Biting off Chavos post about the swap meet I figured I would dig up an article I wrote about the swap meets history and the vendors there. As an East Los Angeles College student I will be posting a few ELAC related post from time to time because so many people have and will come through here. ELAC has been around since 1945 and needless to say there is a long history. To me, ELAC is the school of second chances because it’s here that I was able to put my life together and start on the path of making something of myself. If it wasn’t for ELAC, I would be out there in the streets doing God knows what. The pictures are pre-solar panel days.
The ELAC swap meet has been catering to the shopping needs of students and the surrounding communities for the last 22 years. The swap meet was formed from a combination of necessity and community growth. Martin Garcia, who is a full-time Biology instructor at Los Angeles City College, has been a vendor since the swap meet’s inception in 1986 with his two brothers Sergio and Jose Garcia. Garcia and his brothers primarily sell heavy metal music CDs along with miscellaneous objects they might have or that people specifically ask for.
As the years have gone by, the vendors have built a community within the swap meet.“Everyone watches out for each other and helps each other out because we’re all just here to have a good time and make some extra money,” said Garcia. Over time, Garcia has learned what people want when shopping and that’s inexpensive quality goods, a service he and his brothers have taken to heart. Every now and then, people come to him and ask him for particular products. On one occasion a customer asked Garcia for a set of exercise weights. Garcia and his brothers obtained the weights, but because their buyer lacks transportation, they are also going to deliver them to his house. “We do our best to help people out because we want to give something back to our community and to help out our people, no matter what they may need,” said Garcia.
Sen Akaba, who has also been a vendor at the swap meet for the last 21 years, has seen families grow up before his eyes. Akabe, who sells stamps, coins and miscellaneous furnishings said that he’s seen kids grow up and have children of their own . “I ask them how old are you now? And they tell me 17. “Already!? I remember like it was yesterday when you were still just a baby. Now they’re having kids of their own,” said Akaba. Another change that Akaba has witnessed is the progression of the swap meet and the competition brought on by much bigger stores like Wall-Mart and Target. Even though Akaba works as a full-time window and curtain installer in Monterey Park and Alhambra, he loves coming to the swap meet every weekend to catch up with old friends and making new ones.
The swap meet started out as a farmer’s market to test the community’s reaction to holding such an event. From there, as other local swap meets closed over time, vendors and shoppers started coming to ELAC. Vendors include people selling new and used items such as clothes, tools, household products and everything else in between. Occasional vendors are allowed to sell at the swap meet after a lottery for spaces is held every Sunday at 7 a.m. The vendors then set up and wait for the crowd to come. Once they’re assigned a space, costs range from $30 for a 20 by 20 square foot space and $35-$40 for larger spaces. Monterey Park City regulations only allow vendors to sell new items once a year without having to attain a business permit, and used items twice a year.
If vendors want to become regulars they must attain a business permit from the City of Monterey Park in order to continue selling at the swap meet. Once a new spot opens up, the vendor who has been on the waiting list the longest gets it. In order to help vendors, ELAC’s Community Service Office helps them fill out the required forms in order to speed up the process and save people the trouble of going to city hall. Once a vendor has attended the swap meet more than twice, they must sign a contract with Community Services in order to be able to attain their city permit. The city strictly monitors whether vendors at the swap meet have the required and up to date permits paid for and that no vendor is selling illegal copyrighted material such as music CDs and DVD movies. The swap meet is held every Sunday, weather permitting from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., excluding Easter Sunday, Christmas and New Year’s day.