LOS ANGELES — For 15 years, Juana Gomez sold flowers, stuffed animals, shirts and food on the streets of Los Angeles. She said it was hell.
"People would rob me, steal my flowers, steal my teddy bears, even throw things at me," Gomez said in Spanish.
What You Need To Know
- The North Hollywood Swap Meet will close at the end of March after failing to reach a new lease agreement with their landlord, according to the letter given to vendors
- Economic and development pressures have led to the closure of just under a dozen swap meets in the Greater LA area in the last few years
- In the last few years, swap meets have been turned into everything from boutique shops to residential complexes and one became a Walmart
- Vendors say because there are few swap meets left, prices per storefront are more than triple what they were paying at the NoHo swap meet
After years of saving, she was thrilled when she could finally buy inventory, mannequins and equipment and rent out two stalls inside the North Hollywood Swap Meet two years ago.
"I had this feeling that we were finally settled," she said. "And I wouldn't have to be on the streets anymore."
Despite the COVID-19 shutdowns, it was a godsend because it allowed the single mother to have her 4-year-old and baby boy with down syndrome by her side all day long, she said. The store provides enough for them to get by, but all that will soon change because a few days ago, Gomez received a letter telling her the swap meet would be closing.
"I don't' know what I'm going to do," she said, crying. "I have my children here. I have all my savings invested in this place.
They've been given until the end of March to vacate the stalls.
"I'll have to keep selling on the street. I guess I have to start all over again from the bottom, because I don't have any money left to move to a different storefront," she said.
Dozens of other vendors are facing similar circumstances. A few stalls down, Iver Cano, owner of J&C Toys, has been tending to his store for 25 years:
"The bad thing is that swap meets have been closing everywhere, but what happens to people like us? Who live off of this?" he said.
Economic and development pressures have led to the closure of just under a dozen swap meets in the last few years. They've been turned into everything, from boutique shops to residential complexes and one became a Walmart. As the number of swap meets goes down, the price per storefront goes up.
"Everything is expensive right now. I'm paying under $2,000 here. Other swap meets are asking for a deposit, first month's rent, last month's rent, utilities and rent starts around $7,000."
The North Hollywood Swap Meet owners rejected Spectrum News' request for an interview, but in their letter sent to the vendors, they said the swap meet company could not renew the lease with the landlord.
"We are living through a nightmare. I guess I have no choice. I'll just have to go back to selling on the street."