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Los Angeles marketplace is expansive

Los Angeles County consists of almost 5,000 square miles that contain about 10 million people. Though that is huge and makes it one of the top two or three markets in the country, those figures don’t do it justice.LosAngeles06

Los Angeles is the hub of Southern California, which has 24 million people and stretches from the Mexican border to about San Luis Obispo 400 miles to the north. It also stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the border of Nevada and Arizona, which varies but is in the neighborhood of 200 miles.

Rolando Nava, owner of Rollin’R Enterprises, Oxnard, CA, specializes in delivering LTL (less than full load) shipments from production areas to Los Angeles. There was a time when that meant drops at one of the Los Angeles wholesale markets or at retailer’s distribution center fairly close to downtown. That’s no longer the case, he says, as Los Angeles wholesalers and retailers have spread out their operations throughout the greater Los Angeles area. One drop may well be at the market in downtown Los Angeles, but another could be 60-100 miles east, south or west.

From the 1920s to the 1980s, Los Angeles had two major wholesale produce markets, about a half a mile from each other. Each was commonly referred to in reference to one of its border streets. There was the Seventh Street Market and the Ninth Street Market. The industry tried to consolidate into a new facility for more than 30 years before the “new” Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market was erected and opened in 1986. It was adjacent to the Seventh Street Market and didn’t immediately lead to the demise of that market, which still exists today, though more as a Mercado than anything else. The Ninth Street Market, also known as the City Market, held on for a decade or so before it gradually was converted to other warehouse type uses.

Many of the tenants on those markets and surrounding the market have since relocated to the suburbs surrounding Los Angeles.

Ted Kaplan, owner of Professional Produce, a wholesaler with its warehouse facilities and office in nearby Vernon, said the LAWPM is not what it used to be. He confirmed that wholesalers are located all over Southern California and tend to service the chains and larger purveyors from their own warehouses. The market, LAWPM, “is used by smaller guys who come in there and still pick up every day.”

Even the larger LA market tenants do not see a stream of buyers as they did a generation ago, though some still do “walk” the market on a semi-regular basis.

It is not only the makeup of the Los Angeles produce industry that has changed over the years, so has the demographic nature of its residents. Los Angeles County is the melting pot of the country. More than one-third of the county’s 10 million residents were not born in the United States. It is not surprising to note that Latin America and Asia are the biggest contributors of new immigrants to the Southern California region. While Southern California is more ethnically oriented than the state as a whole, it is representative of the trends that are occurring throughout California. In fact, in 2014, Hispanics became the largest population group in California surpassing those identified “White” in early summer.

Almost 60 percent of Los Angeles County residents not born in the United States were born in Latin America. Asia is the second largest contributor of foreign-born L.A. County residents with about 35 percent of that group. And of course in both of those ethnicities there are many citizens of those origins who were born in the United States.

This Southern California population has created a market environment as diverse as it is. There are literally thousands of ethnic markets in the region with most of the fastest growing independent grocers and regional chains catering to ethnic communities – typically Asian or Hispanic. But, if you look hard enough you can find a retailer specializing in products from all parts of the globe.

The area has several major national retail chains as well as some very strong regional players. Albertson’s, Kroger, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and Trader Joes are well represented. Stater Bros. tops the list of regional supermarket players with more than 170 stores, but there are many regional operations in the 10-50 store range. There are also many general merchandise stores, such as Target, offering fresh produce, as well as alternative formats such as dollar stores or convenience markets.