Grand Central Market Retold: The True Story of DTLAs Most Historic Wonder Market

In the beginning…God created Downtown…

Then, Homer Laughlin Sr. a former Civil War veteran turned dinnerware mogul, bought the land in 1896 and commissioned architect John Parkinson of Union Station and City Hall fame to build the six-story structure on the site. 

On Broadway just south of 3rd, Laughlin constructed Los Angeles’ first fireproof and first reinforced steel building.  When the building was completed in 1898, the ground floor store was the Coulter Dry Goods Co. 

Then, in 1905, the building was expanded. The back wall was leveled, the ground floor was extended to Hill Street, and two stories were added overhead. 

By 1908 the ground level housed a department store. The Metropolitan Water District occupied offices on the upper floors of the Broadway building and the Central Library was located on the two upper floors as well for some time.  

With time, the upper floors of the Broadway building were vacated and the upper floors of the annex were used for storage. The department store lasted until 1917 when the Grand Central Market opened almost overnight with Olivet and Sinai, the twin cars of Angel’s Flight just across the road, which had been patiently waiting since 1901 to add the finishing touch.

The market flourished then took a nose dive with partial owners, the Lyons family, who kept the upper floors of the GCM unoccupied for years until selling to Ira Yellin in 1987 who came with the promise and the money for restoration.

Some of the first renovations from the Yellin team were immediately painting the interior in the original “warm” colors and removing that once partially blocked Broadway entrance. And while Broadway was typically used as the main entrance, Hill Street was once mocked, and duly so.  Deep cleaning took place at night when the market was closed with walls, columns and ceilings being repainted and the floors were cleaned and polished as routinely as the rents were being raised. 

Yellin’s group also acquired the site between the market and 3rd Street on Hill Street for a parking structure and the adjacent Million-Dollar Theater building which they determined to resurrect with a loan from the City, reconstructing 121 housing units in the Homer Laughlin Building and the Million Dollar Building at 306 W. 3rd Street.

GCM dusted itself off and began replacing its 50s plastic signage and decor with 1940s neon showing special attention to the Hill Street side of the market which now boast enough ambiance to transport us back to the positive, iconic Downtown neighborhood market/tourist attraction/landmark vibe, GCM had always had.

The higher priced rent forced long time vendors out, causing a spark of gentrification controversy. With this new leadership came vendors like Egg Slut, Knead, McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, The Oyster Gourmet, Sari Sari Kitchen, Golden Road and G&B Cafe. 

Coupled with the negative effects of Covid, gone in an instant we’re many of GCM’s vintage vendors who had spent decades feeding others and raising their own children from behind those counters. Among the legends who remained, La Huerta Candy, Sarita’s Papusas, Ana Maria’s, and oldest of them all, Jose Chiquito and China Cafe, were left to help keep up the nostalgia. 

On Friday, October 27th, 2017, Grand Central Market celebrated its 100th year.

Living just long enough to celebrate, in 2018, Ira’s death led to the transfer of the title to his wife, Adele Yellin, who soon sold the market to Adam Daneshgar, president of Beverly Hills-based Langdon Street Capital. d.b.a. as Gcs Equity LLC, the company has more than proven its ability carry the torch.

Today GCM shares its iconic venue with countless thousands offering later hours, outdoor parklettes, film festivals, special events, exclusive parties, food festivals, Art bazaar, fundraisers, resident djs, and live music, not to mention long lines for all of its vendors year round.

With his new ownership came commitment to diversity not only within the staff and outside dealings, but added diversity to a population of over 40 vendors, including its newest editions, Donut Man, Ghost Sando, Broad Street Oysters, For the Win and most recently, Bastion Bakery. 

Downtown Weekly is official media partner of Grand Central Market. Pick up a copy in the main dining hall located by The Oyster Gourmet. 

Author: Keri Freeman

Military mom and proud parent, artist, writer, musician and film maker. Cocktail connoisseur. Publisher of DTLA Weekly.