Life, emptiness and resolve: A photo essay on the pandemic’s toll along Pico Boulevard

Street scene reflects, 228 E. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles.
Reflections in a storefront window at 228 E. Pico Blvd. in the Garment District of Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles imposed coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses on March 15, 2020. It was the beginning of a year of loss, upheaval and constant adaptation. Public health rules kept evolving. Relief programs brought help for some but only red tape for others. Supply chains were a mess. There were shoppers who feared even entering stores and customers who crowded newly built patios. Some businesses cut hours, services and staff, or shut down. Many have survived beyond their expectations. Staff photographer Genaro Molina shows us how much Pico Boulevard has changed one year later.

 A man walks past a mural.
A mural by the street artist Hijack at 9500 W. Pico Blvd. depicts a pair of men ready to battle the coronavirus armed with Purell, toilet paper and antibacterial spray.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“We are deeply grateful for the support we have received during these unprecedented times & throughout the 10 plus years we have been in business. It is with great sadness that due to the continuing challenges of the pandemic for our industry we have made the difficult decision to close.”

— Statement on website for Westside Tavern

Westside Tavern is empty after shutting down.
After more than a decade serving cocktails and food next to the Landmark Theatre, Westside Tavern has been closed for good since November 2020.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A driver near a boarded-up Walgreens.
A driver makes her way past a boarded up and fenced in Walgreens store in the 5000 block of W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“(The) pandemic has greatly effected our business.”

— Robert Oliver, sign spinner at Liberty Tax Service

Robert Oliver carries a sign on a street.
Robert Oliver advertises Liberty Tax Service at the corner of Pico Boulevard and La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. “Financially it has affected me,” Oliver said of the pandemic. “They have removed night hours.”
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Pinatas inside a party supply store.
Gregory Perez moves a piñata at El Payasito Party Supply at 2437 W. Pico Blvd. Farnush Taftian has co-owned the business with her husband for 36 years. But she has run it herself since March 2020, when her husband, who is in his 70s, stopped coming to work out of concern about the coronavirus.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“Now it’s worse than last year.”

— Laura Peres at Dana Accesorios in the Garment District

Dresses inside a store.
Dana Accesorios at 430 E. Pico Blvd. sells dresses for Baptisms and First Communions. The shop reopened in August after closing during the first months of the pandemic.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A pedestrian reflected in a window.
A pedestrian is reflected in the window of a closed shop in the 4400 block of W. Pico Boulevard.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A mural of Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
People work out on the sidewalk along Grand Avenue outside Hardcore Fitness Bootcamp at 400 W. Pico Blvd. The mural memorializing Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna was created by Sloe Motions.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“We are collectively feeling the loss. So I think just collectively mourning and acknowledging it provides a level of healing that is hard to translate into words.”

— Karla Funderburk, whose gallery has received 60,000 from 45 states and nine countries from as far away as Tibet.

A paper crane exhibit.
Karla Funderburk, left, owner of Matter Studio and Gallery, is reflected as she looks at her exhibit “A Memorial for COVID-19 Victims” at her studio in Los Angeles. The exhibit features tens of thousands of paper cranes to commemorate those who have died from COVID. Funderburk began by folding the cranes herself, then invited others to help. She’s collected more than 60,000 from 45 states and nine countries.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“2020 felt like our year. We blew up on social media. The abrupt halt was the hardest part for me,”

— Angela Guison, manager of Rave Wonderland

A customer walks into a clothing store.
A customer walks into Rave Wonderland, a clothing store in downtown Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Bicyclists cross the street.
A pair of bicyclists ride in the 2900 block of Pico Boulevard.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

When the doors of Botanica Luz del Día were closed early on in the pandemic, customers couldn’t browse for their preferred veladoras or stop into the Pico-Union store for tarot readings. The shop went online and sales rebounded. “The website is booming right now,” said Anthony Ponce, grandson of the owner.

A display including candles and San Simon .
A display features San Simon, a saint well known in Guatemala, at Botanica Luz Del Dia. The shop has sold spiritual-themed items for 36 years. Anthony Ponce, 36, has been helping his grandmother, Maria Elena Ceron, 89, with the business during the pandemic by building up its online sales. Business has been so good that Ponce has opened a second botanica.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A pedestrian walks past closed shops.
Closed storefronts in the 100 block of W. Pico Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina /Los Angeles Times)
A customer gets a haircut.
Sonki Hong gets his hair cut by hairstylist Stacey Rae, co-owner of Framed Salon in Santa Monica.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“Concerts went to zero. Lessons dropped to 5% of what it was. We’re seeing a lot of repair business from people who are stuck at home and want to play. Consignments are up a lot.”

— Walt McGraw, who has been running the 63-year-old shop with his wife, Nora, since her parents’ retirement.


Photos on the walls of McCabe's.
Bassist Denny Croy walks down a hallway lined with photos of artists who’ve performed at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. McCabe’s, which opened in 1958, has been unable to hold concerts or give in-person guitar lessons during the pandemic. It has reopened for musical instrument sales and repairs. Bob and Espie Riskin, who operated the club for five decades, retired last year because of the pandemic. They passed on operations to their daughter and son-in-law, Nora and Walt McGraw.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A pedestrian walks past a storefront window.
A pedestrian is reflected in the storefront window of Rave Wonderland. “2020 felt like our year,” said the clothing store’s owner, Angela Guison. “We blew up on social media. The abrupt halt was the hardest part for me.”
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A mural honoring Jonathan Gold.
A mural of late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold on a building that is up for lease.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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