When you pass through the Crenshaw district this week, you might be surprised to see that the red Ralphs logo that once decorated the building on Slauson and Crenshaw is now gone. Kroger abruptly announced the closure of several Ralphs locations in March and kept true to their closing date of May 15th.
“This is sad because I grew up in this neighborhood, right off 8th Ave & Hyde Park,” said Brandy, who was canvassing for signatures outside Ralphs for the Black Worker Center on Crenshaw, a few weeks before the closure.
“A lot of people are going to be losing a lot of local jobs unless they put something else here that is going to replace those jobs,” she continued.
In March, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 to pass an emergency ordinance requiring large pharmacy and grocery store chains to provide their workers an additional $5 an hour.
Companies will have to pay hazard pay for all non-managerial employees at locations with 300 employees or more for 120 days. The ordinance is a move towards more fair compensation for those who have sustained large retail chains, while working for minimum wage, during a global pandemic.
“It is unfortunate that the store had to close, along with the other stores in L.A as well as Long Beach. This extra pay mandate put an extra layer of burden and expense on the store that we could no longer afford to operate sustainably. Instead of passing that on the customer, we had to close permanently,” said Ralphs media contact John Votava.
In addition to this location, Kroger also announced the closure of Ralphs on Pico Boulevard as well as a Food 4 Less on Sunset. Kroger’s decision to close the Ralphs on Slauson presents a different set of issues for a community that is already lacking access to many healthy food options.
“Within a four mile radius we operate seven Ralphs and Food 4 Less locations. The reason that store closed is because it was experiencing losses year after year. It was just a location that was not profitable,” Votava continued.
Senter is the founder and owner of Straight up Fast Food, a smoothie and juice delivery service serving the community of South Central. He was inspired to start the business while working at Whole Foods and noticing the gap in the food he saw in his store, vs what he saw in the community he lived in.
He says the closure of Ralphs does not surprise him because Kroger is a corporation and capitalism has deemed workers disposable in the name of maximizing profits.
“At this Ralphs a couple of years ago there were no organic fruits and I would not shop here. I would pay gas money to go to Whole Foods. There were no alternative food options you would find 5 miles away at a Whole Foods or Trader Joes in Mid-City or something.”
The closure is just one of many blows to a community facing rampant gentrification. As new developments spring up in every available corner in Los Angeles, concerns continue to grow about longtime residents who continue to be pushed out or left behind in L.A’s progression.
All hope is not lost however, as community members try to envision ways to fill the voids that selfish, corporate-interest have left in the community. Several individuals and groups are doing amazing work to provide fresh, organic produce to the Black community in L.A
Groups including Let’s Be Whole in Leimert Park, the various farmers markets that happen in and around the Crenshaw District–as well as artist Lauren Halsey and her non-profit which continues to provide hot meals and produce to families weekly in Watts.
Olympia, the founder of SUPRMARKT is amongst these groups. She is a food activist who has been doing pop-up grocery stores in Leimert Park since 2016, providing fresh fruits and vegetables to the local community.
“The closure is disappointing and leaves an already under resourced area with even less resources. It also puts more burdens on under resourced non-profits in the area to increase health food access, but we are up for the challenge,” said Olympia.
She has helped to provide over 100,000 pounds of produce that can even be purchased with EBT for lower income residents.
“We are pulling together with other food fighters to provide thousands of free organic food bags to area residents. We look forward to releasing details in the coming weeks.”