It’s a moment of change for Grand Central Market, Downtown LA’s historic venue for butchers, fruit vendors, and food stalls of all sorts. First opened in 1917, the 106-year-old space has seen plenty of comings and goings over its many decades, including a rise to prominence a decade ago thanks to a slew of new and vital vendors like Eggslut, Horse Thief, and G & B Coffee. Now at least six vendors — some new, some old — are set to depart the market at roughly the same time, meaning new opportunities for some, and hard goodbyes for others.
Of the six departing vendors, several have already made their exit publicly known. They include PBJ.LA, the gourmet peanut butter and jelly stand that left in early April, and Clark Street Bread, which walked away back in February. The biggest name is undoubtedly Chiles Secos, one of the market’s oldest vendors at nearly 50 years. Rocio Lopez, who had run the mole and chiles retail stall for years after inheriting it from her father, quietly retired earlier this month. “She was ready to retire and nobody could or wanted to keep it going,” Lopez’s niece told the Los Angeles Times, adding that the market’s owners had reached out to help keep the legacy stall going over the years, even as the market itself changed and adapted. “Walking around the market now, it’s just not the same place,” the niece, Claudia Armendariz, told the Times.
Owners Adam and Andrew Daneshgar of Langdon Street Capital bought the market back in 2017 and are keenly aware of its changing nature. At the time, they promised few changes, only some needed updates. Now, six years and one pandemic later, the brothers say that some fluctuation at the market is inevitable — though they’re quick to point out that each vendor departure is unique.
“Grand Central Market is continuously evolving,” the Daneshgars say in a statement to Eater. “We are never happy to see a tenant vacate Grand Central Market, but over time, tenants are inevitably going to leave for various reasons. In some cases, tenants start as a small new concept, and then grow to a much larger operation that requires a shift in their attention.”
The brothers point to Sticky Rice and Eggslut as examples of strong growth that was first seeded at the market. They also view newcomers like Broad Street Oyster Company and For the Win burgers as capable partners that can reach a new, and often younger, audience.
The market has already found tenants for some of the closed spaces. Clark Street’s stall has been handed over to Bakers Kneaded founder Carlos Enriquez, who will offer baked goods, breads, and breakfast foods soon. PBJ.LA’s space will convert to a sushi concept from an unnamed LA chef, serving counter-side diners and offering takeaway boxes of nigiri and hand rolls. The Chiles Secos stall is becoming a grab-and-go stand serving South American food, with a formal announcement on that tenant coming soon.
DTLA Cheese is also departing the market after nine years; its last day will be Sunday, April 23. The shop is moving next door to Kippered down the block, says Lydia Clarke, who owns both outfits. She’s eager for the larger footprint, for one. “More space means more cheese,” says Clarke, “and a cheesemonger will never say no to more cheese.”
“To have two businesses on the same block, to just be so entrenched with our community, I love it so much,” continues Clarke, who is a longtime local resident along with partner and DTLA Cheese chef Reed Herrick. Still, moving on from the market is complicated.
“Grand Central Market is a gathering place,” says Clarke. “It was there before me, and will be there after me. It feels wonderful to be a part of its history, to think that someone has been here for over 100 years, doing exactly what we’re doing.”
Melrose’s Ghost Sando Shop has agreed to take the DTLA Cheese space. Owner Benjamin Sales and partner Goga Kehkejian plan to open their shop later this year after some remodeling, and are “really excited at the opportunity” to join the century-old market. “It’s a historic venue, and so few people have ever been able to say that they’ve been a part of it. That’s a big deal,” says Sales. They’re hoping, too, to reach a part of LA that may not be plugged into the company’s social media success, particularly on TikTok. “We want to go in and offer something to the community that they haven’t seen before,” says Sales, “and also try to learn some things.”
Horse Thief BBQ, one of the market’s most prominent vendors, is also departing after a decade of service, with last call coming sometime in May. Eater reached out to owners Russell Malixi and Wade McElroy, but did not hear back. A new vendor for the Horse Thief space has not been confirmed yet, but the Daneshgars say that they are determined to try to keep barbecue and beer at the outdoor patio space.
The last piece of the current puzzle is the Belcampo space, which has been dark since the company unceremoniously closed after a meat mislabeling scandal was uncovered by Eater back in 2021. Reps for the market say that there are plans for a Middle Eastern restaurant there, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet. In all, expect at least six new vendors to be up and running at Grand Central Market by the end of 2023.