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Food Trucks, Pot Shops Hurt Eagle Rock

A leading entrepreneur and resident can't take it any more.

Lately, I've started to notice more and more food trucks on Colorado Boulevard, and last week, on the night of June 8, one showed up in front of , the neighborhood coffee house I opened more than 10 years ago.

The truck was serving Hawaiian shaved iced and smoothies. After taking a look at my POP (point of purchase) receipts the following morning, it was obvious that my sales had been hit.

Later that day, I discovered that some of my customers had complained the night before that they could not find the usual parking. In addition, my neighbor José, who owns next door to Swork, complained that when he arrived at his store in the morning, he found trash from the Hawaiian shaved ice truck littered everywhere.

José was upset at me because he thought I had allowed the truck to park in front of our stores. But that was not the case. This economy is bad enough without food trucks siphoning off our hard-earned customer base.

And that’s why I’m worried. I'm certain that the presence of food trucks in Eagle Rock will eventually have long-term negative effects on the neighborhood and just about everyone who lives in it or has a commercial connection to it.

For one thing, I know that the food truck that parks in front of Trader Joe’s affects the sales of . Sadly, there’s not much the restaurant can do about it—and no one has the courage to speak up for it.

Is this what it's coming down to? Cities invaded by food trucks? Date night on sidewalks? This trend will grow, expand, and in its wake leave nothing but broken businesses behind. Is this what Eagle Rock wants? More empty retail spaces, with “For Lease” and “For Rent” signs dotting the boulevard?

I love living in Eagle Rock. I have worked really hard to bring an uber coffee bar to Eagle Rock. But I'm exhausted.

Initially, my dream was to help shape Colorado Boulevard into a Pasadena-ish haven and really help revitalize the community. But we allow massage parlors, marijuana dispensaries, excessive nail salons—and now food trucks. I'm beginning to feel like all of my efforts are for nothing.

Let me digress a little. I live on College View, and there is a prominent medical marijuana dispensary, American Eagle Collective, right on the corner of my street and Colorado Boulevard. I have a small daughter who cannot play on her tiny piece of green grass in front of our home. Reason: My street has become a haven for drug deals. All kinds of unsavory people park right in front of my house, smoke pot, and meet up with other carloads of cohorts.

I wish I could say they are rebellious young college kids blowing off some steam. I
wish I could say that they are cancer patients, looking for some relief. But these are creepy looking, gang-afflicted youth as well as men who blare loud music from their cars and leave in their trail—which happens to be my front yard—empty beer bottles, pieces of zig-zag (cigarette paper used to roll joints), cigarette butts and leftover fast food trash.

It's an everyday, on-the-hour occurrence. We call the police on a daily basis, but to no avail—never mind that 90 percent of the time the culprits are members of Armenian gangs and it boggles the mind to contemplate what might be found in their cars.

When I’m not home, I have to live with a similar problem at work—pot-smoking hoodlums have also infiltrated the parking lot behind Swork. But now, the invasion of food trucks has added insult to injury. Local businesses that are paying high rents, workers comp and medical insurance are being hard hit. Our councilman seems not to be concerned about our tired circumstances.

So I have to ask the people of Eagle Rock, particularly fair-minded proprietors such as myself: Where is our voice? Why does Eagle Rock allow unethical businesses to operate here. Many believe it is because our City Council has no backbone. Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale would never allow what we do.

(Got an opinion? Take our )

Moon W. Morrison July 05, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Din Din a Go Go is trying to move all their trucks to the corner of Eagle Rock and Colorado in protest to this!!! More to come, keep a look out.
Moon W. Morrison July 05, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Black Tees, you do know that the employees are required to wear them at work right?
Andrew Hindes July 05, 2011 at 05:19 PM
They're going to cannibalize their own business by moving all their trucks to one location to protest someone voicing their opinion? Wouldn't that be a little sad?
Marcel July 06, 2011 at 01:15 AM
There are two dispensaries on my block. Even though I have little kids, I don't get too riled up over it. But it's plain to see that a majority of their clientele, just the liquor store's down the street, consists of dreadful losers. As a business owner, I hate regulations and building codes, but sometimes they make perfect sense to keep a neighborhood from going down the crapper. I've lived in this neighborhood long enough to tell an Armenian gangster from a Latino or African-American one. I'm sure must people in L.A. can. Whether it's gangsters or white trash tweakers, which we used to have plenty of in good ole' Eagle Rock, it's not the kind of crowd I consider a good hang. So if Patricia sees a lot of Armenian hoodlums in front of her house, I'm sure it's not because she hates Armenians in general, but because she noticed a pattern in the clients who frequent the dispensary next door. If she lived in East L.A., she would probably see mostly Latinos. So what. It's both funny and sad how the PC crowd starts drooling when they see an opening for labeling someone "racist".
Marcel July 06, 2011 at 01:15 AM
If I could I would bet $1,000 that, of all the armchair warriors in this thread who take a "brave" stand for the American spirit of free enterprise and competition, not a single one has owned a brick-and-mortar business, employed a bunch of people, raised kids and owned a house (next door to a dispensary or otherwise). I would even bet that they can't even meet a single one of the these criteria. So quite frankly, your contribution to this neighborhood (and America), which seems to be the occasional wheat, coffee or KOJI purchase, is negligible. And that's why, in my book, your opinion doesn't really matter. The Swork owner on the other hand makes some really good points...
Dan Kaufman July 06, 2011 at 04:01 AM
Yea. Where would America be without purveyors of four dollar coffees and cranberry scones? Tired and hungry.
Mark Haskell Smith July 06, 2011 at 04:09 AM
Really Marcel? How can you say that? There are no prerequisites or qualifications for having a valid opinion. These are our neighbors - like 'em or not - giving their honest reaction to what is obviously a contentious issue. If it helps you take me more seriously, I own my home (close to several dispensaries), my wife and I both own our own businesses and we've raised two kids in this neighborhood. I know several other commentators on this thread also own homes, have businesses, kids, etc. So let's not jump to the "your contribution to this neighborhood (and America) is negligible". Because that kind of narrow mindedness is the worst kind of contribution.
Marcel July 06, 2011 at 04:27 AM
Well, you can have an opinion on open-heart surgery, but unless you're a surgeon, I don't neccesarily consider it valid. For the record: I'm not against dispensaries, food trucks don't hurt my business at all and I would never spend $4 on a cup of coffee, even if I liked coffee. But I can relate to Patricia's frustrations and I do not like people screaming racism and boycotts over an article that wasn't that far-fetched in my opinion.
Moon W. Morrison July 06, 2011 at 04:45 AM
I love this- if the other people who are "friends" of the Swork owner, are as brave as they say they are-maybe they should say which business they own so we know who the members of this gang are. I doubt you folks have the stones to throw in 100% here. I was told to lay out my full name, I did, Ill even meet you in person to deliberate this, lets hear which businesses are so dedicated to this idea. You get to choose what you sell, and how you draw us in, you dont get to tell which customers can come and which can't- segregating customers is your brand of regulating. As far as myself, I own rentals on Norwalk Ave. and sold a thriving business in Miami - called "Second Showing"- to move here. People like you never grow, because your not providing anything, just trying to take a slice out of the community-and mark your territories like a ferocious animal, the same way white business owners tried to keep the blacks out of their neighborhoods the first half of the 20th century- the reasons you spew are the same as theirs were. OH! and as far as Kids-raised 5 here-so Marcel do you want to meet me with that $1000 or mail it to me?
Marcel July 06, 2011 at 05:54 AM
Ha, I must admit this is quite amusing! I missed the whole name thing, but I don't ever use my full name, phone number or email address in threads like this one anyway. Not because I'm too chicken to stand behind my posts, but because I'm worried about spam crawlers. I own a place called Peekaboo Playland, a recording studio called Eagle Rock Studios, a home near TJ's and a couple of rental properties in the ER hills. If you're dying to know, you can easily find my full name through Google. You could even find a ridiculous picture of me during my 80's hair metal phase. Oh, and BTW I'm merely an acquaintance of the Swork lady.
Marcel July 06, 2011 at 05:54 AM
So now that we all have established how fabulous we are, and before I get a contact high myself from all that segregation nonsense, I want to make clear that I'm not a fan of city regulations, even if they please the family value crowd. When the neighborhood started foaming at the mouth over the "Fat Dog Lounge" controversy (remember, anyone?), I was really disappointed and even angry not to have another bar/restaurant/live music venue across the street from my house. However, that there are more than enough dispensaries and massage parlors here is because our neighboring cities wouldn't let them in. And no matter how considerate their owners might be, food trucks do more often than not leech off of existing businesses, a lot of which are struggling as it is. They do it with a tiny fraction of the overhead and zero commitment to the neighborhood. So I don't get how a lot of folks here can't be a little bit more sympathetic with Swork's owner. That's all.
philip iglauer July 06, 2011 at 06:47 AM
Since I am replying to your post late, seemingly, I doubt others will notice it. That said, I totally agree with the spirit in which it was written. As is often the case, creativity is the approach we should take to find a win-win resolution of the conflict. Business owners of all stripes could be brought together on community project everyone can get behind.Running a business and community development should not be at counter purposes.
Molly Taylor July 06, 2011 at 07:14 AM
PART 1 :) "And no matter how considerate their owners might be, food trucks do more often than not leech off of existing businesses, a lot of which are struggling as it is. They do it with a tiny fraction of the overhead and zero commitment to the neighborhood. So I don't get how a lot of folks here can't be a little bit more sympathetic with Swork's owner. That's all." I guess it's time for me to chime in again since we are off stoners and massage parlors and back to food trucks? I had replied above, and also personally to Patricia Neale Vuagniaux. I am a resident of Glassell Park, a former customer of Swork and also own a food truck. Now that I have re-introduced myself: The Sweets Truck was not voted Los Angeles Small Philanthropic Business of the Year because we make it a policy to leech off other small business, and take-take-take from our community.. If you want to educate yourself about my business and what it takes to be acknowledged by the people of LA as their philanthropic business of the year, you can visit our ABOUT page on the website, TheSweetsTruck.com I am tired of this idea that we are less a part of the community because we are mobile. I have seen both sides of the fence here, my family has owned a B&M restaurant and the money that we spent on improvements at the restaurant was no different than the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we spent to build our truck....
Molly Taylor July 06, 2011 at 07:15 AM
PART 2 :) Further, the money that we pay and paid in city fees, taxes, licenses, as well as federal taxes and LLC/ Incorporation fees are all in US currency; Just the same as a B&M establishment. Here’s one major difference, when we were a B&M we only had to worry about one city, whereas with the truck we juggle multiple cities. The Sweets Truck for example has business licenses in: Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Burbank and Pasadena (also a separate health department). In addition we pay for regular special event permits / health department permits in: Long Beach, Ventura County, and Orange County. On top of all the city licenses, taxes and fees that we navigate every year we also REGULARLY donate % of sales back to locations and event ... If we are parked on the street, we pay city parking meters. If we are parked and hosted by a local business we often pay a % of sales or a lot fee to park there. Further, we pay rent at the commissary where we park the truck. We pay our insurance agent for their services to cover the truck, our drivers and the support staff to produce COI’s for events. Again a small business person and their support staff. We also support gas stations, tire repair and replacement, generator repairs, etc throughout LA – many of which are also small businesses.
Molly Taylor July 06, 2011 at 07:17 AM
PART 3 - Last one :) From there, we buy our baked goods and coffee. All of which are small business that we support through our wholesale relationships and cross promotion. One of our main partners is Auntie Em’s in Eagle Rock. We also support businesses in Pasadena, Burbank, South Bay, San Diego and Los Angeles... The Sweets Truck is just one example of how a small, albeit mobile business is an active member of it’s community. The reality is that we are not alone, I know of many trucks in Los Angeles that source from local businesses and make it a habit to make community minded business decisions. Speaking of community, we’d also like to introduce you to our community event in Pasadena called Wheel Food Wednesday. We paired with Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena to host food trucks. We offer a great event for the community, drive business to Jones Coffee and also raise money for a cause that is very dear to Jones Coffee Roasters...
Moon W. Morrison July 06, 2011 at 07:47 AM
Im just going to say this and leave it- I go to swork, I LIKE it, its consistent and the coffee is HARDLY 4 bucks-there are several GREAT employees and Id never let one or 2 bad experiences stop me from going, every now and then I see a nat crawling on a muffin in the glass case-but NOT everyday and It doesnt deter me from eating one of the muffins they make there in the morning from time to time regardless, it HAPPENS. Once I chased down a neat Idea for a food truck and tried their fare-it wasn't very good-half the menu was taped over and the owner sat out back of the truck and spoke to another truck owner about how he didnt have a full menu because the event attendance was light and it wasnt worth it, he didnt seem sympathetic or interested in my returning-so I didnt go back (jagasaki sushiburrito if your interested). I dont let the trucks ruin Swork for me, I dont think the "gangs" OR Pot use in the area, the bum with the bad B.O. who asks me for change and looks in my car when I walk to get my coffee OR even that silly nat keep me away or ever will. The consistency, good coffee and friendly staff will.
Marcel July 06, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Molly, I don't doubt that you run a viable business with integrity and that some local small businesses and city coffers benefit from your revenue. Nevertheless I think that, beyond that, your business does not add to the appeal of our neighborhood, simply because you're not a constant fixture. I seriously doubt anyone in Pasadena would ever say "Let's take the family to Eagle Rock because there might be a cool food truck parked there somewhere." On the other hand, I take my family into Oldtown Pasadena or even Glendale regularly, because they offer decent places to shop and nice restaurants to eat. And I've never seen a food truck on Colorado or Brand, probably because they're not allowed. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Having said all that, I don't think Eagle Rock will or should ever become 100% like Pasadena or Glendale. And I don't really think L.A. could or should regulate your kind of business much. But if I was the owner of the Oinkster or Blue Hen, I would definitely be pissed if a Korean BBQ truck parked across the street from me. Because there wouldn't be a doubt in my mind that it would take away from my restaurant's sales.
Marcel July 06, 2011 at 04:58 PM
While you're obviously passionate about defending your business and fighting its stigma, I'm a little perplexed how anyone other than the owners would take a stand for food trucks. No offense, but just like massage parlors or pot shops, to me they fall under the "Really, that's the best we have to offer?" category. Here now, gone tomorrow.
Joe Walker July 06, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Marcel has some valid points. I don't have anything against the food trucks, but if there was a rule or ordiance that they can't park within 1000 feet of a similar store it might take some of the edge off. I do know that if I were paying $5000 per month rent, maintaining a payroll, paying every city tax imaginable, I would be pretty ticked off to see someone park next door and offer the exact same product for much less than I could afford.
Andrew Hindes July 06, 2011 at 05:35 PM
It would be reasonable for a business owner to be "ticked off" in that situation, but that's a hypothetical example. I've never seen a taco truck parked in front of Cacao or Taco Spot, a sandwich truck parked outside of Dave's or a coffee truck parked outside of Swork. Also, while some people may simply be looking for the cheapest take-out meal available, a lot of patrons of these establishments go there to enjoy the amenities of an indoor restaurant--tables and chairs, wait service, restrooms, air conditioning/heat etc.--and are not going change their lunch or dinner plans at the last second, even if there is a truck outside offering similar fare for less.
Molly Taylor July 06, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Thanks for your reply Marcel.. My reply is about educating people on the reality of a mobile business. Contrary to the posts above: We pay our taxes, rent, fees, business license, and dedicate ourselves to the community/ communities in which we operate. It would not be a great business model for us to park a block away from Swork across from Starbucks next to BofA, but we COULD and we could be there for two hours every morning and every night. If we had a restroom agreement w/ a business within 200feet - we could be there EVERYDAY, ALLLLLL DAY. Therefore being stationary is not really a good test in this case. In the past, I was asked by local galleries to help w/ the NELA Artwalk, specifically in Eagle Rock to connect trucks and galleries. Gallery owners knew trucks would bring new feet to a struggling artwalk and introduce them to our neighborhood. Soon new galleries opened, saw the benefit of hosting trucks and started to coordinate them on their own. One of these galleries, VERY near SWORK asked me to park in front of their gallery as a guest of their business. We declined. People should take a stand w/ me as small business owner because I am your neighbor, because I support local business, shop local, own real estate along side you, support our local animal services, and am an active part of my community. The same can not be said for many B&M establishments to which are being defended, simply because they are not mobile?
John Goldfarb July 06, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Swork is the most visible, if not the latest, symbol of the gentrification of Eagle Rock, and its loss would be a detriment to the community. I hope this seemingly endless thread will remind and inspire Eagle Rockers to patronize our local businesses.
joyce hong July 06, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Wow after reading the endless comments. It appears that many of the vocal people in eagle rock really enjoy complaining. First it was medical marijuana, then it was massage parlors and now its food trucks. Just like all of these businesses there was an initial explosion and as the industry matures customers vote with their wallets and keep the good business around. This is why I will continue to support the business that are doing things the right way.
Ajay Singh (Editor) July 06, 2011 at 07:53 PM
*F-o-l-k-s,* as our very own Eric Warren might have said, can we keep our comments to the point and our language community-friendly? This is Eagle Rock. Not Little Rock.
Scott August 16, 2011 at 12:10 AM
As a resident of Eagle Rock, I feel that we all tolerate a great deal of inconvenience for the sake of our commercial neighbors. The Target/Macy's mall creates massive congestion on the weekends, and I happen to live behind Spitz where every customer uses our private driveway as a parking lot. Not long ago, while stopping by the Black Boar to have a quick night cap, I carelessly parked in the strip mall lot just up the street. Should've read the signs more carefully because my good neighbors had me towed away. So, forgive me if I don't feel as sympathetic as I might toward this story. I, personally, like the food trucks, and I didn't even realize there were any dispenseries in our neighborhood until a friend pointed them out to me on the Internet. And the most trucks I have ever seen parked on Colorado at one time has been three. Not what I would call an infestation. Maybe we should all should just chill out a little and try to get along. We're in this thing together after all.
jayres September 04, 2011 at 06:42 AM
It seems like everyone is stressin' on this issue. Maybe if you visited the pot shops or massage parlors you could relieve a little of that stress. But that's not really the point I wanted to make, which is in fact, secession. I think its time that Eagle Rock, and many other neighborhoods for that matter, secede from the union, i mean the city of Los Angeles. Its so huge and diverse that the issues important to one community seem to matter little in comparison to the issues the city faces as a whole. I think most of the thriving areas in Los Angeles County are the ones that are not part of the City of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Burbank, Manhattan Beach. And just beyond, Glendale, Pasadena et al. The reason: Localized Self Determination. In all of these cities, they care about every business, resident, and street corner. Try going down to City Hall to say the corner of Yosemite and Fig is ugly, what can we do about that? Now, drive down Santa Monica Blvd and you will notice a visible difference when you cross over from LA into West Hollywood and then Beverly Hills. Eagle Rock was once a city and could be again. Let the residents of ER decide what is best for ER. Jose Huizar may be fine councilmen, but does care about my street or my business or does he care about a new park in Boyle Heights. And Neighbor Councils are simply a way to appease people, they are non-binding and mostly irrelevant. I say evict Jose Huizar re-open Eagle Rock City Hall!
Michael Larsen September 04, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Jayres, I know many people who have discussed the same idea and are very enthusiastic about it. I think there would be a lot of grassroots support.
Ken Camp September 05, 2011 at 07:18 PM
I thought this issue was dead and buried. Some things never change.
TIm Tritch March 30, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Marcel said there is not one single small business thriving in Eagle Rock. Lets see, Tritch Hardware(70+years), Eagle Rock Limber(70+years), Eagle rock Italian Bakery((50+years), Armonds, Cindis,Petes,CASABIANCA. ANd as a third genereation born and raised Rocker I take particular offense to your statement of not envying anone who "had" to grow up In ER. I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up there, thank you very much. Your condesending and offensive remarks aimed at thousands of people who grew up here say much more about YOU than about ER. Dont feel sorry for us, and none of us ever asked for your pity. Maybe you can find a place where the sun dont shine, and file your opinions about us ER natives there. You are entitled to your opinion, and have every right to have your say, and so do I. I have lived In Sunland now for about 20 years but I still go to ER regularly to support the local business there. THere are two dispensaries within feet of Tritch Hardware.
Marcel March 30, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I don't blame you for taking offense, but you are responding to something I said without considering the context of all my earlier posts. I did acknowledge what a great neighborhood Eagle Rock once was, but I moved here around the time you moved away, and except for Tritch and a few decent diners and restaurants, this place had nothing to offer on the business and entertainment side (unless you find nail salons, car repair shops and medical supply scam operations entertaining). I was in my early 20's when I bought an affordable house here, but I was longing for a place to go out at night without having to drive into Hollywood (even Oldtown Pasadena was mostly boarded up back then). It was poorly worded when I said that small businesses aren't thriving. I own an indoor playground that does well, so obviously I prove my own statement wrong. What I meant was that I can't think of any NEW small retailer that has done well without selling pot, except for maybe Pollen. We all know most food places are popular, but over the years I've seen literally dozens of small retailers open just to close a year later. Maybe their merchandise wasn't in demand, but I suspect another reason for the pattern, one that has something to do with city planning. I know how hard it is to open and sustain a business and the only reason I got involved in this whole discussion is that people were attacking the author (a small business owner) and her legitimate concerns in a way I didn't approve of.

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