I first met Nelson Garcia almost two years ago at an L.A. Food Policy Council (LAFPC) training event for small business owners looking to transform their stores into healthier community resources.
He did not remember this when I mentioned it to him at the grand re-opening of his newly renamed Alba Snacks & Services store at 60th and Vermont in South L.A. last week.
That’s not surprising.
I had attended the training to familiarize myself with the corner market landscape. He had attended because his businesses are his life.
He, like many there that day, had been focused on absorbing as much information as possible from the variety of presentations aimed at walking business owners through the steps of the market makeover process. And, in the debriefing session at the end of the day with LAFPC Director of Policy and Innovation Clare Fox, he had been eager to speak about the hurdles he faced making the suggested investments in his store.
The permitting process to sell produce was lengthy and expensive, he and others had lamented. The Department of Public Health (DPH) required that they have certain equipment in order to properly store produce, and the costs of acquiring it (plus the permits) were often more than owners in low-income communities could scrape together at once.
Or, as another owner complained, the interface with DPH could be confusing. They might hear from one inspector that they needed a particular piece of equipment, only to purchase it and later hear from another that it was the wrong one or that they had been misinformed about proper placement/spacing of equipment within the storage area.
It was a lot of trouble to go through for a product with a very limited shelf life and profit margin, and which begins to lose value the moment it goes out on the floor.
Their conclusions were disheartening to hear — Garcia and the other participants clearly had the desire to sell something better than flaming hot finger snacks to the good people of their communities. But it was also clear that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to get from A to B on their own. Read more…