Historic Los Angeles produce market loses majority of business due to pandemic

Posted at 1:00 PM, Apr 10, 2020

There's plenty of fruits and vegetables, but there’s no buyers. The historic 7th street market in downtown Los Angeles is now struggling to retain business. It's normally bustling with trucks, heavy equipment and hundreds of people. Now, workers say it's "a ghost town" as most store fronts are closing early due to a lack of customers.

Carlos Franco loves produce and fruit. He grew up on the market. His dad launched Elias Produce in the 1990's. Franco is passing the tradition along, now showing his own children the ropes.

When word of the coronavirus first got out, Franco said business was busier than ever. People were overstocking, worried about what might not exist in the coming weeks.

“After that, business completely stopped,” Franco said. “After the safe-at-home order that the mayor implemented, business dropped 70 percent, and for some that cater to restaurants, even more, 80 to 90 percent.”

The market survives on independent operations, farm-to-table restaurants, juice shops, bakeries, small stores and ice cream shops. Now, there's huge stacks of produce pallets, but the people aren't purchasing.

"Our strawberry vendors up north, they’re offering a whole load of strawberries. Name your price,” Franco said. “And I’d love to take it, but there’s no one to give it to.”

The market has been through bad times before. There have been earthquakes and economic downturns, as well as September 11.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, but I take it one day at a time,” Franco said. “I know we’ll get through this. We’ve been here since 1990, and we’ve been through a couple of other things that have happened.”

Now, they're sanitizing everything, wearing masks and gloves, and keeping a healthy space between each other. They are even loading pallets into people's cars so there's no contact, all in the hopes that their perfectly picked produce doesn't go to waste.