HUNTINGTON PARK — The opening of a multi-vendor sales operation on Pacific Boulevard has brought complaints from nearby merchants and a moratorium on similar businesses by the City Council.
More than 150 merchants along Pacific--the city's downtown shopping center--petitioned the council last week to prohibit vendor operations like the recently opened Pacific Swap Meet. The merchants said they oppose vendor sales because such outlets would degrade the quality of merchandise sold on the boulevard.
The 45-day moratorium adopted Monday will give the city time to study whether to permanently ban multi-vendor operations from the city's central business district--which runs along Pacific from Florence to Slauson avenues--and other commercial zones mostly concentrated on State Street, Seville Avenue, California Avenue and Randolph Street.
The merchants' protests and the resulting moratorium, however, came too late to prevent Pacific Swap Meet from operating at 6320 Pacific Blvd. The business--which rents 35 stalls where vendors sell a variety of new merchandise ranging from women's clothes to stereo equipment--had already received city approval.
Slow to React
The merchants "didn't act quickly enough for us," Councilman Tom Jackson said.
The Chamber of Commerce board of directors voted to oppose further licensing of such businesses, said Dwayne Duncan, chamber president. He said the merchants were concerned about the vendors operating out of small cubicles because "they don't always carry the better type merchandise."
Dante D'Eramo, the chamber's executive manager, said the chamber also wants to make sure only new merchandise is sold and that there is no swapping or exchanging of merchandise.
"We want to make sure the operation is one of benefit to the community," said D'Eramo, who noted that there was a similar multi-vendor operation several years ago on Pacific that eventually went out of business.
Chamber officials say they are sensitive to the type of businesses allowed on the boulevard because it is just now rebounding from years of deterioration and boarded-up storefronts. The city began an aggressive redevelopment effort in the late 1970s by buying dilapidated properties and fixing them up.
'An Upward Swing'
The boulevard is in "an upward swing now," Duncan said, and the chamber would like to see more established businesses on Pacific to build a permanent base there.
There is now a one-year waiting list to lease space along the busy boulevard, which has 450 businesses that mostly sell clothes, shoes and small appliances. Many of the stores advertise in Spanish-language media, attracting Latino consumers from throughout Los Angeles County.
"People are standing in line to get these places," Duncan said.
Chamber officials took their concerns to Pacific Swap Meet owner Alex Gabayan and were satisfied that there would be no problem if his operation remains the same with no swapping and the sale of new merchandise only.
"Legally there is nothing (merchants) can do about (Gabayan's business). They just have to live with it," Duncan said.
Gabayan said he is confused by the reaction of fellow merchants.
'A Legal Business'
"This is a legal business. I don't sell secondhand merchandise," Gabayan said, waving an official welcome from the city dated Dec. 3.
"This place was dead," said Gabayan, who added that he spent $300,000 remodeling the 7,500-square-foot building, which formerly housed a restaurant.
"If you do a legal business--the government, the city, the Chamber of Commerce, everybody--should help you," said Gabayan, who used to run a discount store that sold household and electronic merchandise in Los Angeles.
Gabayan suggested that merchants were jealous because a multi-vendor operation would attract a lot of customers. He said he could not give figures on how business has fared in the last three weeks because the vendors do not disclose their sales figures to him. But he said the turnout has been good.
Peter Guerrero, chairman of the chamber's Retail Merchants Committee, said some of the merchants' concerns might stem from the name Gabayan chose for his business.
"The word 'swap meet' turns everybody off," he said.
Competition Called Healthy
The larger stores on Pacific would probably not lose business from the swap meet, he said, but smaller stores could "possibly get hurt by them."
Guerrero, who manages the Boston Store, said he thinks the competition will be healthy.
"It will bring more people to the area. Swap meets have cropped up throughout Southern California. Maybe they are successful. I feel it's better than an empty building," Guerrero said.
In the long run, it may be Gabayan who benefits from the moratorium, since he is the only one with the kind of operation that has been banned.
"The population in Huntington Park right now is not so much that they need more swap meets or mini-malls," Gabayan said with a smile.