a clean presentation, a variety of goods and services, and a shopping center atmosphere that included piped-in music, daily giveaways and hands-on management from owners Michael Katz and Alan Davidov.

Shoppers World also was lauded for its efforts to recruit local entrepreneurs--many of whom were displaced by the 1992 riots--and host community events.

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With its low start-up costs and flexible leases, the Weekend Entrepreneur Program allowed fledgling small-business owners to operate part time before risking expansion.

Shoppers World was the site of many events in the Crenshaw area; a health fair ran annually, and county supervisorial candidates Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Diane Watson staged a debate there that was broadcast on local radio stations.

Christopher said plans are in the works to erect a Thrifty drugstore and a supermarket on the sprawling La Brea Avenue lot, bounded by Exposition and Rodeo Road. Thrifty and Trak Auto burned down during the riots, although Shoppers World was untouched.


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