Twice a week you can find a smiling Willie Dowells, 57, sitting on a bench, people watching outside the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.
He takes the bus from his home on Crenshaw Boulevard twice a week to downtown for business and to visit the historic market at Third Street and Broadway.
The Grand Central Market has been on Broadway and Third since 1917. Home to restaurants, produce stands, meat vendors and specialty shops, this local market has anything a shopper could want at a decent price.
It's a place he has been coming to since 1982. It reminds him of the hustle and bustle of his hometown of Chicago.
“Everyone seems happy to be here,” he said.
His loves the tasty, cheap tacos from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. He's such a regular that even the workers there know his name.
“Some restaurants will serve a burrito for $5, $6 but this place sells a taco for $2.50 that’s the same size,” he said.
He savors the unique flavors of Jose’s Ice Cream Shop - root beer, butter pecan and coconut pineapple.
“You find flavors here you won’t find anywhere else,” he said.
Founded in 1917, Grand Central Market is home to all kinds of restaurants, produce stands, meat and seafood vendors, specialty stores and coffee shops. It is the centerpiece of historic Broadway which has been underdoing a renovation - the Bring Back Broadway initiative
Families have made the market their home away from home for generations, said Filomena Eriman, the general manager of the market.
As of 1979 Broadway was the first registered entertainment historical district. Theaters and department stores lined the streets, staying busy at all hours of the day and night. Today, the street's stores shutter at sunset and foot traffic evaporates.
Historic preservationists have worked hard over the last decade to rehab two shining cornerstones of the glory days of early Los Angeles. Crews restored the Million Dollar Theater and the Orpheum Theater, said Michael Buhler, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy.
Department stores Broadway and Bullocks have long since been replaced with thriving Latino businesses.
“There are a lot of very exquisitely adorned commercial buildings along the corridor in a range of architectural styles," Buhler said.