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Days numbered for Valley Indoor Swap Meet

first_imgEven when his shop closes, O’Donnell plans to stay connected. “I’m going to go to his house,” O’Donnell said with a straight face. “I will follow him in my car.” Last reprieve The meet would have shut down more than a year ago if Simms had not allowed vendors to stay while he got all the approvals necessary to develop the land, said Simms’ lawyer, Ben Reznik. Simms declined to be interviewed for this story. “The market conditions are now such that it made economic sense to redevelop it,” Reznik said. Despite a sluggish housing market, there is demand for apartments, he added. For almost three years, Simms has fought to bulldoze the meet and build 438 condos. In April, the Los Angeles City Council agreed he could set aside 42 apartments as lower-rent instead of the 109 the city wanted. Councilman Dennis Zine, who represents the area and voted for the compromise, said he wanted to preserve the space. “I didn’t have any choice,” Zine said. “We in government can’t restrict private transfer of land for development that fits the criteria.” Glenn Malkin, who leases the property to vendors on a month-to-month basis, is searching for a new location for the meet. But he and his partners – Ron Wolfe and Stuart Siegel, mayor of Hidden Hills – have so far been unsuccessful. “In the west San Fernando Valley, there is just not enough acreage for our use,” Malkin said. “We need a tremendous amount of parking.” The meet now occupies 6.5 acres. If lingerie seller Voorhees is disappointed in having to close her shop, jeweler Leigh is downright ticked off. “I hope they really need the 438 apartments,” Leigh said from behind a sparkling glass case. “They are putting 400 vendors out of business.” Priced to sell For 17 years, Leigh has sold diamond and gold jewelry as proprietor of Estate Jewelry Guild at booth J-18. He has two employees and a reputation for prices just above wholesale, according to one longtime customer. Leigh has two months to find a new space or risk losing his entire income. He is looking for a new store with two other jewelers at the meet and hopes to stay in Woodland Hills or Warner Center. But finding a new place with as much foot traffic – Leigh says 5,000 potential customers pass his booth each weekend – will be difficult outside of a mall. And Leigh cannot afford mall rents, which he estimates would run $20,000 for the same space. He now pays $1,000. Smaller booths rent for about $400 a month. Moving to an open-air meet is impossible for Leigh because of security reasons, he said. Relocating to a meet in Panorama City is not viable either, because he needs clients who can pay $3,300 for diamond-encrusted watches. Chance to relocate Leigh and all the other vendors were given a chance to relocate to meets in Panorama City or Pomona, said Aurelio Navarro, manager of the swap meet. But only about 20 have taken it. Maybe that’s because they, like Navarro, are still skeptical that the Valley swap meet is really closing down. After 15 years of working at the meet, he’s heard a lot rumors. “Everybody has their own theories,” Navarro said from his tiny office above the meet warehouse. Maria Vasquez and her husband, Augustine, can hardly believe it themselves. The couple from Sylmar, both in their 60s, have been shopping at the meet every month for longer than they can remember. “It’s one of the last places you can shop around for different things,” Augustine said. One time, the Vasquezes bought a lamp made of salt that was said to absorb odors and naturally purify the air. The other day, Maria said she found gem-studded hair clips that had been marked down from $4.50 each to $1. She said she plans to put them in her granddaughters’ Christmas stockings. “We don’t care for the mall,” Maria said. “It’s the same thing all the time.” [email protected] 818-713-3735160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WOODLAND HILLS – For 23 years, Francine Voorhees has sold silk nighties and lingerie from booth N-13 at the Valley Indoor Swap Meet in Canoga Park. But the final days of her creme-color shop called Le Boudoir are numbered. After decades as a San Fernando Valley landmark, the property’s owner, Ronald Simms, has opted not to renew a 20-year lease on the site and instead is selling the land to a developer. Now, the last day in business for Voorhees and nearly 400 other vendors at the Variel Avenue swap meet will be Dec. 30. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre “I’m devastated,” said the 62-year-old Voorhees. “I absolutely love this job. You meet such wonderful people.” Voorhees is retired and has other sources of income, so she isn’t too worried about the financial impact of closing. But losing the meet – which is open Fridays through Sundays – means severing her connections with longtime customers and other vendors. Customers and vendors alike use words such as “community” and “family” to describe the connection between those who inhabit the meet, which has been around since 1983. It is the longest-running indoor swap meet in the city of Los Angeles. Ellen O’Donnell of Sherman Oaks has been going to jeweler Richard Leigh for seven years and has brought countless friends to him. She bought a six-carat diamond pav ring for $3,300 that would have retailed for $8,000 and a $4,000 diamond watch that would have sold for $11,000 elsewhere from him, she said. last_img read more