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Finding Solace in a Skid Row Convenience Store

Creator:
Published:
December 14, 2023
October 30, 2023
Watch how the People's Market in Skid Row, Los Angeles, is building equality through quality food and jobs.

This is People's Market, a convenience store in Skid Row, Los Angeles, and it's been owned by Danny's parents since 1995. After his father's passing, he returned home to help with the family business. Now, this market and the customers are where he finds purpose.

Danny shares, “I want to create a spot where it's just people taking care of people. In a way, there's not much to it."

Video Transcript

Customer 1: Danny, I think it's out of paper.

Danny: Okay. All right.

Customer 2: Hey, what kind of chocolate pie is that?

Danny: It said, "Declined."

Oh ma'am? Ma'am?

Camera shot of exterior of small grocery store — sign reads, “Skid Row People’s Market”

(Danny, responding to customer) Right there in the back.

Debra: Behind you.

Danny: My parents immigrated here in the seventies from Korea. This was the first business that they opened after having been bankrupt. I think they were struggling for a little bit. And then in '95 my dad was able to open this market.

I was working in Portland for a little bit, and my father having passed away, and my mom was running the shop by herself, so the call for me was to kind of come home.

(Speaking to customer) Hey Nate. No smoking.

Nate: No, I know. Marijuana, marijuana. Medication.

Customer 3: You're ready for the dance.

Nate: Yeah. You want to go dancing right now?

Danny: We work around food access, creating dignified work, and also community building. In a way, the market is just a medium or training vehicle for us to practice living together.

Customer 4: How much does that cheesecake cost?

Danny: Which one?

Customer 4: That cheesecake.

Danny: $2.50. Yeah, that's $2.50.

Customer 4: That's a small piece. I want a big —

Danny: That's a small piece? I'll try to look for a big —

Customer 4: That looks good.

Danny: Yeah, that's chocolate cream pie.

Customer 4: That's chocolate... Give me that... Oh, that $2.50? For that?

Danny: Yeah, yeah.

Customer 4: Oh my god. I'm going to hold off that. I'm going to wait.

Danny: Okay.

Customer 4: What's your name is?

Debra: Debra. What's your name is?

Customer 4: Choco-latte.

Debra: Choco-latte? Beautiful. Out of $20.

Customer 5: They took it from here. $200 off my account.

Market staff member: Who took it?

Customer 5: Because I went down there. They showed me the whole transaction.

Market staff member: You mean I took all your money? Is that what you're saying?

Customer 5: Yeah. Listen. Listen to me. You guys did something wrong. My balance was $206 a few minutes ago. So how is it I come here to buy my stuff and all these receipts and now it's inefficient.

Danny: Can I see your card? Your card?

Customer 5: Right here.

Danny: Yeah. Are you able to see your transaction history?

Customer 5: Yeah. Let me show you.

Debra, speaking to new customer: All right. $1.61.

Danny: Coming into work here every day, you're constantly switching gears. Things running out, something breaking, someone needing help, someone coming in a panic. It's a lot. Yesterday, I left early because I had developed this excessive eye blinking — like ticks, twitches from stress.

(Speaking to customers) Hey. Bye, boys.

Los Angeles is my home. And so it's my family and my community too. These are the people that I want to be with. I don't know what song that is, but for some reason that song came to my mind. But these are the people why I choose to do this every morning. These are the people I want to be with.

The mainstream conversation about homelessness or houselessness, where it's like if I'm not succeeding, it's my shortcoming. But when you kind of look at the larger picture and you see certain demographics exhibiting certain behaviors, you have to look at what is the conditions that's producing those behaviors. So the metaphor of a flower in a soil — what is the soil and the nutrients that's making such types of flowers to blossom? And so we are always screaming at the flower. And that's a sad, tragic thing, because people, they start internalizing that you're less than because of how difficult it is to live and thrive. So you see so much hopelessness and cynicism and judgmental-ness against the person next to you or just acting out.

(Speaking to customer) Oh man, you're going to cook something. I see all the seasoning.

Customer 6: Yeah. I like having different seasons for when I need it.

Debra: Enjoy.

Danny: I want to break that, you know? I mean not breaking, might not be the right metaphor. Maybe I want to nurture, because it's like I want to love and care for that, because not just on you. There's so much more that goes into it. You've got to look deeper.

On a personal level, struggling with alcohol and drug addiction for most of my life and kind of when you start remembering going back in time, what happened when I started using or what was the first time? What was happening in my family? What was happening with my dad when he came home so angry and throwing stuff or... The violence and drinking, alcoholism, all that stuff. What were the forces that gave rise to those conditions?

I want to create a spot where it's just people taking care of people. In a way, there's not much to it. But also at the same time, what do you do when so many people are in need? And this being a business, there needs to be some level of sustainability.

Customer 7: Can I borrow 35 cents for two hours?

Danny: 35 cents?

Customer 7: Yes sir.

Danny: I don't have any change right now, on me.

Customer 7: It's a real emergency. I got to go see my parole officer. ASAP.

Danny: Sorry, I don't got 35 cents, sir.

Danny: Morning.

Debra: Hi.

Danny: When you see so many people suffering, if you give and give and give... There's times when, not that you don't want to help, but your cup is empty.

Debra: Hi. How are you?

Customer 8: Thank you very much. I have a question to ask. Is it possible you guys could help me out with cup of coffee?

Debra: A cup of coffee?

Customer 8: That's it.

Danny: Cup of coffee's $1.

Customer 8: I don't have any money.

Danny: Here. It's just help yourself back there.

Debra: I love it. I love dealing with the customers. There's all different types of spirits and just because you see somebody down and out doesn't mean that they're a bad person. We all go through our trials and tribulations, and it's a lot of love. I find if someone has a love for their clients, and this goes in both sides.

Customer 8: Got to have money see for me to dance, got to throw dollars at me.

Market staff member: Okay, thank you.

Choco-latte: Hey.

Danny: All right, well, I'll see you tomorrow then. [speaks in Korean]

Market staff member: Have a good day.

Customer 9: Hey, what’s up?

Danny: What’s up, man?

Customer 9: Hey, the best store in downtown LA. All right, man.

Market staff member: Oh, we don't have bacon, right?

Danny: Um, I think we're out. Yeah, we're out. Out of bacon.

Customer 9: Sorry, everybody is taking bacon.

Market staff member: He's the one that took all of it.

Customers: Yeah, I'm the bacon bandit.

Market staff member: He's the bacon bandit!

[Customers continue joking]

Creators:
Grotto
Published:
December 14, 2023
October 30, 2023
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