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Echo Park's East End: The Final Frontier

A stretch of Sunset Boulevard near Dodger Stadium has become a burgeoning area for art and fashion.

Located just outside of Echo Park proper, the East End of Echo Park runs along Sunset Boulevard toward downtown.

The area, which had problems with drugs and gangs after the residences in the nearby Chavez Ravine were destroyed in the 1950s to build Dodger Stadium, has seen a renaissance.

New businesses serving Echo Park's new demographic have started taking note of the area and begun setting up shop, embracing the old with the new.

Through the Eyes of an Institution

has been watching the changes.  The family-owned and operated business has been on "West Sunset Avenue" since 1973.

“I think it’s a nice place to live, it’s close to a lot of stuff, close to downtown and it's close to major freeways. From here you can go anywhere in the city,” Ariel Mazzarelli, the owner of Casablanca said.

From 1973 to today, Mazzarelli said that the landscape of the area has altered.

“It’s changed quite a bit from when we first opened,” Mazzarelli said.

"Demographics have changed... About 10-15 years ago, younger people started moving in to the area. We’ve also been getting a lot of people from out of state move in.”

Mazzarelli said he has also noticed a change in the business community surrounding him.

“I think in general the area is doing better,” Mazzarelli said. “There seems to be some new businesses that weren’t there before and I now see people walking around at night more.”

Mazzarelli said he is interested to see how the area will change in the next ten years.

“The future will be interesting. It’s an area that kind of connects two different parts of the city, downtown and the Los Feliz district and we seem to be getting a lot of people from [all of those areas] coming here.”

Location, Location, Location

The prime location was one of the reasons that Bel Kazan a design studio, made the decision to move their store from downtown Los Angeles to their location on Sunset in 2011.

The studio which produces in Bali, carries all types of women’s clothing in original prints has been around for eight years,  but the owners made the decision to move to this part of Echo Park in December.

“We got tired of that scene,” Claudia Casanova, the Designer Assistant at Bel Kazan said. “There’s so much traffic and parking is always a problem. We just wanted something that’s closer where our friends and customers can come. Also, I think it’s more friendly to come to this area, it’s more neighborhood-like.”

Casanova said that the area was also compelling because of its affordable rent.

“When you go closer to Silver Lake the rent gets a lot more expensive, this area is a lot more affordable. It’s still close to downtown and it’s good location, close to the freeway and a lot of people have more access to us.”

When they first moved in, Casanova said that they had to completely remodel their location, but it shows that the older properties can be redeveloped.

“When we first got it the place it was a complete mess. It looks completely different now from when we first got it,” Casanova said.

“I think it’s good to see that change and see that even if something doesn’t look good, you can turn it into something later.”

So far, Casanova said that they are thrilled with their new location.

“We just had our first sample sale and had a great response,” Casanova said. “If we would have been in Downtown, it would have been more difficult for people to go.”

Casanova said she thinks other businesses are taking notice of the area and hopes that the area continues to grow.

“A lot more artists are moving on this area too. The guy next door has art shows here, he puts on little art exhibits which are really amazing and two stores down a guy is building an art studio. We also have Obey Studios here,” Casanova said.

“I feel like it still needs some more things, like if we want to get coffee, we still have to go [a little further down,] but I know there are more business coming on this side.”

Embracing the Old With the New

The Warehouse L.A., was one of the first of the new wave of art and fashion businesses to take notice of the potential the area offered. A vintage clothing and furniture store owned by Justin Warwick, The Warehouse L.A. has been located on Sunset Boulevard for about two years now.

The property, a 3,200-square-foot warehouse, was too good for Warwick to pass up.

“The reason that we came to Echo Park, the reason I came down so far, is because of the amazing location and because everyone said we couldn’t do it,” Warwick said. “Everybody was like, ‘You’re nuts, what are you doing?,’ but our traffic has increased, our sales have increased over the last two years of being open.”

Amelia Sellers, an employee at the Warehouse LA said that Warwick saw the potential of the space.

“I think he wanted to maybe bring Echo Park proper down a little more, bring the attention down here a little bit more,”  Sellers said.

Warwick said it has been cool to watch the area grow since they have come to it.

“Since we were here there was just Echo Echo which has since closed, but now we’ve been seeing all these businesses pop up. Blood is the New Black opened, of course Novak, a lingerie designer opened, we have a bakery going in across the street, a tattoo parlor, an upholstery shop and then a new place right across the street which specializes in vintage electronics,” Warwick said.

Warwick is thrilled to be a part of the growth of this side of Echo Park.

“It’s really exciting to be here. It’s the right time and I feel like the right part of Echo Park,” Warwick said.

Warwick takes pride in being a member of the community. He attends the Echo Park Improvement Association meetings, the Chamber meetings. He's on the Committee to Save the Elysian Park and has also held various events in his store, like community clean ups, comedy nights and movie nights.

Warwick also runs the Echo Park Merchants Association, which is trying to unite merchants in the area to do things like put on a monthly community or sale event.

“I love it here. None of the retailers are competitive I get along with everybody,” Warwick said. “I feel like we’ve been really well received in Echo Park. I still have people that shop with me that shopped in my first store, three years ago here, that was a hole in the wall that was literally 500 square feet. Now we’re in 3,200 square feet and it’s exciting to have those same people still come back. They’re the reason we’re still open we couldn’t do this without the community."

Employee Amelia Sellers said that the Warehouse values the importance of being a member of the Echo Park community and that Warwick wants to continue to make the Warehouse a strong presence in the nieghborhood.

“Our shop is by Echo Park for Echo Park,” Sellers said. “We call this place our home and we take a lot of pride in that. It’s wonderful to see the area flourish and see its potential of what it could eventually be.”

Warwick agreed.

“I’m really involved in the community, I’d love to make this space more of a community space not just a vintage shop. I also have a sister space that I’m partnering with as well called The Classroom LA which is…all D.I.Y classes like chair refinishing, upholstering, all different kinds of sewing classes,” Warwick said.

As for the future, Warwick said he has big dreams for the Warehouse and for the area as a whole.

“I want to set the bar for everybody,” Warwick said. “I want to step it up a notch down here.”  

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